Temporal lobe epilepsy emotions from nowhere

Epilepsy is a spontaneous electrical discharge that can start anywhere in the brain. Because of this, it is useful for natural experiments. Asking people with epilepsy to report their experiences during an attack and recording the electrical disturbance itself allow us to discover how each part of the brain produces our experience of the world. From such studies, we have learnt that damage to the limbic system can cause laughing and crying. A particular form of epilepsy, in which the electrical...

The brain as a computer

Because we do not understand the brain very well we are constantly tempted to use the latest technology as a model for trying to understand it. In my childhood we were always assured that the brain was a telephone switchboard. (What else could it be ) I was amused to see that Sherrington, the great British neuroscientist, thought that the brain worked like a telegraph system. Freud often compared the brain to hydraulic and electro-magnetic systems. Leibniz compared it to a mill, and I am told...

Closing the pain gate

In the spinal cord, where the pain nerves connect with other nerves, is the pain gate. Nerves dealing with touch sensation can switch off the connections between a pain nerve and the rest of the chain, which means that a pain signal arriving in the spinal cord cannot go any further and the pain sensation never arrives in the brain. We have all experienced the pain gate in action by rubbing it better. This contact with a painful area activates the touch nerves that block the pain nerves. This...