From one of the most significant neuroscientists at work today, a pathbreaking investigation of a question that has confounded philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists for centuries: how is consciousness created?
Antonio Damasio has spent the past thirty years studying and writing about how the brain operates, and his work has garnered acclaim for its singular melding of the scientific and the humanistic. In Self Comes to Mind, he goes against the long-standing idea that consciousness is somehow separate from the body, presenting compelling new scientific evidence that consciousness—what we think of as a mind with a self—is to begin with a biological process created by a living organism.
Besides the three traditional perspectives used to study the mind (the introspective, the behavioral, and the neurological), Damasio introduces an evolutionary perspective that entails a radical change in the way the history of conscious minds is viewed and told. He also advances a radical hypothesis regarding the origins and varieties of feelings, which is central to his framework for the biological construction of consciousness: feelings are grounded in a near fusion of body and brain networks, and first emerge from the historically old and humble brain stem rather than from the modern cerebral cortex.
Damasio suggests that the brain’s development of a human self becomes a challenge to nature’s indifference and opens the way for the appearance of culture, a radical break in the course of evolution and the source of a new level of life regulation—sociocultural homeostasis. He leaves no doubt that the blueprint for the work-in-progress he calls sociocultural homeostasis is the genetically well-established basic homeostasis, the curator of value that has been present in simple life-forms for billions of years. Self Comes to Mind is a groundbreaking journey into the neurobiological foundations of mind and self.
Antonio Damasio is Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Neurology at the University of Southern California, where he heads USC’s Institute for the Neurological Study of Emotion and Creativity. As a researcher, Dr. Damasio’s main interest is the neurobiology of the mind, especially neural systems which subserve memory, language, emotion, and decision-making. His research has helped to elucidate the neural basis for the emotions and has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making.
As a science writer, Damasio’s books deal with the relationship between emotions and feelings, and what are their bases in the brain. His 1994 book, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. His second book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, was named as one of the ten best books of 2001 by New York Times Book Review, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and has eighteen foreign editions. Damasio’s most recent book, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, was published in 2003. In it, Damasio explores philosophy and its relations to neurobiology, suggesting that it might provide guidelines for human ethics.
Antonio Damasio Quotes:
Emotions and the feelings are not a luxury, they are a means of communicating our states of mind to others. But they are also a way of guiding our own judgments and decisions. Emotions bring the body into the loop of reason.
Even in the small world of brain science [in the 1860s], two camps were beginning to form. One held that psychological functions such as language or memory could never be traced to a particular region of the brain. If one had to accept, reluctantly, that the brain did produce the mind, it did so as a whole and not as a collection of parts with special functions. The other camp held that, on the contrary, the brain did have specialized parts and those parts generated separate mind functions. The rift between the two camps was not merely indicative of the infancy of brain research; the argument endured for another century and, to a certain extent, is still with us today.
When Emotions Make Better Decisions – Antonio Damasio
Antonio Damasio, noted researcher and professor of neuroscience at USC, explains how emotions are integral to decision-making. He discusses his experiences working with people with brain damage who are unable to decide things as simple as where to go to dinner.