Sunday, June 29, 2008

Phantom Limbs Explained!

The New Yorker hits another home run with an absolutely astounding piece about itching. You'll just have to read it to learn why people feel pain in amputated limbs (and what to do about it), or why your lips feel puffy when you're doped up on dentist drugs. The "holy sh*t" moments come every few paragraphs:
The account of perception that’s starting to emerge is what we might call the “brain’s best guess” theory of perception: perception is the brain’s best guess about what is happening in the outside world. The mind integrates scattered, weak, rudimentary signals from a variety of sensory channels, information from past experiences, and hard-wired processes, and produces a sensory experience full of brain-provided color, sound, texture, and meaning. We see a friendly yellow Labrador bounding behind a picket fence not because that is the transmission we receive but because this is the perception our weaver-brain assembles as its best hypothesis of what is out there from the slivers of information we get. Perception is inference.


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