neuroscience training?

ken kpaulc at
Tue Mar 9 17:07:03 EST 2004

Hi John,

I've always presumed that you were
just trying to play the 'devil's advocate'.

But, perhaps it's been because, since
I'm whare I am, and you're where you
are, and our feet are our closest parts,
we're just not hooking-up :-]

"John H." <johnh at faraway.> wrote in message
news:404d8995 at
> 07/03/04 11:27AM
> Just how many Pandora's boxes do you wish to open?
> Drowning not waving,
> John H.
> GS: Information as in stuff like "The nucleus
> accumbens receives information from..." This
> is the way "information" is typically discussed,
> and it is homunculism. Then, when called on it,
> they fall back on technical usages of "informa-
> tion" as if their explanation was about that all
> along. Frontal lobes? Is that were the executive
> homunculus lives?
> JH.
> Are we justified in assuming that brains actually
> process information? Reading this post reminded
> me of something I read a long time ago, when I
> still believed that in my life time we would come
> to understand how brains "process information".

It's happened.

>   Title [Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter
>            of the Mind
>    Author [Gerald Edelman
> Publisher [Penquin
> Place Pub [First in 1992
> 27
> "Notice, however, that these explanations assume
> that individual neurons carry information, just as
> some electronic devices carry information. ... No
> convincing evidence for the kinds of codes that
> humans use in telegraphy, computing, or other
> forms of human communication has been found
> in the human nervous system."
> --
> If anything, since the date of the above publication
> the picture has become more confusing. It was once
> thought that a neuron only fired in a particular
> manner, now we find neurons that can be fast or
> slow, continuous or rhythmical or seemingly and
> quite possibly genuinely chaotic in firing patterns.
> There was the precious hunt for the neural code
> and we hide our faces in embarrassment over
> such memories.

It's not a question of whether nervous systems
process information.

They do.

I process "one plus one", and converge upon
"two" as a result of that processing.

The problem has been that the success of
'quantum' theory led to 'digital' computing,
and the success of that led to the presump-
tion that 'information' is 'quantized', which
begs for 'notchy' codes.

But physical reality is Continuous and in-
finitely-divisible in its energy-gradients.

And that's the stuff with which nervous sys-
tems must deal.

So, instead of 'notchy' codes, nervous systems
process information via energy-thresholding
with respect to physical reality's infinitely-
divisible stuff - which is in the position of
Feynman that you've brought up - an ap-
roximate solution makes possible further
refinement of the energy-thresholds that nerv-
ous systems converge upon as they process

In this view, "information" is 'just' that which
is sufficient to allow a 'choice' to be made -
because one energy-threshold, or a group
of energy-thresholds, yield subsequent en-
ergy-thresholding advantages.

"Information" is just infinitely-divisible phys-
ical reality - infinitely-divisible energy.

Decisions can be made with respect to in-
finitely-divisible energy be-cause infinitely-
divisible energy-gradients are 'embedded'-
within infinitely-divisible-energy, and, when
a nervous system "senses" relative minima,
relative maxima, gradient-variations, etc.,
their neural dynamics extract 'meaning'
from the directionalities inherent in the en-
ergy-gradients' variations.

This's Possible be-cause the one way flow
of energy, from order to disorder, that is
what's =described= by 2nd Thermo [WDB2T]
permeates physical reality in a Deterministic
way - so energy-gradients always have 'mean-
ing' - always 'contain' information with respect
to which nervous systems can 'always' attain
internal energy-thresholding 'states'.

As a nervous system accumulates experience,
it internalizes [constructs "biological mass" with
respect to] instances of contradictory energy-
gradients - which is necessary because the
energy-flow that is WDB2T can vary locally,
and it's only when a nervous system ranges-
widely, relative to such local WDB2T energy-
dynamics, that the nervous system can achieve
energy-thresholds with respect to the algebraic-
'sum' of the local energy-gradients.

It's all continuous - all infinitely-divisible - but
when energy-dynamics threshold, nervous sys-
tem's information-processing dynamics threshold,
in a correlated way, and the nervous system in
which such energy-thresholding occurs is able
to 'decide' with respect to the external energy-
dynamics that it has experienced.

Traditional Maths and Computer approaches
do not recognize the physical reality inherent,
so they procede in trial-and-error ways that,
often, produce spurious results.

So, it's just the opposite of the way things've
been accepted to 'be' - "information" exists,
but only within physical reality, and only within
nervous systems.

Maths and computers 'only' 'throw-darts' hoping
to 'hit' something that can nervous systems can
see is "information" [the 'bits' that flow through
computers' circuitries are artificially-generated
energy-thresholds, and their 'correlation' to "in-
formation" is artificial and, at its base, Illusory.

> The brilliant physicist Feynman once said that it
> is critical for scientists to address questions which
> can be answered. The adoption of information
> processing theory allows for all manner of modelling
> and speculation about brain function, it would seem
> the the idea of domain relevance has been cast
> aside and that many will happily adopt the informa-
> tion processing assumption because it gives one
> something to work with, a nice assumption that
> opens up a large conceptual space ready for
> exploring. It reminds me of the Lassiter's Reef
> myth: that if we keep searching long enough we'll
> find a mountains of gold in them thar hills. Many
> died searching for the same.
> Many seem to begin with the assumption that
> nervous systems are essentially information
> processing systems. However, the primary purpose
> of any nervous system is to achieve an advantageous
> response for the organism. To do this information
> processing is not required, nor is there sufficient
> evidence of some hidden set of algorithms that
> brains are using. If nervous systems did adopt an
> information processing strategy at some point,
> where is that evolutionary point? The lamprey?
> bees? Where! For example, studies of Tunisian
> desert Ants initially suggested that their ganglia
> use bicomponent theory for navigational purposes.
> Upon close investigation, however, that turned
> out to be problematic (this in a text I have dated
> 1984). A striking quote from the same:
> "Although the smooth curves of models a,c,
> and d and aesthetically more satisfying than the
> stepped curve of model b, there is no reason to
> ASSUME [my emphasis] that physiological
> mechanisms can be neatly described and
> pigeonholed. Central nervous processes may
> function in ways that cannot be attributed to
> any one of these models, but may be a combin-
> ation of them or differ completely. In evaluating
> the pros and cons one should keep in mind
> that nature often prefers a functional "shortcut"
> to a mathematically elegant solution."

Yes, except that the way nervous systems do
this is the Elegant thing.

> Schone, Hermann, "Spatial Orientation: The
> Spatial Control of Behavior in Animals and Man."
> Princeton University Press, 1984, Trans Camilla
> Strausfeld.
> Interestingly, Steven Pinker, in, How the Mind
> Works, asserts that these use ants path integration
> (memory here people, I've lent the book out-and
> am in no hurry to get it back - but am confident he
> asserted this). Yet many species, as they approach
> their goal, abandon goal directed orientation and
> initiate search orientation, as do these ants. Now if
> the ants were using some set of algorithms to achieve
> their goal, why abandon such a sure fire method for
> coming home? Another example of this is a study of
> European swallows during migration. Swallows
> undertaking their first migration, along with experienced
> migrators, were captured and shifted one hundreds mile
> perpendicular to their flight path. The first timers made
> no course correction, the old timers knew something
> was amiss and corrected their path accordingly.

A telling example of differential "biological mass",
and the "behavioral inertia" that derives in it.

> It would appear that multi modal processing is the
> most frequently employed strategy, but that is
> simply too hard to compute, it isn't neat enough
> for our view of the world and how we deal with it.

It's not "hard to compute". The way it happens just
wasn't understood.

> How convenient it is to adopt an assumption that
> allows one to play with computers. How disastrous
> an enterprise has been AI, now reduced to mainly
> "intelligent agents", a subtle admission that we really
> don't have a clue how brains perform complex functions.
> How bloody ridiculous was the idea of neural nets as
> being the Great Leap Forward in AI. Why should we
> be surprised at our ignorance in this matter? We still
> cannot fathom the relatively simple complexities of
> endocrinology and immunology yet many assume that
> we can then penetrate the complexities of the most
> complex thing in the universe. Yet most neurobods
> are concerned with very discreet aspects of brain
> function and has one poster here advised me many
> months ago: at present neuroscience is akin to butterfly
> collecting, that it will be a long time before we proceed
> from just obtaining good data to developing reasonable
> hypotheses. K P Collins ridiculed this response but then
> he lacks epistemological rigour.


'guilty' - but it's 'hard' to have "epistomological
rigor" via little snippet 'discussions' to which
folks tend not to respond in a way that accum-
ulates "epistomological rigor" - but 'only' in ways
that tend to 'scatter' "epistomological rigor".

It's been this way be-cause NDT's stuff was just
relatively-'unfamiliar' to folks, and, therefore, TD

So all I could do is to 'walk the path' until this
"unstable equillibrium" until its stuff became
'familiar' to folks.

Wading-through the ambient TD E/I(up), on my
own behalf - so I could continue - but, mainly,
on behalf of others - so they could have an Op-
portunity to understand the formerly-'unfamiliar'

If you look, you'll see that it takes "epistomological
rigor" to do such - to 'walk the path' through the
TD E/I(up) 'storm', regardless.

> If that neurobod is correct, and I accept his
> assertion, should we even pretend to study
> higher order functions in neuroscience?

We should.

And, besides, it's already done.

> Why do so many in Cognitive Science ignore
> Feynman's advice? Surely science is built upon
> what is known, not what is speculated. We must
> speculate to begin science, we must remove
> speculation to progress science.

I think folks're doing it [in accord with Feynman
and many others], but the 'problem' has been
that understanding occurs within =individual=
nervous systems, but understanding with re-
spect to how nervous systems process inform-
ation just wasn't in-individual-nervous-systems.

Individual nervous systems couldn't Think the
Thought, and that left folks 'talking-past' one
another, but not understanding that they were
doing so, and what the fact that they were do-
ing so means with respect to the way nervous
systems process information.

It's "Tower of Babel" stuff - there was no way
for folks to 'get-traction' with respect to actually
Resolving the Problem - because, in the give-and-
take, all that was happening was that folks were
inducing TD E/I(up) within each others' nervous
systems, to which folks nervous systems react
by 'blindly'-and-automatically 'seeking' to mini-
mize TD E/I, and =that= 'problem' that has no-
thing to do with The Problem, became 'every-
thing', shunting everything else off into the 'un-
familiar' nothingness - which exposes that the
"shunting", inherent is, itself, 'just' another 'blind-
ly'-automated TD E/I-minimization 'strategy'.

Cheers, John, ken [k. p. collins]

> GS: That's about right. Animism was always l
> urking in the shadows, and when the cognitive
> devolution began with Chomsky's Big Lie, it
> was all down hill from there.
> JH:
> I wonder if Chomsky's ideas gave rise to the
> modularity concept. Both are deeply flawed,
> if the work of the British neurosurgeon John
> Lorber didn't put it to rest then surely the
> recent work of Ed Traub (Contraint induced
> movement therapy) has nailed modularity deep
> into hell.
> John H>

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