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How the brain enables the mind?

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What if it is the other way around? Just wondering, that’s all.

Anyway, from New Scientist:

“HOW on earth does the brain enable mind?” This line from the preface to Tales from Both Sides of the Brain by neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga serves as the overarching question for his latest book. And it’s also a question that permeates The Future of the Brain, a collection of essays edited by psychologist Gary Marcus and neuroscientist Jeremy Freeman.

About Future of the Brain we learn,

The technologies will generate lots of data, and neuroscientists will need large-scale simulations and brain models to make sense of it. Editors Marcus and Freeman say that we had better get used to seeing the brain as an organ that carries out computations – a notion that is often resisted. They write that “nerve cells exist to compute; the real trick is to figure out what they are computing”. More.

The difficulty is that most human thinking is not in fact a form of computing at all. People don’t compute “trustworthy” or “the in thing to do,” or “I guess I have to be the one to tell him.”

Indeed, many people who can manage all this stuff and more deftly could not add up a column of figures. And their neurons probably couldn’t either. If the brain is at bottom a quantum system, chances are that its relation to consciousness will feature many anomalies that can only be misrepresented by an attempt to figure out “what they are computing.”

Here’s a synopsis of why such projects will go nowhere.

See also: What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

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24 Replies to “How the brain enables the mind?

  1. 1
    awstar says:

    Here’s a recent study that talks about how we categorize things using a “top-down feedback projection from category-selective neurons to feature-coding neurons.” as opposed to “The common belief was that this is because a category choice is influenced by stochastic, or random, activity of sensory neurons through bottom-up, sensory-to-category pathways.”

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_.....031015.php

    Let’s hear it for top-down processing much like the Bible suggests God does it.

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    Said it before. There is no brain according to the bible. The bible never mentions the brain. Instead the mind is just a tool for our thinking soul. Our mind is just a memory Machine.
    If they believed in the bible these things would be easily intellectually understood and healing also done to human thinking problems.

  3. 3
    Me_Think says:

    Robert Byers @ 2

    There is no brain according to the bible.The bible never mentions the brain.

    So ? There are lots of things the Bible doesn’t mention – SUVs, laptops, airplanes, the Pythagorean theorem..

  4. 4
    harry says:

    There is a non-material component to all living things. In humans it is a rational soul. Matter and energy by themselves do not produce consciousness or rationality. Even the most amazing instances of what appears to be artificial intelligence, ultimately, are only mindless machinery the circuitry of which is managing electron flow exactly the way thinking humans designed it to do. Electron flow is only that, not thought.

    Why should any configuration of matter and energy alone produce consciousness and rationality? By what principles are matter and energy configured such that they produce consciousness and rationality? Maybe nobody knows that because there is no configuration of matter and energy alone that does that.

    Yet non-material thought is a reality. Non-material abstract concepts are a reality that a collection of atoms we call a “teacher” conveys to collections of atoms we call “students.” How much does what has been transferred when that happens weigh? What is its mass? How does a mere collection of atoms send an abstract concept and how does another mere collection of atoms receive it? They don’t. A rational soul sends it and rational souls receive it.

    Science not perverted by atheistic materialism would be aggressively attempting to learn about the soul by its effects on the material. Yes, I know some will immediately claim that science can’t investigate what isn’t material, but science routinely learns about realities it can’t “hit with a stick,” as a philosophy professor I once had put it. We know gravity is a reality only by its effects. We know there are rational souls by their effects, which are far more interesting and compelling than those of gravity, producing phenomena like love and appreciation of truth and beauty. The rational soul’s ultimate purpose is to know the supremely rational intellect Who brought it into being. A “who” not a “what,” then comes to know the One Who identified Himself as “I AM WHO AM”

  5. 5
    rhampton7 says:

    Harry,

    Weaver birds, for example, can produce irreducibly complex nests, indicating that they are intelligent designers. But it seems just as likely that the source of their intelligence may be entirely natural as it may be supernatural. What kind of experiment would reveal the presence of a bird’s hypothetical soul?

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    me think
    Its different. the bible consistently talks of the divisions of human being thinking.
    Its soul, heart, mind, spirit. Further the bible is clear that intelligence is divided by wisdom, knowledge, understanding.
    So the brain in no way matters to Gods word. it doesn’t exist.
    Our brain, I say is only a memory machine in its material components. our soul/heart is immaterial and only connected to the memory/brain.
    Thats why all our senses are just us watching a video of the outside world. Then its edited. We never have smelled or felt etc anything in the world.
    We only observe the memory of the sense info.
    thus optical illusions and magician tricks are explained.

  7. 7
    harry says:

    rhampton7 @5

    The non-material component of living things is revealed by the difference between inanimate matter and animated, or living matter.

    Inanimate matter may consist of machinery similar to that of animated matter, but doesn’t react to stimuli in the way animated matter does.

    For example, a recording video camera, while translating photons into electrochemical activity, doesn’t see anything. The bird also has machinery to translate photons into electrochemical activity, but it “sees.” We know that from its reactions to what it sees.

    There is “nobody home” in the video camera. The non-material component of the bird is what “sees.”

  8. 8
    alexis says:

    Yes! This is a topic no other science blog will touch! There is an intentional (I believe) conflation by modern science of mind and brain. Ever notice there are so many studies and projects trying to replicate the brain, but none trying to come up with a mind? If they were able to replicate the structure of the brain, and the result was able to think, it would “prove” that mind is just a matter of physical organization, and it would neatly dispense with pesky metaphysical things like mind and soul. They would be vindicated in their abject atheism.

    However, I truly believe such efforts are doomed to fail (okay, mainly because I read a very good book about replicating the mind, about a year ago). Let’s see… it’s called “The Autonomous System: A Foundational Synthesis of the Sciences of the Mind”, by Gyurky & Tarbell (scientists at JPL and Caltech). They go to great lengths to demonstrate the difference between brain and mind, what each is and is not. The authors base much of their synthesis work on the likes of Kant, Schopenhauer and Hegel. I mention it here only because it’s the only work of its kind that I know of, and it’s a *very* thorough examination of the topic.

    Modern science fears the metaphysical, and thus cannot adequately explain life, consciousness, thought, etc. And yet, all of science is based on the metaphysical, viz., mathematics and logic.

  9. 9
    rhampton7 says:

    harry,

    Yes a bird reacts to what it sees. The mechanisms of its biology allow it to do so. We also have driverless cars that can ‘see’ and react accordingly. So what kind of experiment would reveal if the bird and/or the driverless car has some non-material (supernatural) component?

  10. 10
    alexis says:

    Indeed, a bird reacts to what it sees, because its mind truly understands what it sees, and allows it to apply reason to what it sees. A driverless car does not ‘understand’ anything beyond the opcodes in its instruction stream. The computer doesn’t know that it’s aboard a car, or even what a car is. In a similar vein, IBM’s Watson “supercomputer” won on Jeopardy only by being a better search engine than the human contestants. It performed brute-force pattern matching on the question text, and did not understand at all the meaning of the questions posed. The presence of reasoned understanding is the difference between true vs. mimicked intelligent behavior. One requires a mind; the other only a brain.

  11. 11
    rhampton7 says:

    Alexis,

    The driverless car also reasons because all computers are built from logical operations. The bird has a greater ability to do so because brains are not limited to booleans. Neural nets are more like brains in that they can do “fuzzy logic” like generalize.

    In any event, you would need to devise an experiment to show that a bird understands things beyond the material capabilities of its brain, unlike a computer. Simply stating that a bird does is not sufficient.

  12. 12
    alexis says:

    rhampton7,

    Your statements indicate you haven’t read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. All of these issues are elaborated upon there quite eloquently (but being some 800 pages of expository, it doesn’t summarize well). Suffice it to say, though, a mechanical system cannot “reason”. Boolean logical instructions embedded into a program set does not constitute reason.

  13. 13
    Mapou says:

    Byers:

    So the brain in no way matters to Gods word. it doesn’t exist.

    Man, you must be under the influence of demons. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to call myself a Christian. Where do you people come from?

    I’ll tell you an amazing little secret, Mr. Poltergeist. Not only does the Bible mention the brain, it actually explains how it works. The Bible uses metaphors to describe world changing scientific knowledge. Only now are they beginning to be interpreted. Get ready to live in interesting times.

  14. 14
    Robert Byers says:

    Mapou
    Your wrong. Give chapter and verse for the bible mentioning the brain.
    As I said it mentions the mind but not the brain despite covering the subject of human thought a great deal.
    There is no brain affecting our thinking. there is a mind or rather a memory machine, as i see it, butthats it.
    The bible does explain human thinking. in fact a famous verse says MAN thinks with his heart. As opposed to the mind. The mind is just a tool for human thinking. thats why its the only place for problems in human thinking.
    or rather all human thinking problems are due to failure in the triggering mechanism for the memory machine. I think so.

  15. 15
    Mapou says:

    Byers @14,

    You’re sorely mistaken. Ancient people used the words ‘heart’ and ‘kidney’ only metaphorically to mean the centers of emotional and rational thoughts. They were not meant to be taken literally.

    You want chapter and verse? Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, i.e., the letters to the seven churches of Asia, are a metaphorical description of the brain’s organization and operation, from sensory perception to motor learning. Zechariah’s vision of Joshua, Zerubbabel, the golden lampstand, the branch, etc. (chapters 2-6) is a detailed description of the brain’s seat of memory, the cortex. This is one that is sure to strike at the heart of the AI community, not to mention the rest of the materialists and atheists.

    And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the wonders hidden in the Bible. Like I said, get ready to live in interesting times. But that’s enough crackpot stuff for one day.

    Maybe I’m just kidding. But then again, maybe I’m not.

  16. 16
    harry says:

    rhampton7 @5,9

    What kind of experiment would reveal the presence of a bird’s hypothetical soul?
    So what kind of experiment would reveal if the bird and/or the driverless car has some non-material (supernatural) component?

    We would need a being with an intellect for such an experiment. The subject would have to be able to tell us what it is experiencing at the moment. Driverless cars don’t experience anything. They are just programmed matter in motion. Birds lack the communication skills necessary for the experiment. The subject would have to be a human.

    Let’s say we could track the all of the electrochemical activity of your physical brain. Let’s further say that we can track the state of all the matter of your brain right down to the last subatomic particle. You tell us what you see and we record the state and activity of your physical brain. You tell us you are focusing on the apple on a white table along with other ordinary but easily distinguishable objects. We record that experience. You focus on other objects and we again observe/record all of the activity of your brain and the state of your brain matter.

    We get to the point where we can tell from observation of the state and activity of your brain what you are seeing. We have you close your eyes and just imagine the different objects you were focusing on. We can tell what you are seeing in your mind’s eye based on what we have already learned.

    The apple you see in your mind’s eye has an existence of some kind because you see it. You are aware of it. It effects you, because you are hungry and thinking about an apple is making it worse. The experiment is to locate in your brain matter the image of the apple you are concentrating on. We know some image exists because you are seeing it and we believe you because we can detect the presence of what we have learned to be the “seeing an apple” state and activity of your brain. If we can find the image of the apple you are seeing in your physical brain matter, then that image has a material existence. If we can’t find it, then we will assume the image’s existence is an immaterial reality. ;o)

    If that sounds funny it is because it is so obvious that there will be no image of an apple in your brain matter. That is the point. An image exists. You say you see it. We believe you. But where is it? It is a non-material reality present to the non-material component of your intellect.

  17. 17
    alexis says:

    @harry

    “If we can find the image of the apple you are seeing in your physical brain matter, then that image has a material existence. If we can’t find it, then we will assume the image’s existence is an immaterial reality. If that sounds funny it is because it is so obvious that there will be no image of an apple in your brain matter.”

    Actually, no. These experiments have been done. It’s called ‘neuroimaging’ (see http://news.yale.edu/2014/03/2.....wer-s-mind), and yes, thoughts and images can be ‘located’ in the physical brain in real time.

    However, the interpretation of what that means is critical. This does not mean that the image of an apple is sourced (i.e., resides) at a specific location, but that the mind utilizes certain portions of the brain for certain purposes; in this case, the mind’s Presentation system displays an apple to itself in the brain (see Gyurky et al). So, the image of an apple might be located (i.e., presented) in your brain as you think of it, but that same location will host images of many other things as well.

  18. 18
    Mapou says:

    harry:

    If that sounds funny it is because it is so obvious that there will be no image of an apple in your brain matter. That is the point. An image exists. You say you see it. We believe you. But where is it? It is a non-material reality present to the non-material component of your intellect.

    You are mistaken. The image is indeed represented in the optical cortex. This is a known fact. There are even neurons that fire only if they see a specific face such as Angelina Jolie or grandma. They are called grandmother cells for this reason.

    Having said that, there is no difference between a neuron that encodes for blue and one that encodes for red. Something other than the brain is responsible for the actual color sensations (or qualia).

    I am a Christian but, IMO, the notion that the brain is just a dumb terminal for the spirit/soul is nonsensical religious dogma, the work of the devil. The brain is a marvel of intelligent creation. There can be no thinking without the brain. To diminish the importance and magnificence of the brain is to diminish creation and the creators.

    In humans, the spirit/soul is the brain’s conductor. In animals (and future intelligent robots), the conductor is automated and severely limited in certain ways. A soul-less intelligence cannot appreciate/love/understand beauty and the arts. It can only fake it.

  19. 19
    Robert Byers says:

    Mapou
    your wrong. it was not ancient people who wrote the bible but God using humans to dictate to.
    Heart does not mean the organ but it means the essence of human thought. The soul and heart mean us without material organs involved.
    these verses say nothinbg about the brain makeip. The bible is clear about these things.
    Heart and mibnd arte two different things. i say the mind is just a tool and a organ and so only a memory machine.

    Show chapter and verse where the bible says otherwise.
    The bible is consistent and never says we have a brain as relevant to human thinking.

  20. 20
    harry says:

    alexis @ 17

    You are failing to distinguish between the electrochemical activity that corresponds to the image and the image itself.

    As for the neuroimaging, it is very impressive, but it shouldn’t surprise us that there is a detectable signal in the physical brain that corresponds to the images we see. A similarly precise signal is there, I am sure, for the auditory system as well when we hear sounds, and for all our sensory experiences. My hypothetical “experiment” was assuming the detection of those signals was possible or would be in the future.

    The actual images we see, and the sounds we hear, are not materially present in the physical brain. Matter alone doesn’t see or hear anything. It takes a “who” to experience sight and sound. A “what” can be the medium for a signal that can be translated into sight or sound by a “who,” but a “what” will never see or hear anything. The physical brain, like all that is merely matter, is as blind, deaf and dumb as a box of rocks.

    My point was that the actual image of the apple seen in the mind’s eye, which we know is a reality because it is being seen, obviously has no material existence.

    Similar to the way in which we know about gravity by it effects, science needs to begin to indirectly examine the non-material component of living things by that component’s effects. There is obviously some kind of integration of the two that allows interaction between the non-material component of the intellect and the physical brain.

  21. 21
    Mapou says:

    harry @20:

    The actual images we see, and the sounds we hear, are not materially present in the physical brain. Matter alone doesn’t see or hear anything. It takes a “who” to experience sight and sound. A “what” can be the medium for a signal that can be translated into sight or sound by a “who,” but a “what” will never see or hear anything. The physical brain, like all that is merely matter, is as blind, deaf and dumb as a box of rocks.

    Now that you have further explained your position, I have to say that I agree. There is a structure that is imposed by the brain and, ultimately, by the environment but the actual image, colors, etc. that we experience are not in the brain. They are part of the human spirit that interacts with the brain.

    In a sense, when we see the world, we are also seeing ourselves. The beauty and ugliness that we sense are all part of our true selves.

  22. 22
    alexis says:

    harry @ 20:

    You are failing to distinguish between the electrochemical activity that corresponds to the image and the image itself.

    You’ve missed the entire point of my post @ 17. No one is alleging that an object seen with the eyes has a material existence in the brain. Are you familiar with the Presentation system of the mind? That’s what neuroimaging is viewing.

  23. 23
    harry says:

    alexis @ 22

    No one is alleging that an object seen with the eyes has a material existence in the brain

    Right. The discussion is about the image of an object.

  24. 24
    harry says:

    The reality of gravity was always obvious. It is not like Newton “discovered” it. His brilliance was in learning about it by its effects and in articulating with amazingly accurate precision what he had learned.

    The reality of the non-material component of living things was always obvious, too. It remains obvious and has significant effects that are so obvious we don’t even notice them; it produces effects like vision, hearing, consciousness and so on. That there must be a non-material component to an intellect is painfully obvious.

    This was recognized by thoughtful people from time immemorial. Yet there have always been those who refused to accept that reality due to its implications. Gregory of Nyssa, born ca. 335 A.D., mentions atheism as he discusses the reality of the non-material soul in his work, On the Soul and the Resurrection:

    The mind, in times of bereavement, craves a certainty gained by reasoning as to the existence of the soul after death. First then, virtue will be impossible, if deprived of the life of eternity, her only advantage. But this is a moral argument. The case calls for speculative and scientific treatment.

    How is the objection that the nature of the soul, as of real things, is material, to be met? Thus: the truth of this doctrine would involve the truth of atheism; whereas atheism is refuted by the fact of the wise order that reigns in the world. In other words, the spirituality of God cannot be denied, and this proves the possibility of spiritual or immaterial existence, and therefore, that of the soul.

    But is God, then, the same thing as the soul? No, but man is “a little world in himself,” and we may with the same right conclude from this microcosm to the actual existence of an immaterial soul, as from the phenomena of the world to the reality of God’s existence.

    A definition of the soul is then given, for the sake of clearness in the succeeding discussion: It is a created, living, intellectual being, with the power, as long as it is provided with organs, of sensuous perception. For “the mind sees,” not the eye.

    Take, for instance, the meaning of the phases of the moon. The objection that the “organic machine” of the body produces all thought is met by the instance of the water-organ. Such machines, if thought were really an attribute of matter, ought to build themselves spontaneously, whereas they are a direct proof of an invisible thinking power in man. A work of art means mind: there is a thing perceived, and a thing not perceived. But still, what is this thing not perceived? If it has no sensible quality whatever, where is it? The answer is, that the same question might be asked about the Deity (Whose existence is not denied).

    Then the Mind and the Deity are identical? Not so. In its substantial existence, as separable from matter, the soul is like God; but this likeness does not extend to sameness; it resembles God as a copy the original.

    As being simple and uncompounded, the soul survives the dissolution of the composite body, whose scattered elements it will continue to accompany, as if watching over its property till the Resurrection, when it will clothe itself in them anew.

    Were it not for atheistic materialism’s domination of contemporary science stifling the would-have-been Newtons of modern times, there would have probably been much progress made by now in our understanding of the nature of the non-material component of the human intellect. The darkened minds of the so-called Enlightenment completely miss the obvious. Or maybe retired Cornell Professor John Sanford is right, and the entropy of the human genome has been steadily increasing over time (Sanford’s Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome is available on Amazon). Maybe the human genome has now degenerated to the point that a significant segment of humanity can no longer grasp what most of humanity of ancient times understood almost intuitively. That would explain the contemporary growth of atheism. ;o)

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