Are We Unique?
How does the human mind compare? Are human
beings, by virtue of their intelligence, unique?
James Trefil, noted science author and physics professor at
George Mason University, explores these and other questions
in his 1997 book.
Neuroscience is not for the timid. To consider the complex
questions of human intelligence, hard thinking is required.
Of course, that hard thinking is exactly the point.
Use these resources, selected for their simplicity, to
explore the world of neuroscience. You may not find the big
answer, but the little ones along the way will make the
|What exactly is intelligence? Is it the
brain? The mind? A combination? Or is it something else?
Trefil begins his exploration by seeking a working
definition. The vocabulary needs to be clear in order to
First, understand the science of the human
mind. The anatomy and chemistry can help us to define
the boundaries. Trefil's working metaphor is that of a city.
If you are in the city, down at street level, a good way to
define the boundaries of the city is to drive out of the
city along each of the major roadways until you reach the
sign that shows the city limit. Then, go back and try
another roadway. Eventually, you'll have a pretty good image
of the city limits. In neuroscience, the city limits
metaphor works to help define the boundaries of
||After identifying the boundaries of the human
mind, try using the city limits metaphor to identify the
limits of other animals. Compare
the human mind to the animal mind. Consider vertebrates
invertebrates. Of course, primates are the first comparison.
But how does the human mind compare to crustaceans?
Finally, use the city limits metaphor to consider
intelligent machines. Can
a computer approach human intelligence? Some stunning
results suggests that it can, and, perhaps, will.
Understand The Science of The Human Mind
- Okay, so kids can't get their hands on the brain. With
this website, though, they'll come close. To learn about the
brain, this is the best place to start.
- Neuroscience for Kids
- Brain research doesn't have to be mysterious. Jay shares brain
investigations, and the
experiments are designed for you to participate.
- Jay's Brain
- What happens if you lose part of your brain? In a tragic
accident, a metal rod pierced the head and brain of Phineas
Gage, leaving him with a hole in his brain. The amazing
part, though, is that he lived, and that the only noticeable
difference in his behavior was a lack of emotion.
- Phineas Gage Information Page
- After learning about Phineas, read more about the brain's amazing
ability to change.
- Changing Your Mind
- The infant brain has much to do. Genetics and
environment are thought to have a significant impact on the
young, developing brain. Listen to Ira Flatow, of National
Public Radio's Science Friday, report on the issue.
- Brain Development
- Need a roadmap for the brain? Check the atlas.
- The Whole Brain Atlas
- Imagine you're a brain surgeon. You stand over the
exposed brain of a patient. You poke. How will the patient
respond? This interactive website lets you try your own
- Brain Poke
- The Brain Exchange Electronic Mentorship Network
connects elementary school classes with real
neuroscientists. The general idea is to help young students
appreciate the brain.
- How does the mind develop?
- The Mind
Compare The Human Mind to The Animal Mind
- Compare the anatomy of the human brain to the anatomy of
other mammals with these amazing images.
- A Gallery of Mammalian Brains
- Now imagine you're a brain surgeon and you're dissecting
a sheep brain. This interactive website lets you try the
real thing, but only if your web browser can handle frames.
- Interactive Sheep Brain Dissection
- The field of crustacean neuroscience continues to reveal
amazing reference points for human brain research.
- Sea Anemones
- National Resource Center for Cephalopods
- Of course, the field of primate neuroscience also
continues to reveal important reference points for human
- Chimpanzee and Human Communication
- Chimp Talk Debate: Is It Really Language?
- Bonobo Fact Sheet
- A Living Link
- Chimpanzee Fact Sheet
Can a Computer Approach Human Intelligence?
- Begin with binary, the birthplace of the computer.
- Binary Arithmetic
- To consider the future of artificial intelligence, it's
important to reflect upon the origin of the computer.
- The History of Computing
- Obsolete Computer Museum
- Who Invented the Computer?
- When we consider the evolution of computers and silicon-
intelligence, we have to start with the work of Alan
- The Alan Turing Homepage
- The Turing Machine
- Turing Machines in Java
- The Turing Test
- When does computer intelligence become equal to human
intelligence? It's a subject which requires great thought
and reflection. These websites offer some neuroscience food
for your brain to digest.
- The Emergence of Intelligence
- Humans use their intelligence to play chess. Computers
play chess. Do computers have intelligence? Can it be as
simple as that?
- Kasparov vs. Deep Blue The Rematch
Some Other Resources
- Don't forget that the brain isn't in isolation. Take a
look at the entire human body and consider the relationship
between the brain and the rest of the anatomy.
- What are the benefits of brain research? The Dana
Alliance tries to answer this question.
- The Dana Alliance for Brain Research
- This outstanding bibliography offers annotated
connections to thousands
of resources relating to the human mind.
Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: An Annotated
- All of these websites offer useful, user-friendly
resources for understanding the brain.
- Newton's Apple - The Brain
- Brain Quotes
- Brain Awareness Week
- On Becoming a Neuroscientist
- The BrainWeb
- Traumatic Brain Injury