Compression makes it possible for your brain to think abstractly

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A note for Lesson no. 7, "Our Brains Can Create Reality," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 116 is:

...compression makes it possible for your brain to think abstractly...

The appendix adds:

Some scientists propose that abstractions are multimodal, meaning they include information from all senses; others propose that abstractions are amodal, meaning they include no sense data.

For a defense of the amodal hypothesis, see this reference.[1]

For a defense of the multimodal hypothesis, see these references[2][3][4] and chapter 6 of How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.[5]

"Multimodal" is also called "multisensory", "supramodal" (e.g., [6]), "transmodal" (e.g., [7]) or "heteromodal" (e.g., [8]).


  1. Mahon, Bradford Z., and Alfonso Caramazza. 2008. "A Critical Look At the Embodied Cognition Hypothesis and a New Proposal for Grounding Conceptual Content." Journal of Physiology-Paris 102 (1-3): 59–70.
  2. Barsalou, Lawrence W. "Grounded Cognition." 2008. Annual Review of Psychology 59: 617–645.
  3. Stein, Barry E., and Terrence R. Stanford. 2008. "Multisensory Integration: Current Issues From the Perspective of the Single Neuron." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9 (4): 255–266.
  4. Murray, Micah M., and Mark T. Wallace. 2012. The Neural Bases of Multisensory Processes. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
  5. Barrett, Lisa Feldman. 2017. How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, chapter 6. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  6. Peelen, Marius V., Anthony P. Atkinson, and Patrik Vuilleumier. 2010. "Supramodal Representations of Perceived Emotions in the Human Brain." Journal of Neuroscience 30 (30): 10127–10134.
  7. Mesulam, M-Marsel. 1998. "From Sensation to Cognition." Brain: A Journal of Neurology 121 (6): 1013–1052.
  8. Mesulam, M.-Marsel. 2000. "Behavioral Neuroanatomy: Large-Scale Networks, Association Cortex, Frontal Syndromes, the Limbic System, and Hemispheric Specializations." In Principles of Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, second edition, edited by M.-Marsel Mesulam, 1–120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.