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NATURE'S MIND by Michael S. Gazzaniga


The Biological Roots of Thinking, Emotions, Sexuality, Language and Intelligence

by Michael S. Gazzaniga

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-465-07649-1
Publisher: Basic

 Are there any behaviorists left? If so, Gazzaniga's latest text is guaranteed to inflame. In yet another example of nothing- butness, the Dartmouth Medical School psychiatrist (Mind Matters, 1987), with sterling credits for his work on patients and animals with split brains, states a bold new hypothesis: the selection theory of brain and behavior. Essentially, Gazzaniga's theory applies to the nervous system a concept that is now generally accepted about the immune system- -that you are born with all the antibodies you need to counter any of the millions of invading foreign antigens (usually proteins). The antibody-producing cells circulate, and when one encounters its opposite number, it responds by proliferating to produce neutralizing antibodies. Gazzaniga argues that we are born with a similar behavioral repertoire--a library of responses that are selected in accordance with what the environment serves up. The best that our parents and society can do is to ensure that we have opportunities; that our environments are not short-changed, deprived, or deranged. So forget about ``instruction''; forget about much recovery after brain damage or catching up by premature babies. Instead, consider that we come into the world equipped to perceive reality and survive; that we develop an internal interpreter of events that occasionally allows rational processes to override our repertoire of primitive beliefs. Think, too, that the addict and the sexual deviant may be demonstrating ``bizarre manifestations of biological systems that have been selected out to promote survival.'' There is no question that Gazzaniga is on solid ground in describing evidence for biological-genetic roots for much of behavior. The danger lies in closing the door, leaving no room for plasticity--for neuronal, gene-therapeutic, or other changes in circuitry--in response to environmental challenge: something more than ``nothing but.'' (Photographs.)