One line from the first chapter of LeDoux’s book really struck me. He says, “Even if it becomes possible to clone a child who has died at a tender age, it’s probable that the look-alike, having his own set of experiences, is going to act, think, and feel differently.” I think that this line struck me because it was kind of a morbid way to make the point about how synaptic plasticity shapes us into individuals with our own personality. However, it is a very effective way to convey this idea to the outside world. I think anyone can understand the point that if little Timmy #1 passes away, creating a Timmy #2 via cloning is not going to clone the personality of Timmy #1 because Timmy #2 is having his own unique experiences. Because of this, I also found this morbid line to be extremely clever. Another great thing about this line is how it lends itself to further thought. For those that know little about synaptic plasticity, they can imagine the differences between Timmy #1 and Timmy #2 from a more superficial level. For example, they can imagine that the first Timmy maybe had a stuffed bear that he loved, given to him by a friend as school, however the cloned Timmy might not feel so strongly about the bear (which was not given to him by that friend) and adopt a different favorite toy from a different friend. On the other hand, someone more familiar with neuroscience might read this line and imagine the differences in the brain structures of the two Timmys. Perhaps Timmy’s parents got a divorce after Timmy #1 died, and the stress of this caused Timmy #2 to be more vulnerable to bipolar disorder than Timmy #1 who did not experience that life stressor.
I applaud LeDoux for so successfully completing the task of translating “science talk” into a language that others can understand. As neuropsych students, we can all appreciate the difficulty of finding the right words and phrases to be heard clearly. This ties in nicely with the secondary goal of this course, to improve our ability to write in a manner that will allow us to successfully broadcast our knowledge to the scientific community and to the world. Luckily, neuropsych students, just like normal people, do have synaptic plasticity and our synapses are ready to change in response to what we experience over the course of the semester.