If you are one of the many students who are fascinated by the case studies Damasio presents in Looking for Spinoza, I think you will enjoy the new NPR podast Invisibilia. In each episode Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller speak with people whose behaviour is atypical as a result of the invisible workings of the human neurological system. In this week's episode, for example, Spiegel and Miller speak to a woman who has no experience of fear, and they ask the question whether we could all learn to feel less fear.
Spiegel and Miller have worked in the past with popular podcasts This American Life and Radiolab, and last week both of those podcasts featured previews of stories that will eventually appear on Invisibilia. The Radiolab episode considers the feeling of being male or female - how this feeling arises in the brain and why for a few people it is not stable. The This American Life episode features a man who had his eyes removed as an infant because of tumors but then proceeded to learn to see with his ears. The neurological details of vision are presented most explicitly beginning at 38:24 in Act Two of the episode.
Each of the stories in these podcasts can be easily connected to the descriptions that Damasio gives of the chain of neurological events that lead to sensation, emotion, and feelings. Each provides an example of the ways in which those chains might be blocked or stimulated at various points with interesting and informative consequences. They are all good examples of the biological reductionist approach to studying psychological phenomena; but the Invisibilia producers are also interested in how the psychological phenomena (feelings and beliefs, for example) have the ability to feed back into the biological system and behaviour.
I haven't been to the exhibit myself, but I know that a current feature at the Ontario Science Centre is Brain: The Inside Story. In relation to the exhibit, Globe and Mail Science writer Ivan Semeniuk yesterday published this feature on neuroscience research. The exhibit continues until March 29. Anyone who attends and would like to give their thumbs up or thumbs down comments is welcome to do that here or in the Point of Order section of the Dialogue Forum.