Heather Berlin, Mount Sinai
Who’s Really in Control?
Do you really have control over your decisions and behaviors? And if so, which parts of your brains constitutes the “you” and which parts submit themselves to “your” will? According to recent findings, complex cognitive and emotional processing at the unconscious level significantly affects how humans behave, think and feel. We are now beginning to understand how this occurs at the neural level by investigating what happens in the brains of neurological and psychiatric patients who can’t control themselves, or whose sense of self is fragmented, or lost entirely. Research taking advantage of advances in neuroimaging has led to a revival and re-conceptualization of some of the key concepts of psychoanalytic theory. And investigating what an artists’ brain looks like during an improvised performance (i.e. spontaneous creativity) is giving us unique insights into the neural basis of unconscious processes. Understanding these mechanisms also lets us influence the brain in more direct ways. So finally, I will discuss what is currently achievable with brain/computer interfaces and the ways we are learning to change ourselves with the push of a button via neural prosthetics, causing us to ponder: who’s really in control anyway?