The human brain is a kluge


There’s a cartoon on my office wall captioned, “How our brain recalls things.” It shows an old galoot (overalls, baseball cap) in a stockroom, leaning on the drawer of a filing cabinet, one hand draped across the folders, the other holding up a sheet of paper. A phone receiver is tucked under his chin, and he seems to be relaying the extracted information to someone upstairs. It’s a satisfying metaphor for a process that neuroscientists have struggled to pin down for decades. In “101 Theory Drive,” Terry McDermott gets us a lot closer to the problem of how the brain records experience. The intrepid McDermott, a former national reporter for The Times with no background in neuroscience, does this by embedding himself in the lab of Gary Lynch, a leading memory researcher and one of the field’s most radical practitioners. “101 Theory Drive” is the lab’s address at UC Irvine. Hard-drinking, cigar-chomping and potty-mouthed, Lynch — described by one colleague as “the hippie of neurobiology” — is nothing if not good copy.

more from Sara Lippincott at the LA Times here.