I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self

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Overview

In I of the Vortex, Rodolfo Llinas, a founding father of modern brain science, presents an original view of the evolution and nature of mind. According to Llinas, the "mindness state" evolved to allow predictive interactions between mobile creatures and their environment. He illustrates the early evolution of mind through a primitive animal called the "sea squirt." The mobile larval form has a brainlike ganglion that receives sensory information about the surrounding environment. As an adult, the sea squirt attaches itself to a stationary object and then digests most of its own brain. This suggests that the nervous system evolved to allow active movement in animals. To move through the environment safely, a creature must anticipate the outcome of each movement on the basis of incoming sensory data. Thus the capacity to predict is most likely the ultimate brain function. One could even say that Self is the centralization of prediction.

At the heart of Llinas's theory is the concept of oscillation. Many neurons possess electrical activity, manifested as oscillating variations in the minute voltages across the cell membrane. On the crests of these oscillations occur larger electrical events that are the basis for neuron-to-neuron communication. Like cicadas chirping in unison, a group of neurons oscillating in phase can resonate with a distant group of neurons. This simultaneity of neuronal activity is the neurobiological root of cognition. Although the internal state that we call the mind is guided by the senses, it is also generated by the oscillations within the brain. Thus, in a certain sense, one could say that reality is not all "out there," but is a kind of virtual reality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anyone interested in new ways of thinking about organization of the brain would do well to give it a look." Ilya Farber Nature
Nature - Ilya Farber
Anyone interested in new ways of thinking about organization of the brain would do well to give it a look.
Forum - Edgar Garcia-Rill
I of the Vortex is an exciting book, full of imagination, fit for the well-educated lay reader.
Science Books & Films
Rodolfo Llinas...offers this compelling synthesis of neurology, from the function of the neuron to the workings of the mind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262621632
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/7/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 314
  • Sales rank: 992,317
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Rodolfo R. Llinás is the Thomas and Susanne Murphy Professor of Neuroscience and Chairman of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience at the New York University School of Medicine.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Motor Primacy and the Organization of Neuronal Networks: Thinking as Internalized Movement
1 Setting Mind to Mind 1
2 Prediction Is the Ultimate Function of the Brain 21
3 The Embedding of Universals through the Embedding of Motricity 53
4 Nerve Cells and Their Personalities 69
5 Lessons from the Evolution of the Eye 93
6 The I of the Vortex 111
7 Fixed Action Patterns: Automatic Brain Modules that Make Complex Movements 133
8 Emotions as FAPs 155
9 Of Learning and Memory 173
10 Qualia from a Neuronal Point of View 201
11 Language as the Chile of Abstract Thought 225
12 The Collective Mind? 247
References 267
Index 295
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