Elkhonon Goldberg:
THE EXECUTIVE BRAIN (Oxford Univ Press, 2001)

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(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

The Russian neurologist Goldberg Elkhonon, a pupil of Luria, has written a book devoted to the importance of the frontal lobe, the youngest part of the brain (evolutionarily speaking) The frontal lobe is credited with liberating an organism from the slavery of instinct, of elevating it from the stimulus-response kind of life to the perception-cognition-action kind of life. Unfortunately, the book is mostly the recount of his favorite clinical cases (plus a bit of autobiography) than an analysis of how the frontal lobe works. Goldberg has an interesting take on the lateralization of the brain: the right emisphere is best at dealing with new situations, whereas the left emisphere seems limited to performing routines. The cycle from novelty to routine is one of the fundamental features of cognition. It's the ability to synthesize the world in stereotyped action that allows us to survive and eventually perform complex tasts. Cognition depends on this transition of information from the right to the left emisphere. So the right emisphere does a key job. Lesions to the left ("dominant") emisphere tend to be more dramatic and immediate, but Goldberg argues that lesions to the right emisphere can be more damaging in the long term, although less visible. Goldberg also questions the belief that the brain is structured in modules. He argues that at least the neocortex does not work as a set of modules, but rather as a surface that smoothly transitions from one cognitive function to another. There is a cognitive continuum. The mental representation of something is a whole which is distributed around the neocortex. In 1989 Goldberg announced his theory of "gradients" What interacts is not different modules but different gradients. Goldberg believes that modularity is limited to the older parts of the brain, whereas the newer parts employ this gradients-based processing.

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