Sunday, May 15, 2016

Week 7: Neuroscience + Art

Are the mind and the body two sides of the same coin?
This week's topic reminded me of the mind-body problem, which debated the relationship between mental experiences (e.g., thoughts, feelings, beliefs, consciousness, self-awareness) and the body, raising questions about whether or not the mind and the body are the same. The fundamental issue behind this problem is that mental experiences are unobservable, while everyone's physical selves are observable. For example, you may be able to see other people's wounds, but you would be unable to see their pain. 

"...the inner man wants something which the visible man does not want, and we are at war with ourselves."
Thinking about the mind-body problem ultimately relates back to consciousness, a subjective quality of experience. Although (cognitive) neuroscience allows us to determine what brain activity underlies different forms of experience, we are still unable to explain the fact that we had a subjective experience--a limitation of neuroscience. That being said, however, it is important we explore and understand what happens in our mind--our internal state. Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, discusses the importance of exploring our unconsciousness, which he argues modern people no longer do because we are only interested in instant gratification in the physical world. As a result, we fail to gain an understanding or awareness of our unconscious, which will always want to control and guide our emotions, behaviors, and ultimately our lives. From a philosophical approach, perhaps this is why we see issues in addressing mental health concerns because we have severed so much of our conscious selves from our unconscious counterpart(s).  

Art created by a patient with Schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, abnormal behavior, etc. Schizophrenia currently has no known cure, but through the help of neuroscience and other related fields, perhaps we will see a cure in the near-future. 
As discussed in previous lectures, art and science do not seem to be interconnected. Art is characterized by creativity, imagination, and subjectivity, while science is defined by objectivity, structure, and logic. Throughout these past seven weeks, however, we already know how art and science can be related fields; thus, it is no surprise that we see a connection between neuroscience and art. Neuroscience is interesting, but I have noticed that people often stop critically thinking about science once they start seeing pictures of brains--demonstrating the seductive allure of neuroscience explanations that are enhanced by neuroscience-related art. Nonetheless, brains make art, and art can inspire brains, so it is not surprising we are slowing moving towards a an interdisciplinary neuroculture that includes artistic approaches.

Frazetto, Giovanni and Anker, Suzanne. "Neuroculture." Perspectives. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience. Web. 
Huang, Mengfei. "The Neuroscience of Art." Reviews & Features. Stanford. Web. 
Jung, Carl. "The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man." Web. 
Oppenheimer, Daniel. "Neuroscience Methods and Controversies." Lecture. PowerPoint. 
Vesna, Victoria. “Neuroscience pt. 1-3.” Lecture. Web.


  1. I agree that too many people today are not focusing enough on their unconsciousness. It is important to meditate and let go of the need for instant gratification. By gaining awareness of our unconscious we can too gain awareness of our behaviors, emotions and lives.

  2. I liked your thoughts about mind and body problem. I definitely agree that that is very important concept and also it was quite nice that you could relate it with consciousness as well.

  3. I really liked the fact that you spoke about the mind-body problem in relation to this week's topic. I would have never thought of that! I agree with you when you say that even with all the advances of neuroscience, we are still unable to determine/measure subjective experiences. I believe with more contributions from artists, this can be accomplished.

  4. Thank you for introducing the famous mind-body problem. This is actually the first time I have heard of this, and it is really interesting. I truly agree with your proposal of how people should settle down and meditate, exploring their unconsciousness. We all live in a busy and material world. Most people believe in instant gratification, and neglect how important it is to explore and connect to our deeper selves.

  5. The art by the Schizophrenia patient look interesting! This mind body problem has been a hot topic in neuroscience and using art is an alternative approach to treat these patients. Your discussion of consciousness brought some connections to my GE cluster course where we spend over a week exploring the consciousness of various patients. Niece connection of consciousness with art!