Thursday, 15 May 2008

Off-line? There's an off-line?

With my Internet connection currently very unstable, disappearing for hours at a time, I've been doing a bit more old-fashioned book reading.

Oliver Sacks writes about the fascinating variations of the human mind. Specifically focusing on what the changes caused by illness or injury can teach us about the mind's capabilities.

For example, looking at the effect of brain injuries in one part of the brain has shown it's key to recognising faces. Not paintings of landscapes, or species of beetle, or fabric patterns, or any of the millions of other complex things we recognise. Just faces. Damage there can leave someone unable to recognise those closest to them, but still fully able to tell the difference between a Constable and a Gainsborough.

The book I'm reading now is Musicophilia, all about music and the brain. As with faces it seems that aspects of music are quite specifically recognised by certain parts of the brain. Oliver Sacks talks of musical hallucinations, amusia, brainworms, and the beneficial effects of music on various disorders. It's fascinating both for the case-studies of disorders, and for the insight they give into everyone's mind.

I almost look forward to my next enforced off-line time (Arrghh!)