The Brain Supremacy

From the frontiers of neuroscience

Talking About the Brain, Made Simple

The UpGoer Five challenge

I’ve just come across, as perhaps you already have, the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

It tests what you type in the box (in English) against a list of the most commonly-used words. The ‘ten hundred’ most common — presumably described that way because ‘thousand’ isn’t a common enough word.

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Now, I’m not altogether in favour of this. What’s the point of having all those gorgeous words to play with if you don’t use them and, by using them, encourage other people to use them too? The connection between language and thought is, shall we say, contested — philosophers have been arguing over it for ages and show no signs of desisting any time soon — but I’m tempted by George Orwell’s 1984 view here: simplify and restrict language, and you risk restricting the minds that express themselves through it.

On the other hand, I am in favour of clarity, and using language carefully. And it’s a fun challenge.

So here’s my off-the-cuff attempt to explain why neuroscience is hard.

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The brain is a very hard thing to understand. It’s full of very many bits and pieces, such as cells and the things inside them, which talk to each other in very many ways. That makes for a problem: how do we get a grip on all those conversations inside the cells and between cells? Understanding has to be done bit by bit, and there are lots and lots of bits. Too many for any one person to get their head around. Together, those bits make up us. They allow us to think, feel, act, believe and be the amazing humans we are.

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To take the challenge yourself, try the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

Copyright Kathleen Taylor (@neurotaylor) 2013.

Kathleen Taylor is a freelance science writer and researcher at Oxford University.

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