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Archive for 'cognitive science'

new book – ‘I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language’ by Lydia Denworth

April 17, 2014

I Can Hear You Whisper

I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth (Dutton, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

An investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture. 

A mother notices her toddler is not learning to talk the way his brothers did… Is something wrong?  Her search for answers is a journey into the mysteries of the human brain.

Lydia Denworth’s third son, Alex, was nearly two when he was identified with significant hearing loss that was likely to get worse. Her sweet boy with the big brown eyes had probably never heard her lullabies.

Denworth knew the importance of enrichment to the developing brain but had never contemplated the opposite: Deprivation.  How would a child’s brain grow outside the world of sound most of us take for granted? How would he communicate?  Would he learn to read and write—weren’t phonics a key to literacy? How long did they have until Alex’s brain changed irrevocably? In her drive to understand the choices—starting with the angry debate between supporters of American Sign Language and the controversial but revolutionary cochlear implant—Denworth soon found that every decision carried weighty scientific, social and even political implications.  As she grappled with the complex collisions between the emerging field of brain plasticity, the possibilities of modern technology, and the changing culture of the Deaf community, she gained a new appreciation of the exquisite relationship between sound, language and learning.  It became clear that Alex’s ears—and indeed everyone’s—were just the beginning.

An acclaimed science journalist as well as a mother, Denworth interviewed the world’s experts on language development, inventors of ground-breaking technology, Deaf leaders, and neuroscientists at the frontiers of research.  She presents insights from studies of everything from at-risk kids in Head Start to noisy cocktail party conversation, from songbirds to signal processing, and from the invention of the telephone to sign language.

Weaving together tales from the centuries-long quest to develop the cochlear implant and simultaneous leaps in neuroscientific knowledge against a tumultuous backdrop of identity politics, I Can Hear You Whisper shows how sound sculpts our children’s brains and the life changing consequences of that delicate process.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

Comments (0) - cognitive science,language,new books

new book – ‘Mental Biology: The New Science of How the Brain and Mind Relate’ by W.R. Klemm

April 8, 2014

Mental Biology

Mental Biology: The New Science of How the Brain and Mind Relate by W.R. Klemm (Prometheus, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

A leading neuroscientist offers the latest research and many new ideas on the connections between brain circuitry and conscious experience.

How the mysterious three-pound organ in our heads creates the rich array of human mental experience, including the sense of self and consciousness, is one of the great challenges of 21st-century science. Veteran neuroscientist W. R. Klemm presents the latest research findings on this elusive brain-mind connection in a lucidly presented, accessible, and engaging narrative.

The author focuses on how mind emerges from nerve-impulse patterns in the densely-packed neural circuits that make up most of the brain, suggesting that conscious mind can be viewed as a sort of neural-activity-based avatar. As an entity in its own right, mind on the conscious level can have significant independent action, shaping the brain that sustains it through its plans, goals, interests, and interactions with the world. Thus, in a very literal sense, we become what we think.

Against researchers who argue that conscious mind is merely a passive observer and free will an illusion, the author presents evidence showing that mental creativity, freedom to act, and personal responsibility are very real. He also delves into the role of dream sleep in both animals and humans, and explains the brain-based differences between nonconscious, unconscious, and conscious minds.

Written in a jargon-free style understandable to the lay reader, this is a fascinating synthesis of recent neuroscience and intriguing hypotheses.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘Neurocomic’ by Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella

April 5, 2014

Neurocomic

Neurocomic by Hana Roš, illustrated by Matteo Farinella (Nobrow Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Do you know what your brain is made of? How does memory function? What is a neuron and how does it work? For that matter what’s a comic? And in the words of Lewis Carroll’s famous caterpillar: “Who are you?”

Neurocomic is a journey through the human brain: a place of neuron forests, memory caves, and castles of deception. Along the way, you’ll encounter Boschean beasts, giant squid, guitar-playing sea slugs, and the great pioneers of neuroscience. Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella provide an insight into the most complex thing in the universe.

  • Produced in association with the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest medical charities
  • A superb introduction to the complexities of the brain for the layman
  • High production values, FSC paper stock, and foil embossed cover

See also: Book website, post at brainpickings.org (ht!)

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new book – ’7 Modes of Uncertainty’ by C. Namwali Serpell

April 1, 2014

7 Modes of Uncertainty

Seven Modes of Uncertainty by C. Namwali Serpell (Harvard University Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Literature is rife with uncertainty. Literature is good for us. These two ideas about reading literature are often taken for granted. But what is the relationship between literature’s capacity to unsettle, perplex, and bewilder us, and literature’s ethical value? To revive this question, C. Namwali Serpell proposes a return to William Empson’s groundbreaking work, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), which contends that literary uncertainty is crucial to ethics because it pushes us beyond the limits of our own experience.

Taking as case studies experimental novels by Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, Bret Easton Ellis, Ian McEwan, Elliot Perlman, Tom McCarthy, and Jonathan Safran Foer, Serpell suggests that literary uncertainty emerges from the reader’s shifting responses to structures of conflicting information. A number of these novels employ a structure of mutual exclusion, which presents opposed explanations for the same events. Some use a structure of multiplicity, which presents different perspectives regarding events or characters. The structure of repetition in other texts destabilizes the continuity of events and frustrates our ability to follow the story.

To explain how these structures produce uncertainty, Serpell borrows from cognitive psychology the concept of affordance, which describes an object’s or environment’s potential uses. Moving through these narrative structures affords various ongoing modes of uncertainty, which in turn afford ethical experiences both positive and negative. At the crossroads of recent critical turns to literary form, reading practices, and ethics, Seven Modes of Uncertainty offers a new phenomenology of how we read uncertainty now.

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new book – ‘Words as Social Tools: An Embodied View on Abstract Concepts’ by Anna M. Borghi and Ferdinand Binkofski

March 31, 2014

Words as Social Tools

Words as Social Tools: An Embodied View on Abstract Concepts by Anna M. Borghi and Ferdinand Binkofski (Springer, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

How are abstract concepts and words represented in the brain? That is the central question addressed by the authors of “Words as Social Tools: An Embodied View on Abstract Concepts”. First, they focus on the difficulties in defining what abstract concepts and words are, and what they mean in psycholinguistic research. Then the authors go on to describe and critically discuss the main theories on this topic with a special emphasis on the different embodied and grounded theories proposed in cognitive psychology within the last ten years, highlighting the advantages and limitations of each of these theories. The core of this Brief consists of the presentation of a new theory developed by the authors, the WAT (Words As social Tools) view, according to which both sensorimotor (such as perception, action, emotional experiences) and linguistic experiences are at the basis of abstract concepts and of abstract word representation, processing and use. This theory assigns a major role to acquisition: one of the assumptions the authors make is that the different ways in which concrete and abstract words are acquired constrain their brain representation and their use. This view will be compared with the main existing theories on abstractness, from the theory of conceptual metaphors to the theories on multiple representation. Finally, the volume illustrates recent evidence from different areas (developmental, behavioral, cross-cultural, neuropsychological and neural) which converge with and support the authors’ theory, leading to the conclusion that in order to account for representation and processing of abstract concepts and words, an extension of embodied and grounded theories is necessary.

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