Cover image for Enchanted looms : conscious networks in brains and computers
Enchanted looms : conscious networks in brains and computers
Cotterill, Rodney, 1933-2007.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiv, 508 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


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QA76.87 .C685 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The title of this 1998 book was inspired by a passage in Charles Sherrington's Man on his Nature. When that famous physiologist died in 1952, the prospects for a scientific explanation of consciousness seemed remote. Enchanted Looms shows how the situation has changed dramatically, and provides what is probably the most wide-ranging account of the phenomenon ever written. Rodney Cotterill bridges the gap between the bottom-up approach to understanding consciousness, anchored in the brain's biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and the top-down strategy, which concerns itself with behaviour and the nervous system's interaction with the environment. The author argues that an explanation of consciousness is now at hand, and extends the discussion to include intelligence and creativity. This beautifully written and illustrated book will be valued for its easy access to one of science's last great challenges. It will change forever our view of consciousness, and our concept of the human being.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Cotterill's title was taken from the writings of the great British neurophysiologist Sir Charles Sherrington, who envisioned the human brain working like an enchanted loom. The title is equally apropos of the rich tapestry of ideas that Cotterill has woven together to create this interesting work. According to the preface, this book was intended to clarify the distinction between "consciousness" within computer neural networks and within the neural networks of the brain. However, the real thrust of the book is Cotterill's hypothesis of how human consciousness arises from reverberating activity between the premotor cortex, the sensory cortex, the thalamic intralaminar nuclei, and the anterior cingulate. Almost every famous paper that has been recently published in cellular neurophysiology, brain imaging, and human psychology is cited as support for this model. Where gaps occur in the literature, Cotterill quickly weaves in his own ideas and notions derived from introspection. The remarkable integration of classical experimental results that form the warp and weft of Cotterill's intellectual tapestry makes this book a good read for individuals interested in the neurophysiological basis of consciousness. It should also appeal to those interested in building an actual working model of a "conscious" computer like HAL from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. M. Senseman; University of Texas at San Antonio

Table of Contents

Prefacep. x
Acknowledgementsp. xiii
1 Introduction
A forbearing machinep. 1
Intelligence and consciousness--a first lookp. 5
2 The ultimate black box
The apparent independence of life behind the eyesp. 12
The suspicious accuracy of the imaginationp. 17
Elements of black boxologyp. 21
3 Under the lid
A long-standing curiosityp. 30
Structures and strategiesp. 37
Maps and missionsp. 46
The view from withoutp. 50
The logic of emotionp. 55
Hierarchies and lowerarchiesp. 58
4 Games neurons play
The workhorses of the nervous systemp. 60
Origins of agitationp. 63
Influential connectionsp. 66
Variations on the themep. 70
Neuronal dictatorshipp. 73
Spreading the responsibilityp. 75
Pieces of neural circuitryp. 78
The complexity of realityp. 85
5 Lasting impressions
Indoctrinating organismsp. 88
Freezing the momentp. 96
In the longer termp. 99
Keeping things tidyp. 102
Caught in the netp. 104
From temporary to permanentp. 114
At the blackboardp. 120
Getting organizedp. 124
6 From percept to concept
Computers and brainsp. 130
The perceptronp. 134
A surprising headachep. 137
Concealed wisdomp. 140
Progress through regress--back propagationp. 141
Hidden layerologyp. 151
Percept and conceptp. 157
Reader in Englishp. 162
A sheep in wolf's clothingp. 165
Roots and routesp. 171
7 The grand design
The burden of mandatory changep. 183
Window on the mindp. 186
To each his own?p. 198
Fine tuningp. 211
Subtler controlp. 218
The power of feelingp. 221
Vergence and reciprocityp. 227
Global closurep. 234
8 The first half second
Mechanics of the mindp. 239
Ripples in the cortexp. 251
Early warning systemp. 256
Paying attentionp. 263
A relevant limitation in colour visionp. 281
Bandwidth, breakthrough and working memoryp. 282
Dissection of sequencep. 286
9 Midwives of reflection
An inadequacy of colloquialismsp. 295
Further probes of the unconsciousp. 298
The philosophical nubp. 300
The reality of filling inp. 303
The gullibility of sensesp. 311
Phantom sensationsp. 313
Deferment of automationp. 315
A consciousness agendap. 319
Trains of thoughtp. 322
Unfinished businessp. 324
The theatre that never closedp. 328
Black boxology revisitedp. 334
Active acquisition of informationp. 344
The core circuitry of consciousnessp. 347
Schematap. 351
Why do I feel that I am in my head?p. 354
Attention and binocular rivalryp. 364
Qualia--the feelings of consciousnessp. 368
The content of consciousnessp. 372
Bottom-up meets top-down?p. 374
The apparent freedom of volitionp. 377
In a night's sleepp. 378
10 The depth of reason
Language, introspection and Helen Kellerp. 384
A recapitulationp. 388
The kinematics of languagep. 390
Why is language cortically lateralized?p. 396
An invisible shellp. 398
Holes in the mindp. 400
Roots of intelligence and creativityp. 405
Emotional intelligence?p. 409
The scope of the simian mindp. 414
Deep Blue and Deep Thoughtp. 417
11 The message and the medium
Of all possible worldsp. 421
John Searle's Chinese Roomp. 425
The brain--the overall picturep. 427
Consciousness will be seen in computersp. 434
Notes and bibliographyp. 437
Glossaryp. 468
Author indexp. 486
Subject indexp. 500