A piece of our mind.

October / November 1976.

From “Pharmaceuticals and Brains”: From time immemorial, medicine has been used to restore mental health or to discover the brain. It was said that the American physician Polydama, on his way home from Troy, offered Menelaus and Helen “a cure for grief and anger, a cure for despair.” There are many types of dementia today. Some have changed the course of medical practice. Others have changed the fabric of our society. Many people have more action and fewer side effects than ever before. The development of such drugs has paralleled our growing knowledge of how drugs work at the molecular level to change behavior. In this regard, the most fruitful research approach involves the study of how nerve cells interact with other cells in the body, and how different drugs can alter this interaction.

May / June 1987

“Designing Computers That We Think About”: Neuroscientists have found that the architecture of the brain is central to its work. Individual neurons are not conscious of themselves, but when they are connected to each other, they become quite intelligent. The problem is that no one knows how to do it. It’s not that neurons are fast: sending their electrochemical messages to other neurons is 100,000 times slower than a normal computer switch. But the lack of speed in our brains builds up in “weightwear”, as it is sometimes called. The brain contains between 10 billion and 1 trillion neurons, each of which can be connected to anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000. If this vast network of interconnected neurons forms a great collective conspiracy that we call our minds, perhaps a vast interconnected network of mechanical switches could form a machine that thinks.

July / August 2014.

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