TRAIN OF THOUGHT - TOOT, TOOT, Mental Mechanisms - Let's Prehend
Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

TRAIN OF THOUGHT - TOOT, TOOT, Mental Mechanisms

"Neurophysiology replaces Epistemology"

The work of the scientists who study the brain is amazing. Each year they present us with a exciting of new insights, new instruments, and new theories. The U. S. National Institute of Health, NIH, even designated the 1990s as the "Decade of the Brain". The new studies helps to further explain "how the brain makes mind".[ This is an expression from physicist Eric *Harth: The Creative Loop: How the Brain Makes a Mind, at the 1994 Tucson conference: TOWARD A SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR CONSCIOUSNESS. Scientific American Magazine regularly samples this topic, such as its September 1992 Special Issue, MIND AND BRAIN. Sir Francis Crick* "...made the study of consciousness respectable" according to Human Quest's host Roger *Bingham.] If the new images of brain-mind don't make sense, all the more exciting, because they offer another clue, a new challenge.

Lets expect that we can never completely understand the mind. Certainty may be a subjective delight but objective certainty is more than we can ask. The demand for certainty is a RIDs delusion, a DIM view of our quest.

Dr. Rodolfo *Llinas at New York University has devised one of the most interesting recent images of consciousness. His theory is partly derived from electrical impulses, EEGs, gathered from the brain and, most importantly, analyzed by computer.[ Dr. *Llinas theories are summarized in the Sandra *Blakeslee's New York Times series BEYOND THE VEIL OF THOUGHT, starting March 21, 1995.]

Dr. Llinas suggests consciousness is made by a wave of nerve impulses starting at the forebrain and sweeping back across the cortex, every fortieth of a second, 40 herz. This sweep, integrating the data of the moment, like the single frame of a movie or TV image, makes our conscious life. The wave sweeps each area of the cortex, selecting, summarizing and organizing scenes as it goes. Perhaps the forebrain contains one's existential position, the starting point of consciousness, the attitude. As the wave moves, it checks out inputs from memories and senses, with elaborate searching and feedback to integrate the image. Imagine a mind-full of engrams, ideas, all shouting "Me, Me Me", from which the thalamus must select and integrate each fortieth of a second. Think of these waves as the stills of the movie that makes our consciousness - the beauty of a scene, the feeding of the child, the fluctuation of the currency, the golf course green.

The sweeping wave along the cortex is guided by an elaborate feedback to the center of the brain. Sandra *Blakeslee explains "Consciousness, by his theory, is the dialogue between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex, as modulated by the senses." The brain's surface cortex, when its wrinkles are flattened out, is the size of two large pizzas. The surface gray matter seems to have minute columns of cells that are busy processing data, each with its own function. These cells are elaborately studied. They seem to resemble an extremely busy and well organized chicken soup. These scanned units of information are also connected to the center of the brain, the intralaminar nucleus of the thalamus. The thalamus decides what data will be included in each sweep - this discussion or a pink elephant.

As the FF of our consciousness results in our thinking of only one thing at a time, most data is put aside and held at the ready. Dr. Gyorgy *Buzsaki at Rutgers University found a network of inhibitory interneurons that help us to ignore the noises around us and forget about the pink elephant.

Which track is chosen by this train of thought is an existential decision. The harmony of images and their organization, selected by the juicy hippocampus that decides the pleasure and pain of each thought, makes up what we call our `life'. These choices are made by the feedback between the partially digested images and the meaty organs in the center of the brain that measure the pleasure and pain.

Perhaps this selective scanning mechanism is what makes up the Great Subconscious Life, GSL. GSL is busy as the core of our life, integrating information and solving our problems, or perhaps exacerbating them for reasons yet to be explained. Meanwhile, the process selected as ego is busy doing its own thing, strangely more or less dissociated from its own supporting GSL.

Scientists are gradually disclosing the physical mechanisms of the focusing that makes consciousness, the selective calculations going on in the hippocampus. Conducting learning experiments in a rat with electrodes in its hippocampus, scientists have learned that there seems to be an intrinsic mechanism to recognize new data. New data has a low inhibition, but old familiar stuff is inhibited from consciousness. (Like the child who exasperates, "Oh, I knew that!" - Review understanding as a discount, UNDAD, p. 68.) During it's sleep the rat replayed neuronal trajectories at 10 times normal rates. Presumably, memory consolidates between the hippocampus and neocortex while brain is `off line', sleeping. Meaning consolidates during sleep. The hippocampus makes coherence out of noise. They called it the "Attractor dynamic of consciousness".[ Bruce *McNaughton, PhD, & Matthew *Wilson, PhD, U. of Alabama have explained the neural codes that form spacial experience and how they are reactivated during sleep. "Attractor" is a word from *Gleick's CHAOS.]

Let's consider more subtle and evasive mechanisms of brain process - as yet barely explored. In one recent study microscopic magnetic particles were found in the brain. These tiny magnets function as little compasses in sensing direction - in man as well as pigeons and other animals. However, the magnets are distributed throughout the brain and theoretically could be transmitting and receiving information directly from other people's brains, any and all of them. This mystical mechanism suggests yet another subconscious tie between people, as well as ties to Total Process. But few people can tune in and still maintain their reputation. The mind's information may be infinite, but the structure of consciousness has its own narrow nature, with FF and TT.

To correct the narrow image of brain as meat, lets imagine some of the complex processes occurring in the brain, right now: Their rootlike dendrites and axon outputs of billions of neurons connect to each other. In the dendritic structure of each neuron, thousands of decisions are being made as to what signals to accept. All these electrochemical calculations are influenced by their soup of nutrients, neurotransmitters and caffeine. Brain cells are passing crucial nitrogen oxide to their nearby neighbors to enliven their associations. Assorted endorphins are wandering here and there, deciding what feels good. These are just the routine complexities already being studied.

In active dreaming the cortex scans at forty hz, just as in awakeness, but in deep sleep it slows to two hz. The cerebellum at back of the brain manages motion, scans at a only ten hz, presumably to maintain feedback with the far away big toe that the elephant has just stepped on. Physical learning, from the baby reaching for the rattle to the expert catching the arrow, involves the cerebellum and the entire body.

One leading theorist, Dr. Antonio *Damasio,[ Dr. *Damasio, born in Portugal and worked at the University of Iowa and Salk Institute in La Jolla, is a leading explorer of the structure of the human brain.] eloquently asserts that consciousness derives from the "emotions", his more familiar term for the great subconscious life, GSL. His theme is that logic and rational behavior, rather than arising from control and suppression of emotion, rely utterly on the wash of happiness, fear, intuitive hunches and other visceral feelings that rise from the body into the brain stem and up into the gray matter where decisions become conscious. His assertion that "The soul breathes through the body." might be translated, `The greater self includes the body, the main integrative organ being the brain.' Similarly, artificial intelligence expert Marvin *Minsky agrees: "emotions are highly evolved mechanisms that help us to solve problems ... These feeling for which we have only dumb words right now ...y[will be better understood] in the nest twenty years."

Damasio avoids the distinction between his `subjective' visceral experience and his `objective' integration of the mind as part of the body. Objectively, most of the information processing occurs in the brain, while all those hormones and endorphins course through the lucky body, all in the same animal. It may be difficult to accept the idea that the experience we have is neurological process, even though the processes that make up consciousness are not conscious by themselves. The difference between cold thoughts and hot emotions seems to be a matter of degree of assorted neurotransmitters, hormones, endorphins, etc. all focused in the middle of the brain, according to Dr. Llinas's model.

The classic `repression' of emotion is seen as the inhibition, robotization, by the ego from its greater self, a Vertical Dissociation on the E CHART OF MIND, Fig 3-1, p. 43. Thus the function is not the avoidance of sin, but the denial of the great subconscious life. Depersonalization, an authoritarian goal, is the submission of individual integrity by promoting the dissociation of consciousness from the integrity of the greater self. Freud saw this great subconscious life of emotion as a threat to his teutonic ego. His "id" is a tragic disparagement of what is really going on, an i dissociated image derived from the warrior culture of his Vienna. In our terminology, Freud's "id" is an iD, an i Dissociation.

Neuroscientist Jonathan *Winston calls dreams the "core of the unconscious". He writes: "Dreams may reflect a fundamental aspect of mammalian memory processing. Crucial information acquired during the waking state may be reprocessed during sleep." He points out that updating the model in real time would require a much larger brain, therefore, the work is done during sleep, "off line". He also explains that the content of dreams is the existential process of the life of both humans and animals! There's a man who knows his dog![ Another interesting discussion is THE *DREAMING UNIVERSE, book by Alan *Wolf.]

Dr. Jonathan *Winston of Rockefeller Institute had found REM sleep in all placental mammals and marsupials. Dr. Mathew *Wilson at MIT suggests that dreams in REM and non-REM may be different processing. In an Israeli study, Dr. *Carney found that sleep enhances learning, that rote memory is consolidated in REM.

Moreover, Neuroscientists confirm that integrating the data of the day is done during sleep. David *Chalmers notes that REM (rapid eye movement) sleep seems to measure such integration. Regarding what is called "the mood disorder, depression" he discovered that forced deprivation of REM sleep, by being kept awake or drugged, seems to alleviate depression, as if the person is unable to remember what she is depressed about. REM comes earlier in the sleep of depressives. With average adults it occurs about thirty percent of the time. With babies, 50%, but with people on anti-depressive medication only 15%. Does this indicate a loss of more global integrations associated with depression?

Studies of the processing time involved in perception imply that reaction time need not match consciousness time. In one neuroscientist's study, a subliminal message is flashed on a blank screen. An electroencephalograph, EEG, reveals that the subject responds to the word, even though not conscious of it. Next, the subject is shown the word for enough microseconds to be consciously perceived. This EEG shows a time lag of several milliseconds longer from the first subconscious reaction to the pulses of consciousness, as if the price of consciousness is delay. According to Dr. Llinas' model there may be integrating mechanisms that do not wait for the decisions of the sweep of consciousness. Perhaps the time is needed for the subject to raise the perception to consciousness by first matching it with its ego-model. Perhaps the word will never be heard because it doesn't necessarily get scanned, because it is not recognized by the model, or because it threatens the integrity of the ego.

Dr. Benjamin Libet, PhD D/Physiology, UCSF in his paper: Neural Time Factor in Conscious and Unconscious Functions, disclosed that 100 milliseconds is long enough for perception, but 500 milliseconds are required for consciousness to occur. Dr. Llinas' sweep cycles are only 40 ms each, implying it takes a dozen sweeps to take things seriously. The conscious mind evidently automatically extrapolates backwards to keep itself on time. Consciousness is not a stream, but a discontinuous or overlapping or interfering, subprocess - matching the scanning time of Dr. Llinas' theory. Time is needed for the filter function of consciousness.

< PREHEND, Essential Process of Reality Chapters   Essays CARTOGRAPHY OF LIES, Myths of Meaning >
Copyright © 2017 Earl Williamson. All rights reserved. Feedback Last updated Sunday, February 12, 2006 07:27 UTC