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Cognitive Neuroscience: the Biology of Mind

  1. Aug 31, 2013 #1
    From, ''Cognitive Neuroscience: the Biology of Mind'':

    A patient has a terrible time seeing everyday objects but has no problem seeing faces! In fact, if the faces are composed of fruit arranged to look like a face, the patient says he sees the face but does not realize it is made up of fruit! It appears as though a special system in the brain sees faces; it is triggered to produce the percept for our conscious lives by the configuration of elements.


    What does ''it is triggered to produce the percept for our conscious lives'' in the last sentence mean?

    What I understand is that there is a part of brain that makes us recognize faces. But how does recognizing faces also ''produce the percept for our conscious lives''? Isn't consciousness a function of a different part of the brain?
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  3. Sep 2, 2013 #2
    I think the author means that this brain region is configured to recognise a face from a collection of elements. The important point is the abstraction of a "face", which is recognised independently of the elements making up such a face. What this shows is that high level percepts are coded explicitly and separately from the low level features. In this pathological case, the patient can't even "see" the low level features, but still perceives a face.

    Consciousness is not a function of a different part of the brain, at least as far as we currently know. I think in this context the author is using the word consciousness as synonymous with "conscious perception" (of a face). We don't yet understand the neural mechanisms behind consciousness, but it is probably not confined to a single brain area.
  4. Sep 2, 2013 #3

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    It means some editor didn't do a good job of reviewing the article for readability.

    I would take that to mean that this purported face recognition system operates subconsciously. When a face is recognized, this recognition rises to the level of conscious thinking (whatever that is). Moreover, this face recognition system operates by recognizing some configuration of elements as constituting a "face".

    We see faces in clouds, in rocks, on potatoes, in the shadows in a forest, even on Mars. It doesn't take a whole lot to trigger that system.
  5. Sep 2, 2013 #4


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    The authors don't mean that the hypothesized face recognition system is needed for consciousness. They mean that the face recognition system can be accessed by consciousness. "Consciousness" in this context probably means something concrete like the person is able to tell you what he is seeing.
  6. Sep 2, 2013 #5


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    It is a terrible way to phrase it. I would just replace that entire last sentence with: "It appears that a centre that enables us to specifically perceive faces resides in the brain."

    Also, even though the preceding portion is comprehensible, it is badly written for a scientific article/text. It is unduly informal and comes across as cheaply sensational.

    This sort of awkward phrasing is present in many initial-submission manuscripts. They are most often written by non-native speakers of the English language. It is the editor's responsibility to ensure that manuscripts are rewritten to be easily comprehensible to a native English speaker; clearly, the editor has failed here.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  7. Sep 2, 2013 #6


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    conscious lives = subjective experience
  8. Sep 6, 2013 #7
    This is born out by the works of V.S. Ramachandran. Phantoms in the Brain, which credits a Sandra Blakeslee as the co-author is an easy read. A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, by Ramachandran alone, is a very awkward read. You don't appreciate what Blakeslee contributed to the first book till you read what he sounds like without her help.
  9. Sep 6, 2013 #8


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    Amazingly, Cognitive Neuroscience: the Biology of Mind is a textbook, written by Americans.

  10. Sep 6, 2013 #9

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    The phrase in question comes from the second page of this book.

    This is not the way to read scientific texts, trying to determine what each and every phrase means.

    What that passage is discussing is what made Giuseppe Arcimboldo portraits so famous:

    We see faces, everywhere, thanks to the fusiform face area in our brain.
  11. Sep 6, 2013 #10


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    To paraphrase "Yes, Prime Minister" (one of my absolute favourites!), the Americans can, with a certain generosity of spirit, be considered one of the English-speaking peoples. :biggrin:

    The exact quote goes as follows:

    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  12. Sep 7, 2013 #11
    That's upsetting. To my conscious life.
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