Ten things we don’t know about the brain

According to an article in Discover magazine, there are (at least) ten critical brain-related problems for the cognitive sciences to resolve:

  1. How is information coded in neural activity?
  2. How are memories stored and retrieved?
  3. What does the baseline activity in the brain represent?
  4. How do brains simulate the future?
  5. What are emotions?
  6. What is intelligence?
  7. How is time represented in the brain?
  8. Why do brains sleep and dream?
  9. How do the specialized systems of the brain integrate with one another?
  10. What is consciousness?

I can think of several references that make arguments about each of these questions. But a more interesting discussion, it seems to me, might be had in asking the following: in the history of psychology, have any of these critical problems ever been considered “solved”?

I think Piaget thought that he had solved the problem of intelligence (by equating it with a constructive process of abstraction-in-adaptation) and the problem of simulating the future (through play and by basing dreamt predictions on analogies drawn from past experiences), but what about the other eight?

And what would it mean for current research if these questions also had (rigorous) answers, buried somewhere in the historical record?


About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.