Ratio Online: The Idea of the Brain

20:00:00ч. 2020-05-26


This is the story of our quest to understand the most mysterious and complex object in the Universe.

From Descartes’s idea that the brain is a hydraulic system, through nineteenth-century comparisons of the brain to a telegraph, to current conceptions of the brain as a supercomputer, we will see how technological changes have given scientists a range of ideas of what the brain is—only to see such ideas tossed away when a new technology comes along.

Over the decades, scientists have repeatedly clashed over whether function is localised to particular parts of our brain, as in a machine, or if it is rather distributed across regions, represented by the incredibly complex networks of our tens of billions of neurons. Which is true? Informative, mind-boggling and amusing, this talk will take you to the frontier of our ideas about the brain, and show you what might be on the other side.

Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. As well as studying how maggots smell, he writes popular science books, most recently Life’s Greatest Secret – The Race to Crack the Genetic Code. In 2020 he will publish The Idea of the Brain: A History.