Be­tween a Thing and a Thought: The Neu­ropsy­chol­ogy of Self­hood


Session Title:

  • NeuroArts

Presentation Title:

  • Be­tween a Thing and a Thought: The Neu­ropsy­chol­ogy of Self­hood



  • Panel: NeuroArts

    Neu­ropsy­chol­ogy is com­ing of age. Tra­di­tional ‘le­sion stud­ies’ – the painstak­ing method of ob­serv­ing the ef­fects of lo­calised brain dam­age on be­hav­iour – have been aug­mented by brain imag­ing tech­nolo­gies al­low­ing di­rect ob­ser­va­tion of the liv­ing brain. We are now build­ing maps of the brain’s func­tional ar­chi­tec­ture that, in scope and de­tail, could scarcely have been imag­ined 50 years ago. And yet, it seems to me, some­thing fun­da­men­tal is miss­ing from the scene. Where is the ‘per­son’? Where is the ‘self’? How do the var­i­ous sys­tems and sub­sys­tems of men­tal­ity (per­cep­tion, mem­ory, emo­tion, etc.) col­lude in the con­struc­tion and main­te­nance of the con­scious, in­tro­spec­tive, uni­fied and con­tin­u­ous sense of in­di­vid­ual iden­tity that we take as the bedrock norm of human ex­pe­ri­ence? Until re­cently such ques­tions were sim­ply not on the sci­en­tific agenda. They are now, and as this cen­tury un­folds the neu­ropsy­chol­ogy of per­son­hood is going to stir up ques­tions of pro­found con­cern not merely for neu­ro­science but for so­ci­ety at large. In this pre­sen­ta­tion I offer my own, some­times per­sonal, re­flec­tions on the neu­ropsy­chol­ogy of self­hood from the per­spec­tive of a sci­en­tist-prac­ti­tioner with a back­ground in clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­ogy, but one who also has lately spent as much time ex­plor­ing mem­ory and iden­tity through the­atre and film.