The electroencephalogram. It began the process of being able to peer inside a human brain and watch it actually working. This challenged, more forcibly than ever before, those people who still believed that thinking, dreaming, planning, deciding and feeling are properties of a non-physical soul or spirit rather than the physical goings-on of a very large number of neurons. Modern techniques of brain scanning tell us much, much, more but the real leap forward was the EEG.
Of course, we still do not understand how experiences, feelings and consciousness can be the product of (or just be) the goings-on of brain cells, but we know that that’s the mystery we face. Either we have to solve it, or we have to work out why we’ve got ourselves into such a muddle about brain and consciousness.
Susan Blackmore is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and visiting lecturer University of the West of England, Bristol