Cortical Real Estate and stuff like that…

6 05 2010

I’m currently reading Norman Doidge (2009). The Brain that Changes Itself ( Scribe: Melbourne). This is one of those rare books wherein an expert in an esoteric and rather inaccessible field (to wit, brain science)  engages the ordinary lay reader through accessible and moving language, with stories and explanations  of amazing personal triumphs. I contend that one reason the book is so engaging is through the author’s use of metaphor. He explains complex ideas through every day realities.

Here are some examples:

  • On p. 298, in a section called “When the brain is caught between two cultures”, Doidge writes: “Immigration is… an unending, brutal workout for the brain requiring massive rewiring of vast amounts of our cortical real estate.”

Here, in just one sentence,  we have:

  • The workout – the sense of hard physical work that goes on in the brain
  • The rewiring – an electrical metaphor, likening cognitive activity such as adjustment and new learning to the addition of a new power outlet.
  • Real estate – the notion of brain space as  limited, valuable, competitive, in high demand (though, as yet, no ocean views).
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