The Neural Structure of the Self

Todd E. Feinberg

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The human brain is the most complex structure on earth. Indeed, it is somewhat ironic that the very structure that enables us to think great thoughts is itself so difficult to understand. (How the billions of neurons within the brain coordinate their activity to create a unified self is one of the great remaining scientific mysteries—a problem I will return to later.) This complexity makes it difficult to describe in broad strokes the general patterns that make the workings of the brain comprehensible. Since the late 1980s, however, there has been enormous progress in our understanding of the neurobiology of the self. In this chapter I will examine some basic evolutionary trends and neuroanatomical principles that order the brain and attempt to integrate recent theories into a general model of the neural basis of the self.

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