Alex Gomez-Marin reviews @PessoaBrain ’s latest book, “The entangled brain”:

“…offers a way to construe the brain as a fully integrated organ, a framework that “while not rare, is also not mainstream among neuroscientists.” A “divide-and-conquer strategy” has produced ever more refined brain maps, he argues, and subsequent leaps from structure to function. However, not only are anatomical brain areas far from simply located units of cognition but, as the subtitle of the book makes explicit, perception, cognition, and emotion are also interweaved.”

“In turn, proper anatomy calls for embryology. And, as tackled later in the book, evolution also informs brain organization. Disciplines, we learn, are entangled too.”


Science Transcending reductionism in neuroscience

@PessoaBrain If the idea of studying brains as a whole appeals to you, apply to my lab or reach out to collaborate. That’s what we do, or at least, aim for.

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As an electron microscopist, every time I image a partial volume of the brain, I notice how most inputs and outputs of the neurons within originate in neurons outside the imaged volume.

As a neuroscientist, when I reconstruct a neuron from I see that its inputs are collected from one or more brain areas, and its outputs target one or more other areas. There are local neurons but these are the exception.

As a programmer, I see that a software function can't be studied or understood in isolation, unless it''s a pure function, which is rare. Even functional programming languages such as or even require a fair share of non-pure functions in order to interact with the broader world.

As a developmental biologist, I see how one neuron is made after another in precise spatio-temporal patterns essential to assembling the correct circuit architecture. The study of any one neuron only makes sense within the context of the other neurons, and glia, and blood vessels, and more.

As an evolutionary biologist, I notice how the fitness of an individual depends not on this or that neuron, but rather, on the effect, recursively, of one neuron on many other neurons. Brain modules are not pure, not enclosed, but mere shorthand to refer to broad chunks of an indivisible whole. Crutches for our present inability to grasp a collective so large and complex.

Yet the unit of selection is not even the whole brain, or the whole individual organism, but the population with its many relationships across its individuals, and even beyond, the interrelated collective of species that we call an ecosystem. Ecosystems are also under selection pressure, and they change. We are changing ours now.

Whole brains, whole individuals, whole ecosystems. Ultimately, the whole planet, as eloquently articulated by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagain in their 1989 book "Biospheres from Earth to Space". But I am satisfied, in the short term, with the study of the brain as a whole.

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@PessoaBrain Thank you! Looking forward to reading your book soon. (Which online has a publication date 4 days into the future. Looking forward to an epub or PDF for on-the-go reading.)

@markhenick @PessoaBrain That seems to be the direction the neuro medical field is heading towards: “Brain pathologies amplify this variability through disconnections and, consequently, the disintegration of cognitive functions. The prediction of long-term symptoms is now preferentially based on brain disconnections.”

From: “The emergent properties of the connected brain” by Thiebaut de Schotten & Forkel 2022

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