...nor have I subscribed to the view, conversely, that there is no
relationship between a person's "personhood" and the functions of their
soul, which would include, of course, the functions of their will,
intellect, emotions, and brain. It is, I suspect, a very complex
phenomenon not neatly divided into tidy Cartesian dualisms, with
numerous feedback loops between the two. This said, however, the problem
arises then that the brain is not the creator of individuality, but
rather, its transducer (and, if I may employ a more ancient version of
the term, its traducer).
Quote taken from:
THE EMPTY MIRROR: A bizarre brain injury sheds light on the
By Jeff Goldberg
The plight of patient "E. H." was reminiscent of a Twilight Zone
episode. One morning she woke up unable to recognize the faces of her
husband and daughter. Although she could still identify her loved ones
by voice and physical mannerisms, theirs were like faces in a crowd,
stripped of meaning.
Tests performed at the University of Iowa College of Medicine by
neurologist Antonio Damasio revealed that E. H. had suffered a stroke,
resulting in a rare condition called face agnosia in which brain
damage impairs only a victim's ability to recognize faces while all
other mental functions remain intact. E. H. could not identify the face
of a single relative or friend, either in person or from photographs;
nor could she learn to recognize new faces such as Damasio's. Yet she
displayed normal learning and memory, read without difficulty, and she
had 20/20 vision in both eyes.
She may know this is the face of a happy young
woman, but not know it's the face of her daughter Even her own face in
the mirror Is unfamiliar, a reflection devoid of identify.
Such case histories are not isolated anomalies in Damasio's clinical
practice. For 20 years he has studied face agnosia in an effort not
only to diagnose its cause, but to identify underlying brain structures
responsible for the ability to recognize the vast catalog of faces
encountered in a lifetime.
probe for answers to the mysteries of face recognition and its sudden
loss, Damasio routinely relies on his wife Hanna, a neurologist and
anatomist, who specializes in advanced imaging systems like magnetic
resonance and CAT scans. These tools enable her to create detailed
graphic reconstructions of the damaged areas responsible for the
symptoms of face agnosia and other puzzling amnesic syndromes.
While the inability to recognize faces can be symptomatic of a more
widespread deterioration of brain cells, such as in late-stage
Alzheimer's disease, the Damasios have found that injuries causing the
pure form of face agnosia are usually confined to specific regions.
Most often affected are areas Damasio calls convergence zones,
which link circuits of neurons processing visual information with other
streams of sensory information, like the sound of a voice or the
movement of someone's gestures. These convergence zones are connected
to higher brain centers of memory function and storage.
These many levels of circuitry normally contribute to the sense of
familiarity we feel when we see someone we know. But in patients with
face agnosia, this circuit is broken at some-critical juncture. They
can still recognize an individual's voice or gait. Nor do they lose the
general concept of faces or the ability to recognize and relate
appropriately to expressions like anger, sadness, and joy, Damasib
points out. "They will still know the expression and that a face is a
face. The breakdown is at the level of uniqueness."
Damasio's conclusion that face recognition—and perhaps awareness in
general—takes place simultaneously on levels of brain processing
circuits was dramatically illustrated in a recent experiment. Using a
device similar to a lie detector, Damasio and Daniel Tranel measured
skin-conductance responses of four patients with severe face agnosia,
but no other intellectual impairment, to see how they would respond on a
non-conscious level to photographs of family, physicians, famous actors,
and politicians. In every case, the patients' pronounced physical
responses indicated that some form of recognition was occurring, even
though they could not verbally distinguish familiar face from strange.
Damasio thinks such "covert" recognition may be a type of internal-alert
mechanism, triggering the succession of orchestrated responses that
ultimately converge in the conscious flash we call recognition.
"Recognition in the true sense must be conscious," Damasio adds. "When
you recognize your mother or the president on TV, you register not only
the physical characteristics of that face and the fact that you've seen
it before, but much of the history making that face unique is recalled
simultaneously. In these patients the brain is clearly signaling it
knows a particular face, but the person cannot solve the mystery behind