Ramachandran_Artful_Brain

And of the internal logic and evolutionary rationale

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Unformatted text preview: them). Once we have achieved a clear understanding of these connections, the insights they offer into the human brain will have a profound impact not just on the sciences but also on the humanities. Indeed, they may help us bridge the huge gulf that separates C. P. Snow’s two cultures—science on the one hand and arts, philosophy, and humanities on the other. We could be at the dawning of a new age where specialization becomes old-fashioned and a twenty-first-century version of the Renaissance man is born. acknowledgment This chapter is excerpted from my book, A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness (New York: Pi Press, 2004). 188 the artful brain n otes 1. My book The Artful Brain is due to be published in 2005. Also see the Web site of Bruce Gooch (University of Utah) on the laws of art: http://www.cs.utah.edu/~bgooch/. 2. Experiments dating back to Francis Galton show that averaging several faces together often produces a face that is quite attractive. Does this contradict my peak shift law? Not necessarily. Averaging probably works by eliminating minor blemishes and distortions such as warts, disproportionate face parts, asymmetries, etc., which makes evolutionary sense. Yet the peak shift principle would predict that the most attractive female face is not necessarily the “average” but usually one with the right kind of exaggeration. For example, if you subtract the average female face from the male and amplify the difference you would end up with an even more gorgeous face—a “superfemale” with neotonous features (or a male stud-muffin with exaggerated jawline and eyebrows). 3. Just for fun, let’s see how far we can take this argument. Cubism involves taking the usually invisible other side of an object or face and moving it forward to the same plane as the side that is visible: two eyes and two ears visible on the profile view of a face, for example. This has the effect of liberating the observer from the tyranny of a single viewpoint: you don’t have to walk around the object to see its other side. Every art student knows this is the gist of Cubism, but few have raised the question of why it is appealing. Is it just shock value, or is there something else? Let us consider the response of single neurons in the monkey brain. In the fusiform gyrus, individual neurons often respond optimally to a particular face, e.g., one cell might respond to the monkey’s 189 the internet and the university mother, one to the big alpha male, and one to a particular side-kick monkey—a “Phanka waala cell,” you might say. Of course, the one cell doesn’t “contain” all the properties of the face; it is part of a network that responds selectively to that face, but its activity is a reasonably good way of monitoring the activation of the network as a whole. All this was shown by Charlie Gross, Ed Rolls, and Dave Perrett. Interestingly, a given neuron (say an “alpha male face neuron”) will respond only to one view of that particular fac...
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