Ramachandran talks about how brain damage gives clues to how the mind works, in three examples; understanding Imposter syndrome, curing phantom limb pain, and Synesthesia’s high frequency amongst poets and artists – although Synesthesia isn’t strictly brain damage.
The first example is about broken visual sensory connections, the second about dissolving a false sensory somatic connection with visual retraining, and the third about blended non-differentated sensory brain connections and metaphor.
I find Synesthesia quite magical. I do not have it – but we all have it. We inherit it. The parts of the brain which specialize in number and colour are quite proximate, as are the areas for musical tone and colour. Our brain, as it grows in the womb differentiates the areas. Apparently the whole brain, as it begins, is suffused with connections throughout, connecting everything to everything else. As it grows, these suffused connections drop away and specialize. Sometimes they don’t completely separate from adjacent areas.
This, to a degree, is the state of each of our individualized brains, our ‘each to it’s own’ 3 lb. mass of jelly which just is not in any kind of fixed, perfect or finished state, more or less similar to others, more specialized or differentiated here or there, maybe a bit “broken” or knotted in another place.
Now, don’t let me get all mystical and inarticulate on you, but metaphor is – and non-discriminating awareness is what we do before we decide what is and what is not.
Update: Some great discussion off that TED site and a link to lectures from BBC