12:30pm Wednesday 15 July 2020

Scientist raises questions about the human brain

Professor Tim David

UC’s Professor Tim David has been researching functions of the brain  and wants to know what would happen if we understood how the brain is able to think internally without actually vocalising it.

“What would you think if you knew what I was thinking? It’s a very hard question to answer and we might find out one day. As a scientist, I am intrigued; as a human I am worried.

“We know very little about how the brain works compared to other organs in our body. But we are beginning to understand some of the fundamental principles about how neurons, the cells in the brain, interact with one another.’’

Professor David will give a public lecture on UC’s campus next week (Wednesday, October 30) raising issues relating to the brain. See a preview video interview here:  http://youtu.be/woYrsVOMHNU.

He says scientists do not yet know the reasons for the exact and movable connectivity of neurons in the brain. A human brain has about 85 million neurons, with a volume  of about two pints of beer.

“But what we don’t fully understand is how we complete executive functions such as tasks. We don’t fully understand the connectivity between the left and right hemisphere of the brains.

“So it is going to be interesting in the next 50 years to watch the advances in tackling neuro-degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, to see what those advances are. The brain is the most complex organ in the body.

“If we could predict what people are thinking then there are clearly important social and legal issues to think about. There are some interesting experiments going on in the UK and the US about how one person, through trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, can alter another person’s actions.

“There are some real issues here in technology and science. Looking back from almost the beginning of the human species becoming sentient beings we have strived to understand our own consciousness.

“From the Dark Ages through to the advent of the scientific revolution, the enlightenment, Newton and into the 20th century, scientific technology has edged us closer to the answer of the ultimate problem.

“How does our brain work?   Can a computer really become a brain? What are the consequences of knowing the answer?

“From a scientific viewpoint, it may allow advances in technology that would amaze even a person living in the 21st century. But what are the social consequences and the use of that technology?’’ Professor David says.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168

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