We recently published a new issue of the Charité NeuroScience (CNS) Newsletter, bringing you the latest on Patterns and Categories.
A for Apple, B for Ball, E for... well, don’t think of an Elephant. Can you? Square peg in square hole, round peg in round hole. Visual, auditory, and tactile learners. English class, math class. Numbers, shapes, and colors.
From the moment we are born, we begin to learn in patterns and categories. This helps us understand and navigate the world. The neighbor’s dog is nice to pet, because he is a domestic animal. The raccoon behind the house is not nice to pet, because she is not a domestic animal. Your aunt can pick you up from school because she is family. If someone else shows up, run away. That person is not family. Speech patterns tell us if our parents are happy or sad, their pitch, their words, how they say our name - if they say your full name, just run, right? Patterns of pitch and rhythm tell our feet to dance and our mouths to sing, and yet you don’t even need to think of it. You just know. And you take most of it for granted.
As we grow older, our patterns and categories become more complex through repetition and time. In the process, they tell us more about the world and about the people in it, but not always in a positive way. Our mother tongues, social slang and cultural niches become not only vehicles for our thoughts, but also drivers of perception (p. 16). We (self-)categorize not only to understand ourselves (p. 19), but also to understand others and how they differ from us (p. 21). We also use those patterns to know what is considered normal.
Some people, however, develop different ways of connecting with the patterns around them, whether for better or worse (p. 10, 13). Furthermore, we can admit that scientists and physicians are particularly fond of categorizing, but can we also admit that strict boundaries are not always the solution (p. 11)? Although, there are others potentially more strictly (and loyally) patterned than our- selves (p. 15). Yet, we can enquire if it is possible to see beyond our preconceived patterned perceptions (p. 9). And if yes, why is it important? Psychedelics are one way to lower the gates to sensory perception (p. 4), but does this help us to see more clearly or something else entirely (p. 6)? Some argue that yes, they are at the frontier of future medical treatment for the afflictions of the mind. Would you agree?
Although we are all different individuals, there may be a ground in which we may all be the (almost) same. To navigate in an ever-changing environment, we may all hold on to patterns, regularities and categories regardless of their variability, form or resilience to change. Those small differences make us all very different. But most likely it also makes us all the same - depending on what scale you look at. We hope you enjoy discovering all the ways we become more alike as much as we enjoyed bringing them together in this CNS issue.
We invite you, reader or writer or dreamer or so-and-so’s, to join us as we explore the patterns and categories of our world as they are, as we see them, or as they might someday be.
Leandre & Lorena
Volume 15, Issue 01
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