Mental maps

While I was off on my trip in Morocco, I read through a book called “Beyond Boundaries” by an author whose name I’ve forgotten and I can’t seem to find the book so I guess I can’t pass his name onto you. (If only there were some kind of vast resource of data, perhaps accessible by computer, that could provide the answers to such questions.) The subject of the book was brain to computer interfaces — ways of hooking up the brain to devices that might allow a person to walk or communicate “telepathically” etc.

It’s basically understood that we have a map of our bodies in our brains, so if someone touches our hand, we sense this. There also seems to be strong indications that we mentally map the space around us. So, we become aware if someone places a sharp object 2 inches away from us, as opposed to 20 feet away. And, the book notes, when we start using a tool like a rake, we extend our sense of our personal space. If someone puts an object within access of our rake but not our bodies, neurons fire that might not have fired had we not had that rake.

I’ve been theorizing that we actually hold a much broader map within our brains. Essentially this is the map of our daily surroundings: the roads we use to get to work, the local grocery store, friend’s houses, the post office etc. And these are maps we are always updating. For instance, you know when you have the experience where you go somewhere, and then take a wrong turn and realize that the place you’re at is right next to some other place you’ve always known about but always considered to be far away from the first-place…? I would posit that in that situation you actually create some kind of neural connection between the two components of the brain map representing these places. By this I mean a physiological connection occurs — a synapse or group of synapses is strengthened between neurons or neural networks.

118 Responses to “Mental maps”


  1. John Saleeby

    How about creating some kind of neural connection between what you are writing and whatever the fuck you are trying to say?

  2. John Saleeby

    Sorry about that. I’m in a bad mood because . . . Hey! Where ya goin”? Hey!

  3. John Saleeby

    I was listening to Pete Doherty when I found out Amy Winehouse had died. That kinda makes sense.

  4. Wil

    Yeah, I just found out about that last night. It really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it bothered me a bit more than the average celebrity death.

  5. John Saleeby

    It’s more disturbing because everybody seems to know it was going to happen. It’s like everybody just sat around watching her die. Except for me, of course. I’ve been emailing her urging her to get treatment on a daily basis for more than a year. So I’m the only person in the World entitled to make mean jokes on the internet about her being dead. But I won’t because I’m so nice.

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