a thinking brain

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 30 06:33:12 EST 2004

> 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.

RS: 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. 

GS: First, that's not a very good description of your posts. Second,
what makes you think that I have not properly evaluated your
position?.......both in terms of scope and particulars?

RS: 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.

GS: So you have said, and so I have heard. 

RS: The instant the fictive motor program becomes an actual motor
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.

GS: "Learning" is the modification of behavior through habituation ,
classical conditioning, and operant conditioning. The study of such
phenomena has everything to do with of "thinking, judging, and
deciding," and so will an analysis of how physiology mediates these
and associated processes (like motivation and emotion).

RS: 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

GS: Once again, the study of operant conditioning in intact animals is
largely the science of how spontaneous behavior comes to be modified
by its consequences and how such behavior comes to be controlled by
current stimuli and other variables. There is nothing more important
than this. It is also largely what you are talking about, albeit in
your idiosyncratically arrogant and ignorant way.

RS: I prefer to stick with the brain and say that the instant a
motor program becomes an actual motor program it is no longer relevant
to a thinking, judging, deciding brain. 

GS: You are welcome to such nonsense. A good deal of what is called
thinking, judging, and deciding involves behavior that functions as
controlling stimuli for other behavior. In thinking, this involves
talking to ourselves as well as visualizing things and events. All of
this is behavior that is observable by us (and only us in "thinking")
and like other observable events, these behavioral events can come to
control other responses. This is precisely why thinking occurs, and
why it is employed in "problem solving." These behavioral functions
are mediated by a person's physiology.

RS: 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.

GS: Somehow that message didn't come across too well, and it is
incompatible with the portion of your position that I just criticized.

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

GS: As I have just pointed out, this phrase refers to, if anything,
the physiological mediation of operant behavior, and how such behavior
can come to function as stimuli controlling other responses.

RS: Some would say that it can all be done with the predicate
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.

GS: Most of the above is irrelevant to my points. Much of what fuels
talk of the "mind" is the brute fact of human introspection. But what
we are "inspecting" is not our mind, or the physiology that mediates
behavioral function; it IS our behavior. There is nothing mysterious
about the fact that our own behavior comes to function like other
things and events in the world*. We behave and we see that we behave,
and that seeing occasions other responses. These functions are all
mediated by one's physiology. This is the position that we must take
as scientists. Oh, and BTW, Ray, you clearly need to think about how
it is that spontaneously occurring behavior that is only very loosely
tied to stimuli comes to be controlled by stimuli in the

*And I have written extensively here about how such "self-awareness"
may be induced in non-human animals. Indeed, this is done on a daily
basis using the misnamed procedure called "drug discrimination,"
though science has yet to exploit the notion in other ways.

rscanlon at nycap.rr.com (ray scanlon) wrote in message news:<363d693e.0406291447.46ca520d at posting.google.com>...
> Glen M. Sizemore writes:

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