Friday, March 09, 2012

We Shape Our "Connectomes"

I'm reading M.I.T. neuroscientist Sebstian Seung's Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are. How will he, or will he, deal with the matter of free will? I'm thinking about this as I'm reading his distinction between the genome and the "connectome."

One's genome does not change. A genomic sequence is orderly, and looks like this:

A connectome "is the totality of connections between the neurons in a nervous system. Unlike one's genome, one's connectome morphs. It changes. It's more like a thick forest, like this:

A person is more than their genes; they are also their connectome. And, "There is reason to believe that we shape our own connectomes by the actions we take, even by the things we think. Brain wiring may make us who we are, but we play an important role in wiring up our brains." (K 127)

This is the language of personal agency, of free will. "We" shape our connectomes. This is not the language of epiphenomenalism.