THIS IS A superb overview of how the scientific view of the human brain has changed in recent years as a result of brain imaging—using scanning technology to track which areas of the brain are activated in response to this or that event. This research may in time confirm a radically new understanding of consciousness, so radical, as one of the scientists interviewed states, that it may be no less disruptive to prevalent beliefs than was the Copernican discovery of a sun-centered universe, or Darwin's distasteful discovery of natural selection.

This film is in part so effective because the script is well written. Every bit of narration is precisely worded and thoughtfully placed. But that of course is not enough to make an extraordinary film. That only comes about when a well-written text is interwoven with other components: images, audio clips, excerpts from interviews, animations, sequence and pacing, and so on. 

As a film, this one is so well constructed that it not only describes the functioning of the brain, in the process it magically triggers the use of those same capabilities (unlike a typical Powerpoint talk). It repeatedly uses transition effects (such as attribute blending, image layering, and metamorphosis) that point out the unforeseen kinship between disparate stimuli—a way of observing and thinking that, near the end of the film, Vilayanur Ramachandran describes as comparable to poetic metaphor. He says this in an outdoor setting, at a moment when the camera shifts to oddly shaped hills in the background, hills that look suddenly similar to the ridges of the human brain. 

Also interviewed are neuroscientists Walter J. Freeman, Maurice Ptito, Lionel Maccache, and Bruno van Swinderen. This last person describes his research of attention in flies, by which he has confirmed that they, like humans, attend to events that are novel (the squeaky wheel hypothesis)—to differences that make a difference. This has occasioned discussions about the nature of conscious brain activity as distinct from the unconscious, since events that are consciously dealt with tend to be odd or anomalous too. 

Among the highlights is an account of an ingenious solution by Ramachandran, in which he was able to cure a patient's pain resulting from a “phantom limb,” simply by having the patient insert his remaining arm into a box containing a mirror, which made it appear to his brain that he had two complete arms. Another describes an experiment with a congenitally blind couple, who were able to "see" with a camera that transmitted patterns to their tongue. I also found it interesting that the mammalian brain was described in a way that relates to the technology of the terrycloth bath towel, in which extending loops increase the absorbent surface of the towel, without increasing its overall size. The brain is built that way as well, with grooves and ridges that increase its surface area, but not its size.

There are so many topics discussed in this film, of such potential consequence, that it isn't possible to mention all of them. Indeed, I suspect that I may have left out the most important. Hopefully that will encourage you to find and watch the film yourself—you won't regret it.—RB Ballast Reviews
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All reviews are copyright © by Roy R. Behrens
Mind in Motion. A film by Philippe Baylaucq, Francoise Linderman and Veronique Maison. DVD, color, 52 mins, 2008. Available from Icarus Films, 32 Court Street, 21st Floor, Brooklyn NY 11201. Website: www.IcarusFilms.com. 





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