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Changes in science


Neuro architecture
Gerald Edelman Scientist
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Well, we had something to do with neuro architecture, didn't we? I was visited because I think I told you I wrote this... I don't think I said this on mike... but I wrote this Biennial Catalogue piece for the Whitney Museum in 1995, which I mentioned my wife and my son laughed at because they know art and I don't. It was called The Wordless Metaphor: Visual art and the brain, and some architect had read that, and he asked me could he replace everything that I said roughly with architecture examples? And I said, ‘As long as you don't call on me – as long as you leave me alone and do as you please.’ Well, he came to visit us and he became fascinated by this idea of neuroscience and he actually began to create a field, or to suggest to his colleagues, something called neuroscience in architecture. But the problem of the perversion of labels persists, doesn't it? For example, I've said that every age uses a machine of its age to explain the mind. Well, now we have something called neuro-marketing. You put someone in a FMRI scanner and you ask him about Coke and Pepsi, and you see what lights up, and it's made a splash. I'm a little skeptical, that's all I can say. But it does bear on one point – that my personal belief... and this is purely belief not founded on anything except maybe some non-verbal experience... I very much doubt that we will ever have a cerebrascope... that we will have a device that looks into the brain of an individual, can see all these little fluctuations at the hyperastronomical realm and speed, and then say Ralph Greenspan is thinking about Vienna in the following sentence. I just don't believe that will be achievable, and it's not because of any mystical notion that the neurons don't lay the basis for that thought... it's just that going backwards is going to be impossible in my view... maybe there's some relief there.

US biologist Gerald Edelman (1929-2014) successfully constructed a precise model of an antibody, a protein used by the body to neutralise harmful bacteria or viruses and it was this work that won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 jointly with Rodney R Porter. He then turned his attention to neuroscience, focusing on neural Darwinism, an influential theory of brain function.

Listeners: Ralph J. Greenspan

Dr. Greenspan has worked on the genetic and neurobiological basis of behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) almost since the inception of the field, studying with one of its founders, Jeffery Hall, at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where he received his Ph.D. in biology in 1979. He subsequently taught and conducted research at Princeton University and New York University where he ran the W.M. Keck Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, relocating to San Diego in 1997 to become a Senior Fellow in Experimental Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Greenspan’s research accomplishments include studies of physiological and behavioral consequences of mutations in a neurotransmitter system affecting one of the brain's principal chemical signals, studies making highly localized genetic alterations in the nervous system to alter behavior, molecular identification of genes causing naturally occurring variation in behavior, and the demonstration that the fly has sleep-like and attention-like behavior similar to that of mammals. Dr. Greenspan has been awarded fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Searle Scholars Program, the McKnight Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Klingenstein Foundation. In addition to authoring research papers in journals such as "Science", "Nature", "Cell", "Neuron", and "Current Biology", he is also author of an article on the subject of genes and behavior for "Scientific American" and several books, including "Genetic Neurobiology" with Jeffrey Hall and William Harris, "Flexibility and Constraint in Behavioral Systems" with C.P. Kyriacou, and "Fly Pushing: The Theory and Practice of Drosophila Genetics", which has become a standard work in all fruit fly laboratories.

Tags: Biennial Catalogue, Whitney Museum, 1955, The Wordless Metaphor: Visual art and the brain, Ralph Greenspan

Duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008