First Causes

Alex Green dralexgreen at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Sep 10 11:45:30 EST 2004

"JPL Verhey" <matterDELminds at hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<41417f30$0$62376$5fc3050 at dreader2.news.tiscali.nl>...
> "Alex Green" <dralexgreen at yahoo.co.uk> wrote in message 
> news:42c8441.0409090810.15ac97f7 at posting.google.com...
> > "JPL Verhey" <matterDELminds at hotmail.com> wrote in message 
> > news:<413f7d4a$0$62371$5fc3050 at dreader2.news.tiscali.nl>...
> >> "Traveler" <traveler at nospam.com> wrote in message
>  ....
> >> > Correct. This is the primary reason that the idea (advanced by 
> >> > GOFAI)
> >> > that the brain creates a representation of the world is pure 
> >> > nonsense.
> >> > The brain does not see the world. It only sees what is in the 
> >> > brain.
> >>
> >> Indeed it doesn't directly see the world (otherwise we wouldn't need
> >> eyes and brains), but what is "seen in the brain" can without a 
> >> problem
> >> be called an internal representation, at least if you assume that it 
> >> is
> >> a pretty correct one. When you see a car coming right at you and it
> >> crashes into you.. and you wake up in a hospital later, the internal
> >> representation that told you there was a car crashing into you was 
> >> quite
> >> a correct one. (as opposed to for instance dreaming an accident)
> >
> > Curiously the form of the representation is not like 'reality', it is
> > a geometric form called a 'view'. This is a bit like what we would
> > imagine a point eye would see because of the path of light rays into a
> > point. But, as you point out, the 'view' is brain activity where there
> > is no point eye and no light rays flowing within it. (The 'point eye'
> > would not actually apply to the eyes themselves - there are two of
> > them and they have lenses). So the problem is simple: how could a zone
> > of brain activity give rise to a phenomenon with the geometry of a
> > 'view'? See:
> >
> > http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~lka/conz.htm
> Interesting stuff. As I understand it you conclude that the 'view' is a 
> distribution of vectors directly resulting from the geometry of the 
> brain, that point in the same direction. You also mention that 
> electro-chemical pathways themselves can be twisted around without 
> distoring the experience as long as the geometry of the neuro-chemical 
> transition points (synapses/clefts?) remains fixed.

This is actually a radical proposal for modern times. I am proposing,
in one strand of the theory, that a small area of brain, probably in
the ILN in the centre of the thalamus will be sensitive to mechanical
deformation. Mechanical stimulation of this area would, as a minimum
destabilise the EEG and cause drastic subjective effects such as
dizziness and delirium.

Unfortunately this is hard to check because a rough prod to the
centromedian nuclei usually results in unconsciousness, death, coma,
delirium etc. (you would not do it to a patient).

The rest of the brain, including the cerebral cortex would be
information processing modules where physical layout would not be
related to the our conscious experience that is a 'view'. In line with
this you can chop out much of the cortex (60% )at random and still
have a patient with conscious experience although the content is
impaired. Any of the cortex can be deformed without an effect on

>> Maybe I missed some of your points, but the image I have of the
brain is
> that those neuro-chemical transition points are spatially distributed, 
> but not "aimed" at anything, at least spatially. They are not like radio 
> telescopes focussing on the same point in space. What would remain, I'd 
> think, is that they all "point" in time to 'the next moment'. But time 
> only exists in terms of geometrical change. So, indeed, you come to 
> mention special relativity. My question then is how your 'vectors' 
> should be understood in terms of special-relativity in the context of 
> activities occuring at those geometrically fixed neuro-chemical 
> transition points. Maybe you can clarify.

In scientific terms what we are seeking is a transformation from known
physical phenomena to the geometry of the 'view'. In fact there are a
large numebr of possible transformations that could be mediated by
anything from QM to virtual photons (em fields).  I have chosen the
simplest which is the geometry of space-time itself.  It is good to
start simple so I have proposed that one possibility is that there is
a small region of thalamus, perhaps only a few cubic millimetres in
size, that, like much of the brain, contains a topographical
projection of sensation. If this were arranged as a spherical shell
the geometry of space-time predicts that this shell could be no
distance from a point a fraction of a nanosecond in the past. If
experience were itself this shell then one configuration of the shell
in four dimensions is a set of zero length vectors (along their path)
at a historical point. In other words the 'point eye' would not be due
to data flowing into a point, it would just be a natural configuration
of a spherical set of brain activity in 4 dimensions rather than 3.

There are other possibilities and exotic ways of formalising the
physical basis of the 'view' but given that the cortex does not
contain it but simply creates its content the activity of a small
volume of Thalamus seems a good starting point.

Of course, for this to work the entire underside of the sensory cortex
would need to send out cortico-thalamic projections.

> You also mention epiphenomalism and Libet. I don't have enough knowledge 
> of those experiments that you say make a strong case in favor of 
> epiphenomalism. But I'm suspicious here. I understand and subscribe to 
> the fact that conscious experience is not needed in many if not most of 
> the central nervous system's activities and body functions..included 
> many of the behaviors both physically and mentally of which we are only 
> aware 'after the fact', but this a IMO different from the claim that 
> mental and conscious processes can NEVER be part of any causal chain 
> that preceedes behavior, either physically (raising your arm) or 
> mentally (thinking). I would call this "radical epiphenomalism", as 
> opposed to the IMO more sensible notion that there are a number of 
> mental intentional behaviors without which certain behaviors simply can 
> never occur.

I would not maintain that conscious free will is impossible, just that
most actions are non-conscious and observed. The most striking aspect
of conscious experience is the way it is extended in time. You hear
whole words, not impossible sounds of zero duration. But when you hear
words or see movements they are all arranged in the right direction
"Hello" is heard as if it starts from the "he". But when we hear
"hello" the "he", and even the "o", is in the past. It is the same
with actions when we go to lift an arm the whole movement is in
experience so it seems as if all the components of the movement are
consciously executed. We believe this even though reason tells us that
the arm is already moving when we have this experience.

> "Free will" and conscious intentionality of course don't float in some 
> virtual reality and remotely-magically execute certain behaviors like a 
> devine control freak, like "a ghost operating its machine". You rightly 
> mention the interdependance of many conscious and unconscious processes. 
> But I just don't see the logic of attributing epiphenomality (if that's 
> proper english, and understood as "having no causal efficacy on any 
> behavior") only to conscious brain process and not to unconscious brain 
> process. Why wouldn't certain unconscious processes have epiphenomal 
> properties as well? After all, it is possible to think of the properties 
> of any physical event in brains, rocks etc.. as "epiphenomal". Every 
> event can be seen as the outcome of other causes.. The moment an event 
> is 'born' it explodes back into nothingness. Hence I would would say 
> that everything is an epiphenomen or nothing is.

A simple process like a reflex arc is not epiphenomal, the ventral
root neurone activity can be shown to cause the muscle contraction.
The behaviourists on this newsgroup are also partly right when they
maintain that much of behaviour is executed in skilled or reflex
blocks where cause and effect is quite clear.

> The compromise could be to say that all events are the 
> "epiphenomenal-creation" of other events, but always and "in their 
> moment of instant death" DO have a causal effect leading unavoidably to 
> the creation of new events. Now the conscious, intentional decision to 
> raise my arm, or go to the shop, is clearly able to (co-)create events 
> that DO lead up to the actual raising of my arm or going to the shop.
> In other words: many events participate in conscious and unconscious 
> (without clear-cut borders) brainprocess. They all branch out in 
> different causal chains (as observed in classical physics), and one of 
> those branches manifests conscious and intentional "free will" that can 
> make your arm move etc. That an intentional conscious act can have only 
> little to no impact on many other events - conscious and unconscious - 
> is no less surprising than that scratching my ass won't cause my house 
> tumbling down. :-)
> Further on you mention the concept of experiencing many things at the 
> same time and how that is possible - the 'binding problem'.  I have some 
> idea that is maybe too simple to be true: 
> http://home.tiscali.nl/boynalechmipo/bindingproblem.htm
> >
> >> >
> >> >> When I don't look at the moon, that
> >> >>experience-independent moon is still there - this is the assumption
> >> >>science
> >> >>works with and to which I subscribe as well.
> >
> > And if you have a good imagination or are adept at lucid dreaming you
> > can imagine a moon without seeing it. There is a mental space that can
> > contain either sensations or dreams.
> Indeed.
> [..]
> I'll read some more of your site and perhaps comment more later.

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