a thinking brain

ray scanlon rscanlon at nycap.rr.com
Tue Jun 29 17:47:50 EST 2004

Glen M. Sizemore writes:

 > Ray's view that CPG's are a big part of the key to understanding
> has much merit. And, perhaps, so does his view of the role played by the
> thalamic structures. But anyone who thinks that the processes of
> habituation, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning (especially
> operant conditioning!) are irrelevant to this endeavor has clearly missed
> the boat. The basic principles investigated in the laboratory are exactly
> what must be explained. The acquisition of operant behavior and its control
> by certain stimulus configurations is a matter of the alteration of
> spontaneous behavior by its consequences. This process is central to
> behavior; the only process that is more fundamental is that which
> necessarily preceded it - i.e., the very occurrence of behavior that is
> spontaneous at the level of behavior (that is, not elicited), and this is a
> very old, and fundamental, phenomenon indeed.

To start off, let me say that I am not presenting a
Grand-Theory-of-Everything, just a speculative thrust at how a brain
composed of neurons might think, judge, and decide. A fictive motor
program arrives at the ventral anterior-ventral lateral complex of the
thalamus. If it is not halted, it becomes an actual motor program and
proceeds to the pre-motor and motor cortex and then on to the
motoneurons. When it hits the motoneurons, it becomes behavior.

The instant the fictive motor program becomes an actual motor program
it is no longer involved with the thinking, judging, deciding brain.
However, the pattern controller, the pattern initiator, and the
pattern generator are all capable of being modified by experience.
This is learning. While learning is not part of thinking, judging, and
deciding, it is clearly relevant.

What is also clearly relevant is all the work that neuroscientists
have done on modifiability of neurons (synaptic strengthening and
weakening). There is absolutely no use in pointing out any dubious
relevancy of some of the work in Psychology. That would just lead to

I prefer to stick with the brain and say that the instant a fictive
motor program becomes an actual motor program it is no longer relevant
to a thinking, judging, deciding brain. That it emerges as behavior,
and that the behavior modifies the controlling, initiating, generating
sequence is a beautiful story, but it is another story, a story of
learning. I think this is what the "operant" people are getting at and
I believe (agree?) their results are fundamental.

It all depends on your viewpoint. I am interested in the thinking,
judging, deciding brain.

Some would say that it can all be done with the predicate calculus,
but I reject that approach. I feel that the predicate calculus has
been beaten to death and we have nothing to show for it.

Some argue that "fictive" should not be applied to neural activity
that may be modified, or even halted, at the spinal level. I answer
that I am interested in the motor program as it arrives at the ventral
anterior-ventral lateral complex and that it is indeed "fictive"
until, and unless, it passes. The origin of the signals and their
manipulation is extremely interesting but not necessarily germane. If
there were no central pattern controllers, initiators, generators, my
argument should be exactly the same.

Some are interested in the soul (mind) and want to know why we
experience the thoughts of our brain and claim them as our own? I take
the simple position that the relation of the soul (mind) to the body
(brain) shall be forever unknown to us. I argue that a scientist must
take this position when talking of the brain.


More information about the Neur-sci mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net