HOW THE BRAIN GOT LANGUAGE
DR. MICHAEL ARBIB
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Room 111-A Chancellor’s Complex
Michael A. Arbib has written or edited more than 40 books. His talk will reflect information in his upcoming book, How the Brain Got Language: The Mirror System Hypothesis (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Dr. Arbib writes that “Mirror neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys fire both when the monkey is generating a specific set of grasps and when it observes similar grasps. This led us to ask whether the human brain, too, contains a mirror system for grasping – a region that would show up as especially active in brain imaging both when a person did something and when she observed someone else do the same thing. We found such an area in Broca’s area, part of the human brain traditionally associated with the production of speech. This talk presents the Mirror System Hypothesis, namely that the brain mechanisms that support language evolved on top of the basic mechanisms of the mirror system. But grasping is very different from speech. To understand how one could provide the basis for the other, we will trace the path whereby mirror systems evolved across 20 million years to provide the basis for language parity, the property that an utterance means roughly the same for both speaker and hearer. Moreover, we will distinguish the biological evolution of the language-ready brain from the cultural evolution of the diversity of human languages.”
Dr. Arbib is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science, as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Southern California (USC), which he joined in September of 1986. He has also been named as one of a small group of University Professors (note the capital letters) at USC in recognition of his contributions across many disciplines.
Born in England in 1940, Arbib grew up in Australia where he earned a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Pure Mathematics from Sydney University, and he received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT in 1963. After five years at Stanford, he became chairman of the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1970, and remained in that Department until his move to USC in 1986. At USC, he was founder and first Director of the Center for Neural Engineering and the USC Brain Project, an interdisciplinary project in neuroinformatics.
From the President
Later in this Scholar's Notebook you will see a tabulation of books and other publications by 27 members of SDIS. The intent will be to provide on the SDIS website at a later date a fuller description of these publications.
From one point of view this tabulation is exactly what it seems to be, a tabulation of publications. From a different point of view it is also a powerful reminder of the variety of scholarly initiatives taken by SDIS members over the years. In this sense it is more than a record of publications. From it one can begin to appreciate what has occupied the intellectual lives of the listed authors.
The role of scholarly projects in the life of a scholar is worth attention and has interested me ever since I facilitated a workshop some years ago on "art as a complex evolving system." I invited a friend, a professional artist, to share with me the task of facilitating this workshop which dealt with the application of scientific complexity theory to the visual arts. My artist friend had a refreshing and thought-provoking point of view. He said that for him, the art objects he produced were quite incidental to his art. He felt that he, himself, as he lived his life and changed over the years, was the real center of his art; the paintings and sculptures he produced were sort of the necessary detritus of this process — useful nonetheless since they helped establish his reputation as an artist and also, when sold, provided income.
This placed in stark focus for me two different points of view, one which values the end product — painting, book, objective information, theoretical construct, etc. – and the other which values the subjective state experienced by the artist, writer, or researcher during and as a consequence of a life which focuses intently on producing the work.
I know that publications are viewed as having importance to authors of many sorts, even those who expect neither wealth nor academic advancement to flow their way as a consequence of publication. What else might an author gain by publication? Recognition? The satisfaction of sharing with others what is written? The attitude of my artist friend illustrates yet another kind of reward, more internal and subjective but perhaps of prime importance: a sense of involvement in a life-enhancing activity. Boldly stated the assertion is that a life which focuses with deep and sustained conscious attention on a subject of personal interest itself deserves the title "artistry." Within a broad framework such as this, it is really not much if at all over-the-top to suggest that we can share something akin to this feeling when we actively participate with each other in SDIS activities.
The next meeting of the Colloquy Cafe will be on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. at Jean Mayer's apartment at Vi. The topic will be "Discuss, Argue, Rant." If you are interested in attending, contact Mary Ellen Stratthaus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. the Culture One Study Group will continue to focus on issues described in Chapter 9 (What Do We Owe One Another: Dilemmas of Loyalty) of Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel. Contact Sam Gusman at email@example.com for further information.
On Friday, April 13, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. the Culture Two Study Group will focus on issuesdescribed in Chapter 3 (Do We Own Ourselves: Libertarianism) ofJustice: What'sThe Right Thing to Do?by Michael Sandel. Contact Sam Gusman at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
TheFilm Groupwill meet Wednesday, April 4, at 12:30 p.m. at the home of Barbara Heckler to view First Grader. This 2010 National Geographic film is based on the true story of an 84 year old Kenyan villager who goes to school after Kenya makes elementary education free and universal in 2003. Discussion will begin at 2:30 p.m. Contact Barbara at email@example.com for information.
The next meeting of The Literature Group will be held in Carlsbad on Monday, April 9, at 10:30 a.m. at the La Costa Glen retirement home of Betty Cortus. This time we will convene at her apartment. Come in as usual at La Costa Glen's Fairway Lobby entrance, and at the reception desk ask for directions to her place. Harry Boyle will lead the discussion of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," an Arthurian narrative verse poem. Contact Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Science (aka Brain)
The Science (aka Brain) Study Group will meet on Monday, April 23, at 3:00 p.m. at the home of Bea Rose to discuss Chapter 3 of Gazzaniga’s book, Who’s in Charge. Visitors are welcome but must email Bea beforehand at email@example.com or call 858-458-9263.
Works in Progress
The WIP group plans to discuss a literacy project of Judy Ramirez. She is adapting some existing materials for young learners and would like the group to preview it. We expect to meet on Saturday, May 5, either at Aline Hornaday’s home in La Jolla, or at Judy’s in Carlsbad. (Carpooling’s an option.) Contact Donna Boyle, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you plan to attend, and we will send you more information prior to the meeting date.
A LOOK AT MEMBERS’ BOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS
There is an incredibly rich history of books, papers, and presentations from SDIS members. The following compilation lists titles of books that were written or edited by a member from 1982 (the founding year of SDIS) to 2012. (Taken from information available to us at press time, the list may be incomplete.) References to books published before 1982 are in parentheses and by date only. The sheer number of other kinds of work precludes individual lists. These categories include work prior to 1982.
NANCY APPLETON,9 books; numerous magazine articles
Lick the Sugar Habit, 1st Ed, 1988, 2nd Ed, 1996
Heal Yourself with Natural Foods, 1998
The Curse of Louis Pasteur: Why Medicine Is Not Healing a Diseased World, 1999
Lick the Sugar Habit Sugar Counter, 2001
Healthy Bones: What You Should Know About Osteoporosis, 2002
Stopping Inflammation: Relieving the Cause of Degenerative Diseases, 2005
Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look At Our #1 National Addiction, 2009
Killer Colas: The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks, 2011
CATHERINE BLECKI, 1 book; 3 articles and papers
Milcah Martha Moore’s Book: The Commonplace Book of an Eighteenth-century American, Editor and Introduction (with K Wulf), 1996
JOAN CASALE, aka JOAN WATKINS,4 books; 2 plays; 5 technical articles for judges
BETTY CORTUS, over 5 articles and presentations
WAYNE FANEBUST,6 books
Where The Sioux River Bends, 1985
Tales of Dakota Territory Vol. I, 1994
Echoes of November, The Life and Times of Senator R. F. Pettigrew of South Dakota, 1997
Tales of Dakota Territory Vol. II, 1999
The Missing Corpse, Grave Robbing a Gilded Age Tycoon, 2005
Cavaliers of the Dakota Frontier, 2009
JANE FORD,1 book
Patriarchy and Incest from Shakespeare to Joyce,1998
LAWRENCE GARTNER, 1 book; over 160 articles, papers and miscellaneous
Physicians’ Handbook on Breastfeeding, Associate Editor,2005
JUDITH STRUPP GREEN, 13 book chapters, articles, other publications, presentations
SAM GUSMAN, 1 book, 13 articles
ALINE HORNADAY, 1 book (1979); over 20 articles and presentations
DELINA HALUSHKA,1 book (1976)
MAJORIE JACKSON, 1 book
The Mixtec Weavers of Guerrero, Mexico, 1996
GRACE JOHNSON, 16 articles
LAWRENCE KAMM,7 books
Real-World Engineering, 1991Designing Cost-Efficient Mechanisms, 1993
Banish Fear of Flying, 2000
All About Energy, 2002
MARCUS KLEIN, 5 books (Below and in 1968; 1969; and 1981 (his 1981 book received a Pulitzer Prize nomination)
Easterns, Westerns, and Private Eyes: American Matters, 1870-1900, 1994
Terribly at the Mercy of His Mind: Henry James in the 1890's, 2010
WILLIAM LAIRD, 1 book chapter
ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS, 7 books
Hopes and Ashes: The Birth of Modern Times, 1929-39, 1986
Alfred H. Barr, Jr.: Missionary for the Modern, 1989
The Art Biz, 1991
Art Lessons: Learning From the Rise & Fall of Public Arts Funding, 1995
Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare, a Biography, 2002
Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg, 2006
The Pop Revolution, 2010
MARIANNE McDONALD, 1 book; 1 book translation
The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Theatre, Editor (with M Waton), 2007
PAUL NUNEZ, 4 books; over 35 book chapters and articles
Electric Fields of the Brain: The Neurophysics of EEG, 1st Ed 1981, 2nd Ed (with R
Neocortical Dynamics and Human EEG Rhythms, 1995
Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality, 2010
SUE ROSNER, 1 book; over 35 articles and papers
Understanding Williams Syndrome: Behavioral Patterns and Interventions(withE Semel), 2007
TOM SAMARAS,1 book; over 20 articles
Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling: Physiological, Performance, Growth, Longevity and Ecological Ramifications, Editor, 2007
JERRY SELNESS, 1 book; numerous papers
Primitive Benchmark: A Short Treatise on a General Theory of Sailing with the Limits for Sailboat Speed, 1999
RON STADSKLEV, over 20 symposiums and papers
DANIEL STEINBERG, 2 books; over 400 papers
Hypercholesterolemia and Atherosclerosis: Pathogenesis and Prevention, Co-Editor (with
J Olefsky) 1987
The Cholesterol Wars: The Skeptics vs the Preponderance of Evidence, 2007
MARY STROLL, 5 books; over 15 articles and reviews and 35 papers
The Jewish Pope: Ideology and Politics inthe Papal Schism of 1130, 1987
Symbols as Power: The Papacy Following the Investiture Contest, 1991
The Medieval Abbey of Farfa: Focus of Papal and Imperial Ambitions, 1997
Calixtus II (1119-1124): A Pope Born to Rule, 2004
Popes and Antipopes: Church Reform in the Eleventh Century, 2111
PATRICIA TERRY, 10 books, all translations or retellings of medieval literature, some with collaborators, and original poetry
WILLARD WELLS,1 book; 6 articles
Apocalypse When?: Calculating the Chances of Human Survival, 2009
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH DONNA BOYLE
Donna is a Past President of SDIS, and she continues to generously contribute her time. I can’t thank Donna enough for all the help and encouragement she has given me with the Notebook. Her careful proof-reading and computer savvy have added a polish far beyond my skill level.
Q. What were your goals when you were just out of college? How did they change over time?
A. All my childhood I wanted to be a doctor. Since pre-med was out of the question at my small liberal arts college, whenever possible I added science electives to my math major. At the end of two years I had to interrupt my education, and I took a job teaching math at a parochial high school. The following year they asked me to teach chemistry, a subject I had never studied at any level. With the folly of youth I agreed, and I quickly discovered that effective teaching is not just a matter of content expertise. For the next ten years I taught high school math and chemistry, plus occasional courses in art, drama, and English, while earning my degree and credential in summer school. I learned to love teaching and got pretty good at it.
Q. When did you move to San Diego? Where else have you lived?
A. I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to San Diego in 1969, for a job with an experimental school that never got off the ground. Since no regular schools were hiring, I took odd office jobs. In 1972, I moved to Chicago with my new baby and three step-children, following my husband’s work. After a couple years the marriage broke up, and although I was enchanted with many aspects of the Midwest, I felt I had to come back home to San Diego.
Q. What’s the best job you ever had? The worst?
A. That’s a hard one – all my jobs were satisfying in many ways. Of course, everything looks pretty good in the rear view mirror. The best job is the one I have now – teaching a Writers Workshop for older adults. I stumbled into all my jobs, starting with a community clinic. I spent the next 25 years as an accountant in the healthcare industry. I loved working with the business office staffs, essentially teaching them. Of course, frustration occurs in every job, but I never felt they were intolerable or that I had to quit.
Q. What is your history with SDIS? I know you’re a past president. When did you join? What other jobs have you filled?
A. My husband, Harry, joined SDIS in the mid- to late-eighties. I would accompany him to general meetings, and a couple times he hosted the Lit Group at our house. So I got to know a few people. I didn’t want to join until I’d retired, because my work schedule precluded so many SDIS activities. In 2003 I retired and immediately joined. Among my jobs have been president, as you mentioned; treasurer; nominating committee chair; and I seem to keep picking up odd jobs like publishing the Directory.
Q. You’re a member of the SDIS Literature study group. Among its selections, what stands out (& why)? Anything you haven’t liked or thought was overrated?
A. That’s another hard one! I’ve enjoyed everything we’ve explored, and I’ve certainly read texts I would never have chosen or gotten around to on my own. I particularly enjoyed our study of the 19th century Russians.
Q. Are you active in any other organizations or groups?
A. Not really.
Q. Tell us about how you ended up teaching a writing class in which you were once a student.
A. As soon as I retired, I fantasized (like everyone else I know) about all the reading and writing I would do in this delicious spare time. At the recommendation of Sandra Joss (an SDIS member who has since moved back to Australia), I joined a Writers Workshop, which is a continuing education class of the Community College district. The teacher was also a poet and translator. She offered no lectures, but gracefully guided our critiques of our own writing. She was also busy translating an Argentine poet, a project that demanded a bit of travel. In her occasional absence, substitute teachers often didn’t get it. They’d start to lecture on something, and both the substitute and the students ended up dissatisfied. Since I had a credential, I suggested – and she agreed – that I could hold down the fort in her absence. This started summer 2005. Two years later she retired. The district hasn’t fired me, so I’m still there.
Q. Do you have any current personal writing projects?
A. Yes, but not very actively. I’ve learned that the creative impulse and the critical impulse argue with each other, and so much of my current work is critique that the writing subsides. I do need to get back to it, though.
Q. What is your favorite pastime?
A. I’m not sure I have one now – for years Harry and I went backpacking in the Sierras every summer. About five years ago I took a fall, broke a few ribs, and – well, that made us stop for a while. Now we find the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Q. Besides your parents, who (or what) has had the biggest influence on your life?
A. Sandwiched in the middle of eight siblings, I can’t remember a moment of boredom. I learned from the older ones and tested my wisdom on the younger. We often invented our own games, and my folks supported even the girls’ independence and creativity. Unlike the general culture of the time, these qualities were also valued in my high school and college. Both schools were managed and taught by the same group of Catholic nuns who encouraged our independence and professional development. They helped me trust my imagination and made me believe the sky is the limit.
San Diego Independent Scholars (SDIS) supports unaffiliated writers and researchers and welcomes everyone who appreciates creative and intellectual activities in the humanities, science, and the arts. SDIS is a non-profit organization and an affiliate of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. Sam Gusman, President, email@example.com.
Scholar’s Notebook is the newsletter of SDIS. Please send your news for the Notebook to Barbara Heckler, Notebook editor: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 3489 Wellesly Ave, San Diego, CA 92122. The deadline for submissions is the 22nd of the month prior to publication date.