Those of you who follow my blog know that my interest in the brain stems from my older brother who is autistic, profoundly retarded and has never uttered a word in his life. I had the good fortune to be able to study neuroanatomy with a colleague, Dr. Andrew Lautin, and participate in the writing and editing of a forthcoming introductory neuroanatomy text. After the book is available, I will offer excerpts on this blog. Our tour of the central nervous system is unique and intriguing and is worth the wait.
I look forward to reading Proust was a Neuroscientist.  The author, Jonah Lehrer, looks to art and literature for findings and insights into the human mind and brain at which neuroscience arrived through hypotheses and experimentation.
Thumbing through the book I was struck by the very first writer that Lehrer featured: Walt Whitman. From my scanning of the this chapter, I understand that Whitman’s literature, particularly, his volume of poetry, Leaves of Grass treated the human being as a whole, not as a dual system consisting of mind and brain. The ‘mind-brain’ problem is one of the ‘hard problems’ of neuroscience. Put simply, dualists posit that the mind is composed of different ‘stuff’ than the organ of the brain. This concept dates back to Descartes.
Alva Noë is a philosopher and neuroscientist who discusses the concept of an indivisible whole person in his book, Out of Our Heads. I discuss this in my post A New Take on Consciousness.
As a side note, Eugene Richards, world renown photojournalist, used I Sing the Body Electric from Leaves of Grass as an assignment in a workshop of his that I attended. The poem was inspiring for this photographer. I am looking forward to other insights in from Lehrer’s book.
Another artist who interests me is Paul Cézanne. He also warrants a chapter in Lehrer’s book. I have not read this chapter at all, but I am so curious about how Cézanne’s paintings, considered ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, parallels findings in neuroscience. Degenerate? I think not.
I am excited by the fact that the nature of the human being is being uncovered both by art and science.
 Lehrer, J. Proust was a Neuroscientist. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company 2008