Patricia Churchland

  • Aired:  01/23/14
  •  | Views: 39,150

"Touching a Nerve" author Patricia Churchland explores ways that neuroscience can answer philosophical questions. (6:35)

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A NEUROSCIENTIST WHO ANSWERS

PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS BYSTUDYING THE BRAIN, I AM

GOING TO GET HER WITH MYMEDULA OBLON-GOTCHAS.

PLEASE WELCOME PATRICIACHURCHLAND.

HEY, PATRICIA, THANK YOU SOMUCH FOR COPPING ON.

>> NICE TO BE HERE.

>> Stephen: ALL RIGHTYDIETY.

YOU ARE A PROFESSOR HE MERTHAT OF PHILOSOPHY AT UC SAN

DIEGO.

YOU RECEIVED A McARTHURGENIUS AWARD FOR YOUR WORK

IN NEUROPHILOSOPHY AND YOURNEW BOOK IS CALLED TOUCHING

A NERVE, THE SELF-.

>> FIRST OF ALL, WHAT ISNEUROPHILOSOPHY.

DID YOU JUST PUT THE NEUROONTHERE BECAUSE AS A

PHILOSOPHY MAJOR YOU WOULDNEVER GET A JOB?

WHAT IS NEUROPHILOSOPHY.

>> IT HAS TO DO WITH THEINTERFACE BETWEEN THE

DISCOVERIES THAT WE AREMAKING IN NEUROSCIENCE

AND HOW THOSE DISCOVERIESMIGHT HAVE AN IMPACT ON

TRADITIONAL PHILOSOPHICALQUESTIONS, QUESTIONS ABOUT

WHERE DOES MORALITY COMEFROM, HOW DO WE PAKE

DECISIONS?

WHAT IS THE NATURE OFCONSCIOUSNESS, HOW DO WE

LEARN ABOUT THE NATURE OFTHE EXTERNAL WORLD.

>> Stephen: THERE IS ALREADYA BOOK FOR THAT.

IT'S CALLED THE BIBLE.

(LAUGHTER)RIGHT?

HAVE YOU READ IT?

HAVE YOU READ IT WITHIN WELL,YEAH.

>> Stephen: DID YOU READ THEBIBLE WITHIN LITTLE BITS AND

PIECES.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

YOU DON'T REALLY UNDERSTANDTHE WORLD COMPLETELY YET.

ALL RIGHT.

BOOK OF THE REVELATIONCOVERS A LOT OF THIS STUFF.

SO OUR MORALITY DOES NOTCOME FROM MY BRAIN, MY BRAIN

GETS FILLED WITH MORALITYNO, IT DOESN'T.

>> Stephen: OKAY, HOLD ON ASECOND..

YES, IT DOES.

BECAUSE WE CAN PLAY THATGAME ALL DAY LONG.

>> IT TURNS OUT THAT SOCIALANIMALS, SOCIAL MAMMALS OF

WHICH YOU ARE ONE KIND.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

>> BUT ALSO THERE ARE WOLVESAND BABOONS AND MONKEYS

AND CHIMPANZEE.

>> Stephen: NO DIFFERENCEBETWEEN ALL OF THEM, ALL THE

SAME. HAVE A SOCIALLIFE.

>> Stephen: UH-HUH.

>> AND THE SOCIALITY DEPENDSVERY MUCH ON VERY SPECIFIC

STRUCTURES IN THE BRAIN.

IF THOSE STRUCTURES ARE NOTIN PLACE, AN ANIMAL IS NOT

SOCIAL.

AND THE ATTACHMENT FOREXAMPLE BETWEEN PARENTS AND

CHILDREN ALL DEPEND ON VERYSPECIFIC CIRCUITRY AND VERY

SPECIFIC CHEMICALS.

>> Stephen: SO I LOVE MYCHILD BECAUSE OF CIRCUITS AND

CHEMICALS?

>> YES.

AND WE KNOW THAT BECAUSE WEKNOW FROM OTHER STUDIES OF

RODENTS WHOSE BRAINS AREVERY SIMILAR TO OURS IN

THEIR STRUCTURE.

>> Stephen: SPEAK FORYOURSELF, GO AHEAD WITHIN

THAT IF YOU DISRUPT THATCIRCUITRY OR YOU CHANGE THE

CHEMICAL BALANCE, THAT THEATTACHMENT AND THE BONDING

BETWEEN MOTHER AND BABY DOESNOT EXIST.

>> Stephen: SO WHAT IS THECHEMICAL.

WHAT IS THE CHEMICAL I NEEDTO LOVE SOMEBODY?

>> WELL, THERE ARE A NUMBERTHAT ARE VERY IMPORTANT BUT

ONE IN PARTICULAR THAT ISIMPORTANT IS CALLED OXY TOW

SIN.

>> Stephen: YOU CAN GET APRESCRIPTION FOR THAT, CAN'T

YOU, GRIND THAT STUFF UP,VERY TASTY.

>> OXY TOCIN IS A VERYSIMPLE PEPTIDE BUT

IT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT INMAMMALS FOR THE ATTACHMENT

OF PARENTS TO OFFSPRING.

BUT IT TURNS OUT THAT IT'SALSO ESSENTIAL FOR THE

ATTACHMENT OF MATES.

AND SO THERE ARE A NUMBER OFMAMMALLIAN SPECIES WHERE,

FOR EXAMPLE, THERE AREPRAIRIE VOLES AND

MONTANE VOLESAND IT IS KIND OF A

ROLY-POLY RODENT.

>> Stephen: I KNOW WHAT ITIS, YOU DON'T HAVE TO

PATRONIZE HIM.

(LAUGHTER)>> AND SO IN THE MONTANE VOLES

THE MATURE ONES WILL COMEALONG AND MEET THEY WILL

MATE AND THEN THEY WILL GOON THEIR WAY.

LOOKING FOR MORE ACTION, SHEIS GOING TO HAVE THE BABY.

BUT IN THE PRAIRIE, THEYMEET, THEY MATE, AND NOW

THEY'RE BONDED FOREVER.

AND WHAT THAT MEANS IS THATTHE MALE STAYS WITH THE

FEMALES, GUARDS THE NEST,HELPS TO REAR THE YOUNG.

THEY LIKE TO BE TOGETHER.

IF THEY'RE SEPARATED THEYGET DEPRESSED.

AND IN GENERAL, IF THEDIFFERENT IN THE BRAIN

BETWEEN THE PRAIRIE VOLE ANDTHE MONTANE.

>> THE PRAIRIE VOLE IS ACHRISTIAN.

(LAUGHTER)(APPLAUSE)

>> IT TURNS OUT THAT THEY'RENOT CHRISTIAN IT TURNS OUT

THAT IN ONE VERY SPECIFICPART OF THE REINFORCEMENT

SYSTEM OF THE BRAIN, THATTHE PRAIRIE VOLE HAS A

DIFFERENT ORGANIZATION FROMTHE MONTANE VOLE AND IF

YOU CHANGE THAT ORGANIZATION,THEY BEHAVE LIKE THE

MONTANE VOLE.

>> AND HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

DO YOU CUT IT OUT?

DO YOU GO IN THERE AND CHOPOUT BITS OF THE BRAIN.

>> YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO ITBIOCHEMICALLY.

YOU CAN INTERRUPT THEPATHWAYS OR YOU CAN PRESENT

THE RECEPTORS.

>> SO YOU ARE SAYING THATOXY TOCIN, THE OXYTOCIN THAT

HELPS WITH THE BONDING ANDTHE PRAIRIE VOLES HAVE MORE

OF THAT.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: SO IF YOU HAVE AMAN WHO IS A TOTAL HORN DOG

AND ALWAYS SLEEPING AROUND,IF YOU GAVE HIM SOME OXY

TOCIN WOULD HE SETTLE DOWNWITH THE RIGHT WOMAN?

>> WELL, IT IS ANINTERESTING QUESTION WHICH

WE REALLY DON'T KNOW-- WEDON'T ACTUALLY KNOW THE

ANSWER TO.

>> Stephen: HAVE WE TRIED ITON HUMANS YET.

>> YES, WE HAVE.

>> Stephen: AND WHATHAPPENS.

>> HERE IS THE INTERESTINGTHING.

AND ONE OF THE MOST STRIKINGFINDINGS IT IS THAT DOES

SEEM TO HAVE AN EFFECT ONLEVELS OF TRUST.

AND SO THAT INDIVIDUALS WHOHAVE OXYTOCIN ADMINISTERED

TO THEM WILL SHOW GREATERTRUSTING BEHAVIOR IN A

PARTICULAR SORT OF SITUATIONOR GAME.

>> Stephen: WHEN YOU SAY THESELF AS BRAIN, I THINK OF MY

SOUL AS MYSELF, ARE YOUSAYING THAT I DON'T HAVE

SOUL?

>>(APPLAUSE)

I DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT OURNERVOUS SYSTEM BUT I KNOW

YOU HAVE SOME NERVE TO COMEON AND SAY THAT.

PATRICIA, THANK YOU VERYMUCH FOR JOINING ME.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)>> Stephen: THE BOOK IS

TOUCHING A NERVE.

AND SHE DID.

PATRICIA CHURCHLAND.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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