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The Languages of the Brain

The Languages of the Brain

Edited by Albert M. Galaburda, Stephen M. Kosslyn, and Yves Christen

ISBN 9780674007727

Publication date: 12/15/2002

The only way we can convey our thoughts in detail to another person is through verbal language. Does this imply that our thoughts ultimately rely on words? Is there only one way in which thoughts can occur? This ambitious book takes the contrary position, arguing that many possible "languages of thought" play different roles in the life of the mind.

"Language" is more than communication. It is also a means of representing information in both working and long-term memory. It provides a set of rules for combining and manipulating those representations.

A stellar lineup of international cognitive scientists, philosophers, and artists make the book's case that the brain is multilingual. Among topics discussed in the section on verbal languages are the learning of second languages, recovering language after brain damage, and sign language, and in the section on nonverbal languages, mental imagery, representations of motor activity, and the perception and representation of space.


  • This is an extremely useful book, one that will have wide appeal to an audience of cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, and possibly the growing number of humanities scholars interested in the interface of cognitive science and the arts. I can't think of any book that collects so many approaches to mental representation between one set of covers and that gathers together the latest work and thoughts of so many stellar researchers in cognitive science. The introductory chapter, moreover serves as an excellent survey and overview.

    —Steven Pinker, Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of How the Mind Works


  • Albert M. Galaburda is Emily Fisher-Landau Professor of Neurology (Neuroscience) at Harvard Medical School.
  • Stephen M. Kosslyn is John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James, Emeritus, at Harvard University and Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
  • Yves Christen is Vice President of Fondation Ipsen in Paris.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press