Brain “plasticity” is one of the great discoveries in modern science, but neuroscientist David Eagleman thinks the word is misleading. Unlike plastic, which molds and then retains a particular shape, the brain’s physical structure is continually in flux. But Eagleman can’t avoid the word. “The whole literature uses that term plasticity, so I use it sparingly,” he says. Eagleman also discounts computer analogies to the brain. He’s coined the term “livewired” (the title of his new book) to point out that the brain’s hardware and software are practically inseparable.
Eagleman is a man of prodigious energy. An adjunct professor at Stanford University, he’s also been a novelist, TV host of PBS’s The Brain, and science advisor for the HBO series Westworld. He’s now the CEO of the Silicon Valley company NeoSensory, which is developing gadgets that send data streams to the brain so people can hear “see” and “hear” through their skin.
I talked with Eagleman about how neurons compete with one another, whether it’s possible for humans to have entirely new sensory experiences, and why he believes “you are your brain.” [Continue reading…]