The use of metaphors and comparisons to explain the complex mechanisms and concepts found in neuropsychology is an important tool not only in helping a potential audience understand but in helping us look at these concepts more critically and in a more abstract light. In this way, it leads to a deeper and stronger understanding of these concepts. Today’s discussion was very rewarding because we were pressed to use the knowledge embedded in our own connectomes in order to explain the very processes occurring while we proposed ideas, discussed possibilities, and laughed… a lot.
What I thought was most rewarding about today’s exercise was what Melissa referred to as metaphors with “legs”. These METAPHORICAL legs are able to carry these comparisons throughout the brain clarifying its mysteries and intricacies along the way. Working through these metaphors and developing them together allowed us to flex our mental muscles. What started as a simple statement about a spider web evolved into a complex explanation efficiency and connectionism (Nice, Shamika!). The idea that brains are like Christmas trees (Thanks, Mariah!) in that they are pruned back to become the finished product proudly displayed in living rooms around the world quickly became a beautiful metaphor involving the world of neuroethics. I think that this provided us an opportunity to really observe how much we as a class know and understand about the brain because we were able take these simple ideas and develop them by recalling information and process it critically to apply to the metaphors. These metaphors with “legs” are a very functional tool in that they help to package several difficult to understand concepts into one simple and understandable bundle.
This brings me to another point. A couple of weeks ago, Melissa led a class about Writing to Learn. She explained that to write in this fashion it is imperative to REALLY understand the concept that you are writing about. Metaphors that might be utilized will only make sense and be useful if they are fully developed and understood by the author. She also mentioned the importance of being able to take a step back in time to when you were first learning about these concepts yourself and how it felt the be hearing this information for the first time. These are definitely two key components of effective writing. As someone who is completely new to the neuro field, I often feel a bit behind in our discussions. I feel that sometimes I am not able to draw conclusions and comparisons as quickly and effectively as the rest of our class. In this way, I rely heavily on the metaphors that Seung develops in this book. I feel that my reading of his book concurrently with taking Bio Basis is giving me a leg up in developing a working understanding of the brain. Also, while considering Melissa’s equation of TRUE UNDERSTANDING + NEW CONCEPT + lots of other things = Writing to Learn I feel that I am sometimes missing the “true understanding” part, I definitely have the “new concept” part in the bag and I am sure that the “true understanding” part will come with time!
In short, while this post doesn’t really draw a connection to neuropsych it is a comment on how effective and rewarding the use of metaphors is and how impressed I am with the amount of knowledge contained within the collective members of PS374.
P.S. After class I told a friend of mine that today’s class was a lot of fun. He asked what we did. I tried to explain that we were coming up with more simple ways to explain the complex functions of the brain. His blank expression and prolonged silence prompted me to follow-up with. “Ok so it was nerdy fun…” That may be true, but what’s the problem with that?!