By Carl Zimmer | Discover Magazine
“There is nothing more humbling or more perception-changing than holding a human brain in your hands. I discovered this recently at a brain-cutting lesson given by Jean-Paul Vonsattel, a neuropathologist at Columbia University. These lessons take place every month in a cold, windowless room deep within the university’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. On the day I visited, there were half a dozen brains sitting on a table. Vonsattel began by passing them around so the medical students could take a closer look. When a brain came my way, I cradled it and found myself puzzling over its mirror symmetry. It was as if someone had glued two smaller brains together to make a bigger one.
Vonsattel then showed us just how weak that glue is. He took back one of the brains and used a knife to divide the hemispheres. He sliced quickly through the corpus callosum, the flat bundle of nerve fibers that connects the halves. The hemispheres flopped away from each other, two identical slabs of fleshy neurons.“
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By Andy Coghlan
“Human brains light up when they see tools being used – but the sight fails to impress the brains of macaque monkey, our fellow primates, in the same way. In people, a particular brain region responds to tool use. This could have enabled early humans to understand how and why a tool worked, because it gave them early insights into cause and effect. Armed with this knowledge, they could work out in advance how tools could be used or modified to solve a multitude of new problems. Monkeys, by contrast, can be taught to use a tool to obtain a reward, but have little or no insight into the underlying concepts and forces that make it work.”
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