The Third Culture Arnold Trehub

How The Human Brain Models The World

A plausible explanation of how the brain can create internal models of veridical and hypothetical worlds has long eluded theorists. But recently there has been significant progress in the theoretical understanding of this defining aspect of human cognition, and it has scarcely been reported. About a decade ago, I wrote in The Cognitive Brain that the capability for invention is arguably the most consequential characteristic that distinguishes humans from all other creatures. Our cognitive brain is especially endowed with neuronal mechanisms that can model within their biological structures all conceivable worlds, as well as the world we directly perceive or know to exist. External expressions of an unbounded diversity of brain-created models constitute the arts and sciences and all the artifacts and enterprises of human society.

The newsworthy story is that we now have, for the first time, a biologically credible large-scale neuronal model that can explain in essential structural and dynamic detail how the human brain is able to create internal models of its intimate world and invent models of a wider universe.

ARNOLD TREHUB is adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has been the director of a laboratory devoted to psychological and neurophysiological research and is the author of The Cognitive Brain.