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PAGE TURNER

Reader interview: Book spurs an interest in neuroscience

Saturday, April 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's note: This week's Page Turner reader interview is with John Shoaff, a local architect and a Democratic at-large member of the Fort Wayne City Council.

“I have been reading an extremely good book. It's science but cultural history, written by Iain McGilchrist. He taught English at Oxford University and has done research in neuroimaging at Johns Hopkins. He is also a consultant as a psychiatrist at a London hospital. Very much a Scotsman, he lives on the Isle of Skye when he can. The title of the book is 'The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.'

“You know we have the concept of roles of the left brain/right brain, and maybe that reality is too popular. The author, who is well-versed in science and culture, gives a detailed explanation of how the two sides work and he examines the loss of spontaneity.

“The book is extremely well-written. He uses the largest vocabulary I've ever experienced. I had to go to the Webster Unabridged — but it is readably written. It is written by a humanist for a layperson. He explains how the mind works and shows how the left or right brain has dominated in certain historical periods. He makes a convincing case.

“Throughout history, there has been a tendency for the left brain to become dominant, especially since the Newtonian revolution. There is great danger we've become too removed from the emotional qualities of life — that they have become undervalued.

“The author talks at length about how art has been transformed; a lot is not visually pleasing in itself. Art has become a symbol, he states. He deals primarily with visual art in this section.

“He is a delightful person. I attended a conference at which he spoke, talking about his book, so I went to hear him. I have become very interested in neuroscience because of the book I am writing. It's about Frank Lloyd Wright's design method, and I was interested in his perception. He has written a fascinating, informative book.”