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The Living Brain

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Dr Walter begins with a history of the evolution of the brain, and describes to us something of the meaning of "that enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern." He then tells the story of the invention and perfection of the EEG machine and its clinical use for the diagnosis of brain afflictions. He analyzes, with vivid examples, the rhyt Dr Walter begins with a history of the evolution of the brain, and describes to us something of the meaning of "that enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern." He then tells the story of the invention and perfection of the EEG machine and its clinical use for the diagnosis of brain afflictions. He analyzes, with vivid examples, the rhythmic patterns of personality revealed in different "brain prints," and discusses what light these new electronic processes can throw on memory, vision, fatigue, sleep, hypnotism, genius, lunacy, sex disturbances, crime, and other problems of everyday interest. He includes descriptions, with wiring diagrams, of the various electrical toys (including the speculatrix or mechanical turtle) which he has himself invented to demonstrate his theories. With an extraordinary gift for language, a minimum of speculation and a maximum of demonstrated fact, Dr Walter has written a truly exciting book, a landmark in the advance of human knowledge.


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Dr Walter begins with a history of the evolution of the brain, and describes to us something of the meaning of "that enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern." He then tells the story of the invention and perfection of the EEG machine and its clinical use for the diagnosis of brain afflictions. He analyzes, with vivid examples, the rhyt Dr Walter begins with a history of the evolution of the brain, and describes to us something of the meaning of "that enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern." He then tells the story of the invention and perfection of the EEG machine and its clinical use for the diagnosis of brain afflictions. He analyzes, with vivid examples, the rhythmic patterns of personality revealed in different "brain prints," and discusses what light these new electronic processes can throw on memory, vision, fatigue, sleep, hypnotism, genius, lunacy, sex disturbances, crime, and other problems of everyday interest. He includes descriptions, with wiring diagrams, of the various electrical toys (including the speculatrix or mechanical turtle) which he has himself invented to demonstrate his theories. With an extraordinary gift for language, a minimum of speculation and a maximum of demonstrated fact, Dr Walter has written a truly exciting book, a landmark in the advance of human knowledge.

42 review for The Living Brain

  1. 5 out of 5

    to'c

    An absolutely fascinating look at the state of the art of brain research throughout the 1950s. Dr. Walter was at the forefront of that research and presents a very readable and thoughtful book. (British readers will find it a bit more readable because of the colloquialisms and those with a touch of English school-boy Latin even a little bit more) While I'm always wary of believing sixty year old science, and wonder how much of it may have been disproved, it's interesting to note some of the early An absolutely fascinating look at the state of the art of brain research throughout the 1950s. Dr. Walter was at the forefront of that research and presents a very readable and thoughtful book. (British readers will find it a bit more readable because of the colloquialisms and those with a touch of English school-boy Latin even a little bit more) While I'm always wary of believing sixty year old science, and wonder how much of it may have been disproved, it's interesting to note some of the early discoveries. Dr. Walter's group seems to have been the first to notice that flashing lights will cause epileptic fits in some people. And they willingly did this time and time again! Presumably the test subjects signed waivers! I was also surprised by how prophetic Dr. Walter waxed in terms of artificial neural nets and the teaching profession. He wasn't speaking specifically of artificial nets when he proposed the that number of connections was more important than the number of neurons but that's some great foreshadowing. And he sort of anticipated the theory of multiple kinds of intelligence in his summary. Truth to tell, I read it because of the robots Dr. Walter's group built based on their theories of how the structure of the brain leads to behavior. 30 years later Valentino Braitenberg and Rodney Brooks would independently pick up similar lines of research. One can't help but think they were both inspired by Dr. Walter. This book is destined for space on my "practical robotics" bookshelf because of this. It would be fun to build Machina Speculatrix using modern hardware! Now go read the review by Steve Battle who does a much better job of describing the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steve Battle

    A classic text by one of the founders of cybernetics, a contemporary of Turing, and the creator of the very first autonomous robots; of which the circuit diagrams are reproduced in the appendix. This book is a time-machine that takes us back, in style as well as content, to the scientific optimism of the 50's. I would recommend purchasing a copy from the period, for the smell and discolouration of the paper, for the fully immersive experience. The war in Europe is recent history, and "many elect A classic text by one of the founders of cybernetics, a contemporary of Turing, and the creator of the very first autonomous robots; of which the circuit diagrams are reproduced in the appendix. This book is a time-machine that takes us back, in style as well as content, to the scientific optimism of the 50's. I would recommend purchasing a copy from the period, for the smell and discolouration of the paper, for the fully immersive experience. The war in Europe is recent history, and "many electronic parts and devices which were developed for radar" are in surplus. Students of the great Pavlov bring news from Leningrad. The electroencephalograph (EEG) is the MRI of its time; a new and relatively unexplored window into the workings of the brain. This book explores the structure of the brain, surmising that it is the connectivity of brain cells, rather than their absolute number, that is key. The heart of this book is the description of Machina speculatrix - a scientific model of this principle exploring the connectivity between the absolute minimum of two artificial brain cells based on the new miniature thermionic valves. The concept is so shockingly new, arguably as significant as the development of the Turing machine itself, that the publication of this book earns Walter nothing but ridicule among his contemporaries at the Ratio Club. The Machina speculatrix were initially regarded as nothing more than toys; a situation that resulted in this book being neglected almost for the remainder of the 20th century. Whether you regard Walter as a showman or genius, this book touches on concepts that are still mysteries in the 21st century.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    An utterly fascinating book about brain research in the first part of the 20th century. The most engaging chapters for me were those about the Machina Speculatrix, or "turtles" that Walter designed to behave like mechanical neurons. The research and engineering that led to the development of the Speculatrix delves deep into thinking about how people and machines, motivated by goals, acquire information about the world around them and then process that information, which then feeds back into new An utterly fascinating book about brain research in the first part of the 20th century. The most engaging chapters for me were those about the Machina Speculatrix, or "turtles" that Walter designed to behave like mechanical neurons. The research and engineering that led to the development of the Speculatrix delves deep into thinking about how people and machines, motivated by goals, acquire information about the world around them and then process that information, which then feeds back into new learning and behavioral choices. Readers will notice many connections to Cybernetics research (e.g., Wiener, Beer, Pask, Ashby) and some tasty speculation at the end of the book about the possibilities for delegating menial brain activity to mechanical systems, thus freeing the brain to take a leap forward in development by an order of magnitude similar to what is thought to have happened with the development of agriculture.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    Fascinating.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jerfus

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eva

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tamara

  8. 5 out of 5

    Systhesizz

  9. 5 out of 5

    William Crosby

    Although dated, this is a fascinating discussion of the brain including a brief account of its development alongside changes in the evolution of life on earth. Sometimes poetic and humorous while providing information on plants and various other less complex neural structures. There is a special focus on electrophysiology and electroencephalography.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mrinal Singh

  12. 5 out of 5

    TJ

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandip Dey

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve Dewey

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Olmsted

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Sheets

  17. 4 out of 5

    Suraj

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emb

  23. 4 out of 5

    Neal

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alma

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marz

  26. 4 out of 5

    Natajia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Igor Dudy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zachariae

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate Somers

  31. 4 out of 5

    Joel Piccinini

  32. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jason Manford

  34. 5 out of 5

    Yinzadi

  35. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo Baltanas desco

  36. 5 out of 5

    Alex Williams

  37. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  38. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

  39. 5 out of 5

    Sergio Mancera

  40. 5 out of 5

    Mischa Daams

  41. 5 out of 5

    Jason Smith

  42. 5 out of 5

    Edward Smith

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