(Some) Highlights from the Charlie Rose Brain Series

Episode 2, November 2009

In October 2009, Charlie Rose began a 12-part monthly series on the human brain. You can watch online at: www.charlierose.com/view/collection/10702. My Episode 1 Highlights

His guests for the second show, “The Perceiving Brain – Sight and Visual Perception," included:

  • Eric Kandel — co-host of the series, 2000 Nobel Laureate (Physiology/Biology), professor, Columbia University Physiology & Cellular Biophysics
  • Edward H. Adelson — John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Vision Science at MIT
  • Nancy Kanwisher — Professor in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
  • Anthony Movshon — Presidential Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University and Adjunct Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.
  • Pawan Sinha — Associate Professor of Vision and Computational Neuroscience at MIT

The snippets posted here reflect what I found especially meaningful to my interests. Among the highlights:

Charlie Rose: 25% of the brain is devoted to visual perception; seeing happens in the brain, not the eyes; patterns are translated into objects.

Eric Kandel: We understand the visual system better than any other part of the brain; a model for understanding all of the brain. Four important points or themes:

  1. The eye is not a camera (although certain parts/functions are analogous).
  2. Sensory functions, including vision, are localized to specific areas in the brain.
  3. Visual computations are hierarchical, through a series of relays they process progressively complex associations (from thalamus to cortex).
  4. Plasticity of the brain/nerve cells is pervasive and critical to brain functioning.

Spotted Image

Kandel: The visual system/brain makes guesses and can sometimes be fooled.

Anthony Movshon described the brain's anatomy: It's not a camera, but it functions like a camera.

  • Photoreceptive cells funnel the image from the back of the retina to the optic nerve; compress 100 million receptor cells down to about 1 million fibers (100:1 compression).
  • Acuity is only very good at the center of the retina, acuity falls off away from the center of the retina, have to move your eye around to capture multiple snapshots.
  • The thalamus connects to all parts of the cerebral cortex, visual signals pass through thalamus; series of relays in hierarchical.
  • Most amazing aspect of visual system is how it puts together and integrates all the data into a coherent image, hierarchy of processing, integrating images we have stored in memory. Transformation of the response from thalamus to cortex, a major operation that the brain performs, how it reconstructs a visual image.
  • Localized regions of the brain for face recognition, words and letters, places and landscapes, bodies; all activated later/higher in the hierarchy.
  • Humans have only been reading for a few thousand years, the part of the brain that recognizes words and language must be developed after birth, too young to have been genetically evolved.
  • The last video clip summarizes several references that support what Alfred Korzybski termed abstracting (1933).

Here's Something About GS cover

Here's Something About General Semantics:
A Primer for Making Sense of Your World

ISBN 978-0-9824645-0-2; 290 pages. FREE!
Available in eBook format (PDF) for immediate purchase and download.

Here’s Something About GS provides a thorough yet accessible overview of this misunderstood and under-appreciated discipline, reflecting work I’ve done in learning, teaching, and writing about general semantics for more than 13 years. It explains and demonstrates principles that promote an ongoing awareness of differences that make a difference. Learn how language and other symbols influence how you perceive your world, how you respond to your perceptions, and how you think-and-talk about your responses.

As a former student wrote: "This class was so much different from any class I've taken in college thus far. In my opinion, it was a class teaching us how to think, rather than what to think."

For example, some of the topics commented on include:

  • A fence sieve language
  • Eating menus
  • Definitions vs. meanings
  • Tips for playing roulette
  • Defending the swastika (ooh, controversy!)
  • Making a federal case out of bad words (ooh, more blanking controversy!)
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  • Lay off of my persuade shoes
  • Symptoms of language misbehaviors
  • Semantic pollution
  • The bridge at Neverwas

The book is filled with examples, quotes, and has over 50 illustrations. It includes 13 pages of Notes and Sources and an Index of Names with over 250 entries. It has links to additional online material to augment the content, including links to more than 150 video clips. It’s written for a general audience, but could be especially useful for teachers who want to introduce GS principles to supplement a secondary school curriculum, or even as a module in a college-level humanities or social sciences course. I’ve included some introductory materials for those who know nothing about GS; some more in-depth explanations and descriptions including published articles, newspaper columns, and presentations I've made; and some history about the people and organizations that have been involved with GS over the years. Click here to read an excerpt, review the Contents, order, and download now!

Interested in an excerpted video? Check out the Bib-Vid-liography listings here.


We see what we see because we miss the finer details.—Alfred Korzybski
We see the world as 'we' are, not as 'it' is; because it is the I behind the 'eye' that does the seeing.—Anais Nin
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.—Marcel Proust

More Quotes to Consider

Learn About ThisIsNotThat

Fundamental Aspects

By, About Steve Stockdale