Happy 2011! From today’s NY Times, Oliver Sacks on real-life examples of rapid neuroplasticity is here.

He is talking about functional (i.e. phenomenological) brain plasticity as reflected in his patients. What is remarkable about modern neuroscience is the growing scaffolding from molecular changes through neuronal morphological dynamics and onto cell assembly dynamics that reflects the budding of a theory for how the phenomenon happens. That’s the good news from neuroscience.

Sack’s new book reviewed in the NY Times

Oliver Sacks new book is reviewed here by Annie Paul. The review is quite positive, and there is no doubt neurology has quite a lot to teach us about neuroscience–I will never forget Professor Anne Young’s wonderful lectures at Michigan before she moved to Harvard.

But there is a crucial limitation: the semiotics of the diseased brain may not tell the full story of how the healthy brain functions. If we want to understand how “mind” emerges from biological brains, at some point we need to study the neurobiology of the “normal” brain (realizing of course that all brains are different and that our definition of normal is therefore a statistical one).

Which brings us to brain imaging and specifically functional MRI (fMRI). This type of non-invasive brain imaging indeed does allow us to study the neurobiology of the healthy brain. But as an imaging technology it is woefully mismatched to the spatial and temporal scales of the brain. We need to push the physics and keep working towards non-invasive human brain imaging that is scaled better at the problem.