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machine brains

Michael Edelman mje at mich.com
Thu Mar 11 09:17:07 EST 1999

Malcolm McMahon wrote:

> >> Yup, but the effect is the same in that either will disrupt any volatile
> >> data in the system which will have to start with only non-volatile data.
> >
> >You may be inferring too much from the computer metaphor. ECT disrupts LTM. The older the memory the
> >more resistant to loss, but that's probably a function of how integrated it is, not whether it's
> >electrical in nature.
> >
> But short term memory is completely wiped. I suspect the effects on LTM
> are just an aspect of the general brain damage which is a side effect of
> the process.

There's no *physica*l distinction between LTM and STM, and many feel that the LTM/STM distinction is
meaningless. The important distinction seems to be between Working Memory and LTM.

> So how do you explain the benefits of ECT?

Benifits? That's a mixed bag ;-). I don't know. ECM may relieve severe depression by destroying those LTM
traces that are involved in the beliefs  underlying the depression. Or it may work by destroying some
other areas that are involved in the emotional response. ...

> >We can't examine QSOs or quarks, yet we can make reasonable deductions about their composition and
> >physics. So it is with conciousness.
> >
> We can make deductions about their physics, the way they interact with
> other parciles but we learn nothing about their composition, in fact
> they probably _have_ no composition.

? Indeed we have inferred a lot about the compositions of QSOs. As for quarks, they are believed to be
elementary, but we still have a very complex theory about how they interact.

Conciousness appears to be a property of large complex systems. It's not a thing, any more than
complexity is a thing or value is a thing. That doesn't mean that none of these exists, that they are
unary in nature, or that we can't develop theories of them.

Michael Edelman     http://www.mich.com/~mje

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