Some real stuff: Language, models and animals in the quest for the physical basis of memory in post-War Britain (1947-1965)

Monday 18 May 2009

Dr Fabio De Sio (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL)

The talk will tackle an early and largely overlooked chapter of the history

of experimental brain sciences, namely JZ Young’s research for the

anatomical and physiological basis of learning and memory in the cephalopod

Octopus vulgaris and the attempt to frame it into a general, cybernetic and

connectionist model of the memory mechanism. The main focus will be on the

first two decades of this research (c. 1947-1965), especially on the

experiments conducted by Young and Brian B. Boycott on visual learning and

memory. This reconstruction of the early stages of the career of octopus as

a simple model for “higher” brain functions and of its problematic

development aims at providing an instance of some epistemological,

methodological and ideological assumptions underlying contemporary brain

sciences. More generally, it addresses the issue of the complex and

multifarious relations between phenomena, observations and general accounts

in experimental practice.

TIME: 1730-1900 (Doors open/ refreshments at 1715)


5th Floor Seminar Room

The Wellcome Building

183 Euston Road

London NW1 2BE

Registration not required

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