PhD Thomas Südhof Nobel Prize Laureate smiling in the cover of The Sensual Sessions #5 answering the question if mind is in the brain.

#5 Is Mind In The Brain? — PhD Thomas Südhof Nobel Prize Laureate

Mind is often associated, as record of experience, with the brain and the nervous system. We even take the hands to the head as an expresion of thinking or realizing something. But there´s no empirical evidence of the mind nor the scientific methodology elements to test that idea.

Is the mind in the brain? 

Phd Thomas Südhof, Medicine and Physiology Nobel Laureate and Standford University Professor, answers:



The “mind” is not a scientifical concept. 

Such as the Professor Südhof kindly responds to me in this extraordinary opportunity. Who instead of “mind” or “consciousness” proposes to study “memory”, a measurable phenomena present in the animal kingdom, as a base of what makes us humans and is a keystone in the neurological process of learning.


Enjoy the transcript below:

Candia Raquel:

This is a philosophical open question… So whats your take on the mind, the consciousness, the self awareness as a function exclusive to the nervous system or maybe as a function of all life forms themselves.

Thomas Südhof :

It´s fair a philosophical question.

My personal view is that neuroscience addressing consciousness is a little bit out of our call, at this point in neuroscience we don´t really have access to this question simply because you can´t measure.

There´s a very famous austrian philosopher, Wittgenstein, that wrote a book a hundred years ago that ends with the famous sentence:

“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen.”

“One should be silent about the things you cannot actually talk about.”

And I do think however that we may be in a position to at some point provide better understanding of how other - for me much more interesting questions - about the brain may emerge, and in particular one question that comes to mind is memory, right?

Because memory is measurable, is a feature that animals clearly have, you don´t need to argue about it, and memory is probably the one feature that makes us humans humans, we are the additive of it, everything that human we are as people, that shape us, our experience our life history however you wanna call it.

And our education. And i think that is something that can be addressed , maybe other person think so too.

But I also think that in order to address memory in the brain looking at the hippocampus is not going to be enough and it might not be the most important thing.

So it is definitely something that defies the whole point.

Was that philosophical enough?


This interview was recorded at Thomas Südhof´ s conference "Deconstructing the Molecular Logic of Synapses" at the Symposium Chemical Transmission: the Key to Understanding Brain Function.


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