The Brain and Mind Institute was the brain child of an eminent teacher of mine. He promoted this idea relentlessly decades before the World Wide Web was conceived. Of course, his dream consisted of a beautiful brick-and-mortar structure housing laboratories, a gigantic scientific reprint collection and beautiful minds pondering under his guidance the workings of the brain and their relationship to the mind. He could not see his dream come true. However, two Brain and Mind Institutes that benefited from his early input were eventually founded. One is located in North America and the other is in Europe.
Obviously, my teacher had an infectious mind, facilely contaminating the people around him. He dedicated his life to the demystification of the brain and, in extension, of the mind. His ideas are as pertinent today as they were then.
Recently, the discussion on the brain/mind relationship has ascended a pinnacle of prominence with the advent of readily accessible, non-invasive imaging methods that allow us to visualize the brain at work. The technology has introduced the next generation of lie detectors and mind readers, creating anxieties about its implications for the privacy of our lives. Questions are raised about the cerebral origin of decision making and responsible action. Particularly hot issues in this debate are:
- Is there a place for free will?
- Is the mind the prisoner of the
- Does the brain provide specific
homes for the machinations of the mind?
- To what extent is the brain/mind
Platforms are needed on which possible answers can be conveyed and discussed. Conclusions will emerge from the discussions with implications beyond brain research. The results will shape our understanding of mental capacity and mental illness, our interpretation of Criminal Law as well as questions of Faith.
In the United States, the traditional platforms for scientific discussion are eroding as a consequence of the current funding crunch. Public moneys that were commonly used to support fundamental research are spent elsewhere. The intellectual capital fueling progress in research is draining.
Therefore, new avenues have to be tested to further pursue the exploration of the relationship of brain and mind. Brick and mortar implementations may be architecturally pleasing, but are costly and impose physical constraints. With the advent of Web 2, meeting places can be virtual, transcending boundaries of space and time. The model of this virtual Brain and Mind Institute is plastic and will be modified as needs arise. The initial goals are:
to provide a platform for the exchange of information useful to scientists as much as to the interested public,
to advise on helpful means for research,
to advise on planning and execution of specific projects, and
to create a forum for a healthy discussion.
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