Michael Egnor tells Mark Solms: Neuroscience didn’t help him understand people; quite the reverse, he had to understand people, and minds, to make sense of neuroscience:
Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stony brook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor now responds that his clinical experience supports that view and the view that the mind is not simply “what the brain does” as some popular neuroscientists claim:News, “2. Neurosurgeon and neuropsychologist agree: Brain is not mind” at Mind Matters News
Michael Egnor: When I got to medical school, I was thrilled at being able to study neuroscience. My first day of medical school, I bought all the textbooks for neuroscience… I was fascinated by the basal ganglia. And I was thinking that when I really studied neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, that I would understand the mind on a deeper level, not just the structure of the brain and the physiology, but what the mind was and what a person was. [00:16:00]
I thought this was the Rosetta Stone into understanding deeply what it is to be human. And I found in medical school, and then in my neurosurgical training, that it didn’t really help that much. In fact, it was almost the other way around. I had to understand what people were and what the mind was in order to make sense of neuroscience! And I still find that. [00:16:30]
So, I came to a very different perspective. I saw very much the same things that Mark wrote about in his book. I saw patients who didn’t have frontal lobes, or at least most of their frontal lobes, who were completely conscious, in fact, rather pleasant, bright people. I’ve had children who have hydrocephaly, who are most certainly conscious. They’re quite handicapped, but they have emotions. They obviously have profound mental states. [00:17:00]
I have a patient who’s had most of his brain destroyed. He’s a young man who had an arteriovenous malformation of his brain (hemorrhage) about 30 years ago when he was a small child, and it destroyed most of his brain. I see him in the office, he has a shunt for hydrocephalus, for fluid on his brain. He can’t speak very well and he sits in a wheelchair. But he’s actually an extremely perceptive person. His family says that he understands other people’s emotions and thoughts better than most people do. I’ve got a young girl who’s missing at least half of her brain, including a lot of her frontal cortex, who just recently graduated from high school as an honor student. She’s a brilliant child, a perfectly normal kid. [00:17:30]
So, what Mark says is completely true. Consciousness certainly doesn’t come from the cortex. Where it comes from is a whole another fascinating question. But I found that what’s in the neuroscience textbooks simply doesn’t match up to real everyday experience.
Takehome: Egnor saw patients who didn’t have most of their frontal lobes who were completely conscious, “in fact, rather pleasant, bright people.”
Here’s the first portion of the debate, where neuropsychologist Mark Solms shares his perspective: Consciousness: Is it in the cerebral cortex — or the brain stem? In a recent discussion/debate with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, neuropsychologist Mark Solms offers an unconventional but evidence-based view, favouring the brain stem. The evidence shows, says Mark Solms, author of The Hidden Spring, that the brain stem, not the cerebral cortex is the source of consciousness.
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