The Introspection Dead-End
What makes the brain such a tough nut to crack? According to Scott Huettel of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University, the standard answer to this question goes something like: “The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe … complexity makes simple models impractical and accurate models impossible to comprehend.” While that stock answer is correct, Huettel said, it’s incomplete. The real snag in brain science is one of navel gazing. Huettel and other neuroscientists can’t step outside of their own brains (and experiences) when studying the brain itself. “A more pernicious factor is that we all think we understand the brain — at least our own — through our experiences. But our own subjective experience is a very poor guide to how the brain works,” Huettel told LiveScience. “Whether the human brain can understand itself is one of the oldest philosophical questions,” said Anders Garm of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, a biologist who studies jellyfish as models for human neural processing of visual information.