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At Mind Matters News: A neuroscience theory that actually helps explain the brain

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Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor argues that Robert Epstein’s “transducer” theory of the replationship between the mind and the brain is an instance of getting something right:

Many of my posts here at Mind Matters News entail debunking nonsensical materialist theories of the mind–brain relationship. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do so. But, at times, thoughtful and very promising ideas are proposed by modern neuroscientists. One of those ideas is discussed in an essay in Discover Magazine by neuroscientist Robert Epstein.

Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He proposes that we re-examine a theory that has had a number of prominent proponents over the past several centuries.

It is the theory that the brain is a type of transducer, that is, a device or an organ that converts one signal to another signal, commonly from one medium to another. A microphone, for example, is a transducer that converts sound waves to electrical current. Your eye is a transducer that converts light to vision.

Epstein points out that a host of perplexing neurological problems, such as blindsight (the ability of some blind people to be aware of objects in their environment that they cannot consciously see), mindsight (the phenomenon during some near-death experiences of congenitally blind people in which they are able to see normally), terminal lucidity (the brief period of clear consciousness that sometimes precedes death in dementia patients), hallucinations and such diseases as schizophrenia, among many others, could be explained by the inference that the human brain focuses and transduces consciousness rather than generates it.

Michael Egnor, “A neuroscience theory that actually helps explain the brain” at Mind Matters News (August 30, 2021)

Takehome: The ear transduces sound to hearing; the eye transduces light to vision. It is reasonable to infer that the brain transduces thought to body.

You may also wish to read:

The brain does not create the mind; it constrains it. Near-death experiences in which people report seeing things that are later verified give some sense of how the mind works in relation to the brain. A cynical neurosurgeon colleague told Michael Egnor that he could not account for how a child patient’s NDE account described the operation accurately.

and

Yes, split brains are weird, but not the way you think. Scientists who dismiss consciousness and free will ignore the fact that the higher faculties of the mind cannot be split even by splitting the brain in half.

5 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: A neuroscience theory that actually helps explain the brain

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    This viewpoint has been around for quite a while. The old Arab scientists, trailed by Kepler and Brahe, felt it. Russians later returned to it.

    Electronically speaking, transducer isn’t quite the right word. The brain receives and resonates and MODIFIES the overall wave pattern of the universe. Its own momentarily tuned resonances influence the overall pattern in a minuscule way, just as the momentary tuned resonance of one guitar influences the overall sound patterns in the room. I’d say transponder rather than transducer, but that’s still not quite the full meaning. (An alternate name for the influence side of the resonance is prayer.)

    The Russian work, as translated by our military intelligence agencies:

    https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/AD0415676

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Of semi-related note:

    A Reply to Shermer: Medical Evidence for NDEs (Near Death Experiences) – Dr. Pim van Lommel
    Excerpt: In trying to understand this concept of mutual interaction between the “invisible and not measurable”consciousness, with its enormous amount of information, and our visible, material body it seems wise to compare it with modern worldwide communication.
    There is a continuous exchange of objective information by means of electromagnetic fields (real photons) for radio, TV, mobile telephone, or laptop computer. We are unaware of the innumerable amounts of electromagnetic fields that constantly, day and night, exist around us and through us as well as throughstructures like walls and buildings. We only become aware of these electromagnetic informational fieldsthe moment we use our mobile telephone or by switching on our radio, TV or laptop. What we receive is not inside the instrument, nor in the components, but thanks to the receiver the information from the electromagnetic fields becomes observable to our senses and hence perception occurs in our consciousness.The voice we hear in our telephone is not inside the telephone. The concert we hear in our radio istransmitted to our radio. The images and music we hear and see on TV is transmitted to our TV set. The internet is not located inside our laptop. We can receive at about the same time what is transmitted with thespeed of light from a distance of some hundreds or thousands of miles. And if we switch off the TV set, the reception disappears, but the transmission continues. The information transmitted remains present within the electromagnetic fields. The connection has been interrupted, but it has not vanished and can still be received elsewhere by using another TV set. Again, we do not realize us the thousands of telephone calls, the hundreds of radio and TV transmissions, as well as the internet, coded as electromagnetic fields, that exist around us and through us.
    Could our brain be compared with the TV set that electromagnetic waves (photons) receives and transforms into image and sound, as well as with the TV camera that image and sound transforms into electromagnetic waves (photons)? This electromagnetic radiation holds the essence of all information, but is only conceivable to our senses by suited instruments like camera and TV set.
    The informational fields of our consciousness and of our memories, both evaluating by our experiences and by the informational input from our sense organs during our lifetime, are present around us as electrical and/or magnetic fields [possible virtual photons? (18)], and these fields only become available to our waking consciousness through our functioning brain and other cells of our body.
    So we need a functioning brain to receive our consciousness into our waking consciousness. And as soon asthe function of brain has been lost, like in clinical death or in brain death, with iso-electricity on the EEG,memories and consciousness do still exist, but the reception ability is lost. People can experience their consciousness outside their body, with the possibility of perception out and above their body, with identity, and with heightened awareness, attention, well-structured thought processes, memories and emotions. And they also can experience their consciousness in a dimension where past, present and future exist at the same moment, without time and space, and can be experienced as soon as attention has been directed to it (life review and preview), and even sometimes they come in contact with the “fields of consciousness” of deceased relatives. And later they can experience their conscious return into their body.
    https://vdocuments.site/a-reply-to-shermer-medical-evidence-for-ndes-by-pim-van-lommel.html

    The Mystery of Perception During Near Death Experiences – Pim van Lommel – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avyUsPgIuQ0

    Dr Pim Van Lommel’s scientific studies on near-death experiences and consciousness. -video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8scc2YbXUk
    In his book Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, he postulates a model where consciousness is beyond neurological activities of the brain. He suggests that the brain is merely a terminal for accessing consciousness which is nonlocal (i.e. situated outside the physical body). In this model the brain is analogous to a computer terminal accessing a mainframe or the internet. He further hypothesizes that noncoding DNA and quantum mechanics would make such nonlocal access possible and this model can explain how near-death experiences can be experienced and remembered by people whose brain had no measurable activity.[2]
    Van Lommel studied medicine at Utrecht University, specializing in cardiology. He worked as a cardiologist at the Rijnstate Hospital, Arnhem, for 26 years (1977-2003).

    Non-local Consciousness: A Concept Based on Scientific Research on Near-Death Experiences During Cardiac Arrest – Pim van Lommel – 2013
    Excerpt: Since the publication of several prospective studies on NDEs in survivors of cardiac arrest, with strikingly similar results and conclusions, the phenomenon of the NDE can no longer be scientifically ignored.,,,
    The NDE is an authentic experience which cannot be simply reduced to imagination, fear of death, hallucination, psychosis, the use of drugs, or oxygen deficiency,,,
    There are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: enhanced or non-local consciousness can sometimes be
    experienced separately from the body,,,
    https://pimvanlommel.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Pim-van-Lommel-Nonlocal-Consciousness-article-JCS-2013.pdf

  3. 3
    Fasteddious says:

    To any materialist who tries to pooh-pooh this idea, please be reminded that we REALLY do NOT know how the brain works, much less how the mind works. Scientists like to argue and theorize from what they know, but that leads to reductionism – thinking that what you know explains in some way what you don’t know, or worse, denying what you don’t know in order to make what you think you know seem more impressive.
    We know that neurons are very complex and their connectivity is immense. Nerve impulses involve chemical, electrical, hormonal, and perhaps also mechanical attributes. Moreover, if the brain somehow connects physical reality with spiritual reality, then science, as currently practised cannot hope to elucidate the mechanism because consensus science does not recognize spiritual reality, even as it fails to understand the mind and consciousness.

  4. 4
    Querius says:

    Fasteddious,

    Good points. There’s also been speculation on microtubules and quantum effects in the brain. I agree that science might not be advanced enough to elucidate (or even comprehend) the connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. I’m reminded of Victorians who considered the brain as a sort of biological steam engine and thus had a need for occasionally “letting off some steam.”

    -Q

  5. 5
    doubter says:

    The transducer theory seems to explain a lot when it comes to the relationship between mind and body, but there are still a few problems with it.

    These are the cases where normal mental function and consciousness are shown but the brain is either mostly absent or is physically diseased and disorganized. In both cases there is essentially no exquisitely organized physical neurological brain to act as the transducer between spirit and physical body.

    I refer here to the cases where people have normal or even above normal intelligence and mental function, despite having due to acute hydrocephalus essentially just a thin layer of cerebral brain cells , and cases of terminal lucidity in patients with severe dementia, where mental functioning mysteriously returns just prior to death, despite the brain being disease-ridden and disorganized.

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