Patricia S. Churchland: Hands On

Patricia S. Churchland at

Released from the silo of conventional philosophy, I found the neuroscientists at the medical school to be uniformly hospitable and curious about what I was up to. A human brain was indeed delivered to me in the anatomy lab, and holding it my hands, I felt an almost reverential humility toward this tissue that had embodied someone’s love and knowledge and skills. It looked so small, relative to what a human brain can do.

The world of neuroscience was opening up to me. At the clinicians’ weekly meeting—neurology rounds—a patient with unusual or puzzling symptoms would be presented and later discussed. To my everlasting gratitude, the clinicians invited me to join the rounds. One stroke patient was a dairy farmer who could no longer recognize faces—not those of his wife or children, or even his own face in a mirror. Particularly disappointing to him was his inability to recognize the faces of his beloved cows.

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