Published in Neurology February 25, 2014 vol. 82 no. 8 e62.

Whence sounds the shout of Veritas
That all is black or white?
If Nature fails to fit this form,
Why dogma’s wrong or right?

Could the neuron’s all or none
Brood artifactual truth?
And binarize the networked mind,
Render grey scales uncouth?

And could behavior’s need to act
When faced with prey or foe,
Have pressured fight or flight’s response
And forced mind’s go/no-go?

The swifter brains could think, could act,
With less time spent in thought,
Meant vict’ries seized, provisions won,
Without which thought’s quite fraught!

With dripping fangs to govern mind,
Did Sabertooths lay our fate?
And carve their law upon our brains:
Thou shalt not hesitate.

And did they cause Platonic forms
To form within our brains?
Thus generalizing all from one
Helped expand our domain?

Did forms, when paired to an instinct,
Soon speed grey thoughts away?
Thus flight made black and white the right
At Sabertooth’s foray?

Could instinct have birthed Veritas
Once brains grasped spear and quill?
A metonym for which instincts
Each sane mind should instill?

So what about my rock-stubbed toe?
I think and am and like Van Gogh.
Not instincts, truth—and plainly so!
While these I can’t deny,
Delirium, stroke, and plaques that choke
Show within brain truths lie.

Could Veritas then be contrived,
Designed, forced by brain’s loom?
Processed by pathways that evolved
To escape each day’s doom?

Then if my neurons are the warp
For what I know, perceive,
What if these wefts and warps distort
The fabric thereon weaved?

And are my percepts likewise cropped
To what helped others thrive?
I see and think and want only
What’s useful to survive?

Then I, then truth is blind to but
A second of the arc!
I ought then question Veritas,
Seek a more wise monarch.

To weave all threads, to see the arc,
To form a better way,
To overcome Sabertooth law,
To think objectively,

We count, we tally, plot and court
The Veritas of belled curves.
Her face, though, still reflects each brain
Who measures and observes.

So data, data everywhere,
No point beyond refute.
And percepts, percepts everywhere,
Nor any Absolute.

If Veritas, when verified
Is oft found incomplete
Why war for her? Her Sabertooth
Instincts are obsolete.

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About author / Daniel

I was born in Dallas and spent my childhood scampering through the countrysides of central and eastern Texas, with brief escapades in Maryland and Utah. I began medical school in San Antonio, where I met my wife and future psych co-resident Kristin Budde. After my PhD, we moved together to New Haven, where I finished med school. I enjoy writing about neuroscience as a way to think through some of the problems that come up in clinic. I spend a great chunk of my time thinking about and researching how to develop useful biomarkers of brain disease. When I'm not at the hospital or working on research stuff, I'll be fixing up my 1920s New England house. I just recently refinished an old Blue Jay sailboat, which was a great new dad project (sanding is a good activity when you're sleep deprived).

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