If a great deal of what is presented in the four part series on Embodied Cognition sounds familiar, it may be because (as a good friend reminded me) it is mindful of what Alain Berthoz covered in his masterful book The Brain’s Sense of Movement. I went back to the book last night, which came out in 2000 and I haven’t looked at for too long, and was reminded of how profound an influence it was. I had colored tabs, multi-colored highlightings, and sticky-notes all over the book. Of course this made a mess of my Kindle (sorry, Sue – bad joke). Berthoz was influenced by the philosopher Merlau-Ponty who he quotes early in the book as saying that Vision is the Brain’s Way of Touching. Berthoz represents a French school of thought with great relevance to our work, including Stanislas Dehaene and Zoi Kapoula
Reading Berthoz had significant impact on the information that Bob Sanet and I integrated into our chapter on Spatial Vision in the book on Vision Rehabilitation by Suter and Harvey. Aside from using the Merlau-Ponty quote as our guiding light, we took a key diagram (with permission) from The Brain’s Sense of Movement as an important construct for the schematic complexity of something as ostensibly simple as where the brain is directing the eyes to look.
You can get a flavor of Berthoz’s thinking and charm by watching the video below, in which one of my favorite quotes is his line:
“Life has found simplifications which are not so simple”.
Most importantly, if you don’t have your own copy yet, get a hold of Berthoz’s book even if you have to spend a hundred bucks for a paperback reprint though B & N. The implications are all there, from mirror neurons to autism to embodied cognition and even a page or two about rheumatology and ophthalmology, with wide-ranging implications from visual development to robotics. You’ll probably find yourself stopping at least one time per page, putting the book down and muttering under your breath or aloud … wow. To whet your appetite, here is its table of contents:
1 PERCEPTION IS SIMULATED ACTION 9 The Motor Theory of Perception 9 The Concept of Acceptor of the Results of Action 11 Bernstein's Comparator 13 Memory Predicts the Consequences of Action 17 Mental Nodes 19 Mirror Neurons 20 Simulation, Emulation, or Representation? 21 2 THE SENSE OF MOVEMENT: A SIXTH SENSE? 25 Proprioception 27 The Vestibulary System: An Inertial Center? 32 The Functions of the Vestibular System 43 Seeing Movement 50 3 BUILDING COHERENCE 57 How Vision Detects Movement 60 Visual Movement and Vestibular Receptors 64 Am I in my Bed or Hanging from the Ceiling? 69 The Coherence between Seeing and Hearing 77 The Problem of the Coherence and Unity of Perception 90 Autism: The Disintegration of Coherence? 93 4 FRAMES OF REFERENCE 97 Personal Space and Extrapersonal Space 98 Egocentric and Allocentric Frames of Reference 99 Natural Frames of Reference 100 Selecting Frames of Reference 109 5 A MEMORY FOR PREDICTING 115 Topographic Memory or Topokinetic Memory? 117 The Neural Basis of Spatial Memory: The Role of the Hippocampus 126 6 NATURAL MOVEMENT 137 Pioneers 139 The Problem of Number of Degrees of Freedom IqI The Invention of the Eye 147 The Form of a Drawing Is Produced by the Law of Maximal Smoothness 151 7 SYNERGIES AND STRATEGIES 154 Vestibular Axon Branching and Gaze Stabilization 155 The Baby Fish that Wanted to Swim Flat on Its Stomach 158 The Neural Bases for Encoding Movement of the Arms I6o Coordination of Synergies 162 8 CAPTURE 165 The Toad's Decision 166 The Art of Braking 168 What If Newton Had Wanted to Catch the Apple? 172 9 THE LOOK THAT INVESTIGATES THE WORLD 181 Gaze Orientation 181 "Go Where I'm Looking," not "Look Where I'm Going" 185 Eye-to-Eye Contact 185 Gaze and Emotion 188 The Neural Basis of Gaze-Orienting Reactions 190 10 VISUAL EXPLORATION 192 The Brain Is a Fiery Steed 192 A Model of Perception-Action Relationships 195 Imagined Movement and Actual Movement 211 Dynamic Memory and Predictive Control of Movements 212 Was Piaget Right? 214 11 Balance 216 A Physiology of Reaction 217 How to Make the University of Edinburgh Oscillate 218 Toward a Projective Physiology 221 12 ADAPTATION 233 Adaptation and Substitution 234 The Rheumatologist and the Ophthalmologist 238 The Role of Activity in Compensating for and Preventing Disorientation 239 13 THE DISORIENTED BRAIN: ILLUSIONS ARE SOLUTIONS 242 Illusion: The Best Possible Hypothesis 243 Illusions Caused by Acceleration and Gravity 244 Illusions of Movement of the Limbs 248 Space and Motion Sickness 250 A Few Other Illusions 252 14 ARCHITECTS HAVE FORGOTTEN THE PLEASURE OP MOVEMENT 255 CONCLUSION: TOWARD A TOLERANT PERCEPTION 261