It takes neuroscience and poetry to map the tributaries of touch | Aeon Essays
As a student of neuroanatomy, I was provided with a human brain in a half-gallon tub. Our lab manual depicted a brain in situ, half-exposed in the head of an aged Irishman cut open along the midline, where his part might have run. My lab partner and I spent a semester peeling away layers of our stranger’s accumulated experience. We sketched coarse outlines to label in Latin and Greek. In an exam, we might find pins in the pons and medulla, in their minor partitions. We might be asked to diagram the flow of information as a child touches a hot stove then withdraws her hand in a thin sliver of a second. This is the allure of neuroscience: it offers an atlas of experience, one whose pages can be laid out for view with a scalpel and steady hand. At 21, I was overwhelmed and enthralled.