Lectures for a New Year: The Brain, Art, and Neurology


V.S. Ramachandran is a neuroscientist of the peculiar. Rama investigates unusual cases, and through his research he often helps people tremendously -- for example, he invented the mirror box, which is used to treat phantom limb pain in amputees. He also actively studies and seeks to understand topics like synesthesia, rather than simply dismissing them as odd or quirky phenomena.

In this riveting lecture, Rama walks through a variety of curious neurological topics, building a case for how the brain perceives everything -- and ultimately how it perceives art. While this lecture has more to do with neurology than art, it's still of interest to those who dig art, and there is indeed a lot of discussion in the latter half of what art might be, whether art can be considered universal, and how art might function in the brain.

Topics: Capgras Delusion (aka "my mother is an imposter!"), synesthesia (aka "C Major is green!"), what a metaphor really is (schizophrenics don't understand metaphor!), "bite you!", a series of interesting visual illusions, how the brain responds to art, bird beaks, art, art, and artists.

For: fans of science, anyone who's curious how the brain really works, fans of art, and anyone who loves a good lecture (can you imagine having this man as your professor? Fantastic!).

Viewing note: Skip to 3:13 to get to the lecture; the intro isn't necessary.

Further Reading

Rama's book Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind is a classic, though a tad out of date. His latest is The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human. You might also enjoy his lecture Synesthesia in Mystical Traditions.


I haven't been able to find a transcript of this talk. The only option I've found is to enable YouTube's automated captioning system, which doesn't work at all well with the technical terms in this lecture.

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