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> The unsolved problems in Neuroscience...
alexis_
post Oct 19, 2009, 01:39 PM
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I've been attempting to collect all the unsolved problems in Neuroscience and make a list, as well as for every other science in hopes of progressing knowledge. Even just a little bit. If you're interested in helping with what Chemistry knowledge you have, you can come join an intellectual community and help us solve the big problems left in the World.

Support science and the progress of knowledge. Learn and discuss currently-reigning theories, the newest breakthroughs and the problems with concepts at hand.

Together, we can help science move forward.

PHYSICS | CHEMISTRY | BIOLOGY | ASTRONOMY | PHILOSOPHY | PSYCHOLOGY | GEOLOGY


www . humanswers . net

/alexis
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Hey Hey
post Oct 19, 2009, 02:57 PM
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And here's me thinking that is what we are trying to do right here.
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GodConsciousness
post Oct 20, 2009, 05:07 AM
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QUOTE(Hey Hey @ Oct 19, 2009, 06:57 PM) *

And here's me thinking that is what we are trying to do right here.


ditto!
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alexis_
post Oct 20, 2009, 12:06 PM
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QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Oct 20, 2009, 05:07 AM) *

QUOTE(Hey Hey @ Oct 19, 2009, 06:57 PM) *

And here's me thinking that is what we are trying to do right here.


ditto!


My site was attempting to categorize the knowledge via "problem" to try and sort out the best theories from the lesser ones, in an attempt to solve them. Obviously people are already discussing such things here, my aim was simply to put much more of an emphasis on targetting the problems and framing them so that people could focus on there possible solutions and shortcomings.

Thanks for checking it out, if you did

Alexis
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GodConsciousness
post Oct 20, 2009, 12:08 PM
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QUOTE(alexis_ @ Oct 20, 2009, 04:06 PM) *

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Oct 20, 2009, 05:07 AM) *

QUOTE(Hey Hey @ Oct 19, 2009, 06:57 PM) *

And here's me thinking that is what we are trying to do right here.


ditto!


My site was attempting to categorize the knowledge via "problem" to try and sort out the best theories from the lesser ones, in an attempt to solve them. Obviously people are already discussing such things here, my aim was simply to put much more of an emphasis on targetting the problems and framing them so that people could focus on there possible solutions and shortcomings.

Thanks for checking it out, if you did

Alexis


Alexis- what do you see as some of the key unsolved mysteries in neuroscience?
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alexis_
post Oct 20, 2009, 01:04 PM
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QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Oct 20, 2009, 12:08 PM) *

QUOTE(alexis_ @ Oct 20, 2009, 04:06 PM) *

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Oct 20, 2009, 05:07 AM) *

QUOTE(Hey Hey @ Oct 19, 2009, 06:57 PM) *

And here's me thinking that is what we are trying to do right here.


ditto!


My site was attempting to categorize the knowledge via "problem" to try and sort out the best theories from the lesser ones, in an attempt to solve them. Obviously people are already discussing such things here, my aim was simply to put much more of an emphasis on targetting the problems and framing them so that people could focus on there possible solutions and shortcomings.

Thanks for checking it out, if you did

Alexis


Alexis- what do you see as some of the key unsolved mysteries in neuroscience?



I have a particular penchant for the hard and easy problems of consciousness, the acquisition of language, and a HUGE passion for studies of cerebral asymmetry. Ever since reading one of Gazzaniga's articles on the elimination of the neural tracts adjoining hemispheres and the subsequent division of "minds" within the 2 hemispheres it's gotten me asking a lot of big questions.

That, and the potential of Libet's readiness potential (pun?) and its implications on the "ownership" of one's actions.

Those, to me, are the 4 largest problems in neuroscience. Or, perhaps, just the ones that I enjoy pondering the most. I would like to pose questions like those on my site and have a particular subforum for each question to properly categorize the information and have a chance at exposing the most fruitful meanas of thinking about them.

And yourself? What do you think are the largest problems in Neuroscience?
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Rick
post Oct 20, 2009, 04:04 PM
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I think the hardest question of philosophy and neuroscience is this one:

Why is it that there should be something that it is like to be a person? I.e., the hard-hard problem of consciousness.

Another way to frame this is to ask "what is consciousness for?" Nature would not select for it unless it were useful. It seems to play a role in memory. That is, few things get recorded in memory that do not first pass through consciousness. It also plays a role in attention. People who "drive" while talking on a cell phone, for instance, perform the driving task quite poorly, due, supposedly, to the lack of consciousness devoted that task.

So, my hypothesis is that consciousness is "for" memory and performance of critical tasks. If we can show that brain-like computers can't do either one without consciousness, then we may get somewhere. Unfortunately, electronic computer analogs (robots) don't seem to have a similar problem: they perform quite well completely unconsciously.

This implies that consciousness may be a fluke of evolution, and one that might even disappear one day. That is, our machine-hybrid descendants may evolve toward unconsciousness. It would be a pity, in my opinion.
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alexis_
post Oct 31, 2009, 01:06 AM
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everyone seems so unwilling to even try this. people can rag on me for trying to let others know about my site, or they'll PM me and say that this list is so infinite that it's endless and that you can't discuss what you don't know.

that's garbage. of course you can discuss what you don't know, because that's the only way things ever advance. if this list of unsolved problems is so infinite, why not share a few instead of just downplaying the problem(s) and my attempts to solve them with a communal site for all sciences?

or people will tell me it's just spam, which is also irrational. i can see my post being spam if i'd posted to numerous categories, or numerous times, or under several different names to escape being labelled a spammer. but i didn't. i posted to one category, once, and am not trying to sell anyone anything.

if you ask me -- and nobody did, but here's what i think -- people who tell me this list of unsolved problems in science is "infinite", "a waste of time", "spam" or any number of other cut-ups are merely covering up for the fact that they consider themselves smart but don't have any intelligent replies or contributions.

alexis

ps. thank you rick, for an intelligent and appropriate contribution.
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lucid_dream
post Oct 31, 2009, 09:40 AM
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there are many unsolved problems in neuroscience. Key among them is understanding how the brain is wired together at the single synapse level. Another big problem is understanding how the brain computes. Consciousness is a big problem too, but neuroscience is not ready yet to fully address that one. The first step towards understanding the brain is to fully determine how it's wired together, at the single axon (and single synapse) level. Without this understanding, neuroscience will continue to do what it has been doing for decades, which is to get little pieces of the puzzle, but unable to synthesize them into the bigger picture; the bigger picture is possible only when the underlying connectional organization of the brain is fully mapped out. There are several groups of researchers engaged in this now, using vastly different approaches, which will yield some very interesting results in the coming years.

Alexis, I would be surprised if your site considered these neuroscience problems in any depth. To formulate a list of neuroscience problems, without understanding the current state of the art in neuroscience research, is a wasted effort, in my opinion.

In terms of providing a forum for researchers to come together to discuss problems, this has already been done. This forum is an example of it, and though it was not the first, it did and still does fill a niche. Forum discussions are not the most ideal medium for communicating ideas in many cases. Online forum discussion is convenient but will not invalidate other approaches like face-to-face contact, email and phone. Providing yet another forum at this stage in the game is too little, too late. But again, this is just my opinion.
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GodConsciousness
post Oct 31, 2009, 09:48 AM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Oct 31, 2009, 01:40 PM) *

The first step towards understanding the brain is to fully determine how it's wired together, at the single axon (and single synapse) level. Without this understanding, neuroscience will continue to do what it has been doing for decades, which is to get little pieces of the puzzle, but unable to synthesize them into the bigger picture; the bigger picture is possible only when the underlying connectional organization of the brain is fully mapped out. There are several groups of researchers engaged in this now, using vastly different approaches, which will yield some very interesting results in the coming years.


At last LD- synaptic mapping!
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lucid_dream
post Oct 31, 2009, 09:55 AM
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QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Oct 31, 2009, 10:48 AM) *

QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Oct 31, 2009, 01:40 PM) *

The first step towards understanding the brain is to fully determine how it's wired together, at the single axon (and single synapse) level. Without this understanding, neuroscience will continue to do what it has been doing for decades, which is to get little pieces of the puzzle, but unable to synthesize them into the bigger picture; the bigger picture is possible only when the underlying connectional organization of the brain is fully mapped out. There are several groups of researchers engaged in this now, using vastly different approaches, which will yield some very interesting results in the coming years.


At last LD- synaptic mapping!


yes, i will post more on this, soon...
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astroidea
post Oct 31, 2009, 01:14 PM
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I'm interested in how our brain forms our egos, aka self construct. Our ego is made up of all our experiences, learning, beliefs, and memories. I'm interested in how our brain associates attitudes to different parts of our ego, and how that plays in the role of goal making and motivation.
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lucid_dream
post Oct 31, 2009, 01:55 PM
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QUOTE(astroidea @ Oct 31, 2009, 02:14 PM) *

I'm interested in how our brain forms our egos, aka self construct. Our ego is made up of all our experiences, learning, beliefs, and memories. I'm interested in how our brain associates attitudes to different parts of our ego, and how that plays in the role of goal making and motivation.


i'm very interested in that too, and i think the best approach to rigorously answering those questions requires having the wiring diagram for the brain, at the single axon level. Higher level, or more abstract approaches, invariably result in hand waving and questionable leaps of logic, which is basically what psychology (and philosophy of mind) amounts to. Only grounding explanations in neural circuitry will fully address questions pertaining to mind. Many philosophers will probably discount this, but collectively they have made little to no progress in explaining the neural basis of consciousness, though many are good at spinning webs of empty verbiage. The circuit diagram of the brain is what more people should be striving towards, in whatever capacity they can (we don't just need people to do the mapping, but we also need people to better communicate the importance of this to the lay public, and to perform other roles). But in any event, there are enough people working on this problem now, that it will be resolved in the near future, and when we have a circuit diagram for the brain, it will provide a revelation about brain structure and function that is sorely lacking today, and will likely provide a quantum leap towards addressing questions of mind and consciousness.
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astroidea
post Oct 31, 2009, 02:23 PM
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Good point. Discovering how our brain circuitry works in relation to our ego will probably provide the foundation to understanding consciousness and all it's different variations between moods, mental states, and organisms.

I'm also interested in perception, which aims to explain the how of experience. Perhaps learning about perception would provide us with a groundwork of how our brain encodes information to ultimately store it. We already know that there is a very vivid storage of our perceptions. Stimulations and seizures of the temporal lobe can produce very vivid reliving of past experiences.

Discussing about this subject makes me have an increased appreciation for the work at my university at UC Riverside. smile.gif
There's a professor working on the neural circuitry of neuroplasticity. Eg, how a violinist becomes more and more natural and autonomous at playing through experience, and how neural density and mass expands with it. There's a professor working on learning and memory at a cellular level - LTP. I'm working with a professor on perception. There's another professor working on neurolinguistics, which would explain how we process, comprehend, and communicate information through language.
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post Nov 01, 2009, 09:20 AM
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Great job Astro! Let us know what you find out! As for me, my quest is simple, but very meaninful to me: I'm interested in a total understanding of the difference between thought and action.
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 02, 2009, 07:06 AM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Oct 31, 2009, 04:55 PM) *


i'm very interested in that too, and i think the best approach to rigorously answering those questions requires having the wiring diagram for the brain, at the single axon level. Higher level, or more abstract approaches, invariably result in hand waving and questionable leaps of logic, which is basically what psychology (and philosophy of mind) amounts to. Only grounding explanations in neural circuitry will fully address questions pertaining to mind. Many philosophers will probably discount this, but collectively they have made little to no progress in explaining the neural basis of consciousness, though many are good at spinning webs of empty verbiage. The circuit diagram of the brain is what more people should be striving towards, in whatever capacity they can (we don't just need people to do the mapping, but we also need people to better communicate the importance of this to the lay public, and to perform other roles).


For better or for worse LD, I think you are right on in regards to philosophers of mind using "questionable leaps of logic" in their discussions and assessments of the neural basis of consciousness. There is simply only so far intuition and logic divorced from empirically based scientific investigations can go before they run into the reality of the physically based brain. Coming from a strong emphasis in philosophy during my intellectual maturation, this has been a sometimes painful and confusing realization. Theories of mind divorced from scientific empiricism seem to be often coupled with feats of fantasy and imagination. While such imaginative thinking in regards to the brain may be worthwhile in their own right, constructing beliefs and dare I say knowledge on questionable leaps of logic seems untenable and simply illogical in the end. What is quite remarkable, however, is that the true reality of the brain appears much more sophisticated and complex than any of our wild imaginings.
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 02, 2009, 12:41 PM
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QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 02, 2009, 06:06 PM) *

For better or for worse LD, I think you are right on in regards to philosophers of mind using "questionable leaps of logic" in their discussions and assessments of the neural basis of consciousness.

Hi GD,

I'm not quite sure of your angle. Which parties do you think have committed questionable leaps of logic -- those who say "the mind is nothing more than the activity of the brain" or those who say "the mind, or at least some part of it, is independent of the brain"?
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lucid_dream
post Nov 02, 2009, 01:22 PM
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QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 02, 2009, 01:41 PM) *

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 02, 2009, 06:06 PM) *

For better or for worse LD, I think you are right on in regards to philosophers of mind using "questionable leaps of logic" in their discussions and assessments of the neural basis of consciousness.

Hi GD,

I'm not quite sure of your angle. Which parties do you think have committed questionable leaps of logic -- those who say "the mind is nothing more than the activity of the brain" or those who say "the mind, or at least some part of it, is independent of the brain"?


both of those statements are leaps of logic, though the former is probably more amenable to reason.

I don't mean to come down so hard on philosophers of mind and psychologists. I think a large part of the problem is that human imagination is very limited. Left to our own devices, in the absence of empirical data, we cannot conceive how a brain can give rise to a mind. This is what philosophers have been doing for millenia, with little success. Their failure to resolve the mind-brain problem is a reflection of the limitations of human imagination. The hope of many a neuroscientist is that Nature will provide the answer if we but examine her closely enough; that she will provide the requisite clues to give us an 'aha' moment, where the pieces come together, and where we finally understand what previously was inconceivable.
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 02, 2009, 02:51 PM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Nov 02, 2009, 04:22 PM) *

QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 02, 2009, 01:41 PM) *

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 02, 2009, 06:06 PM) *

For better or for worse LD, I think you are right on in regards to philosophers of mind using "questionable leaps of logic" in their discussions and assessments of the neural basis of consciousness.

Hi GD,

I'm not quite sure of your angle. Which parties do you think have committed questionable leaps of logic -- those who say "the mind is nothing more than the activity of the brain" or those who say "the mind, or at least some part of it, is independent of the brain"?


both of those statements are leaps of logic, though the former is probably more amenable to reason.

I don't mean to come down so hard on philosophers of mind and psychologists. I think a large part of the problem is that human imagination is very limited. Left to our own devices, in the absence of empirical data, we cannot conceive how a brain can give rise to a mind. This is what philosophers have been doing for millenia, with little success. Their failure to resolve the mind-brain problem is a reflection of the limitations of human imagination. The hope of many a neuroscientist is that Nature will provide the answer if we but examine her closely enough; that she will provide the requisite clues to give us an 'aha' moment, where the pieces come together, and where we finally understand what previously was inconceivable.


The leaps of logic I am referring to (perhaps not necessarily the same as those of LD) pertain to contemporary philosophers of mind such as John Searle and David Chalmers in the more mainstream philosophy circles and perhaps Ken Wilber on the "progressive" left. Historically, we could look at philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Hegel and Wittgenstein to see additional examples of "questionable leaps of logic". They each present some interesting theories of mind but the neuroscience supporting their theories tends to be either weak or non-existent. If philosophy of mind is going to have any credibility in the present era, it will have to be tied closely to contemporary neuroscience. Unfortunately however, recent amalgams have tended to be rather awkward and strained.
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 03, 2009, 01:39 AM
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Thanks, lucid and GD

(hello again, lucid!)

This is also one of my favourite things to think about. For me, one of the unsolved problems of neuroscience is to show that a mental state can be understood only by investigating a neural state. In other words, to look at a neural state and ascertain the characteristics of the mental state it causes. This ought to be possible if mental states are nothing but neural states. To quote B. Alan Wallace (italics my own):

QUOTE
Some philosophers claim that neuroscientists and behaviorists indirectly observe mental events by directly observing brain functions and behavior that are related to the mind. If that were true, on the basis of their physical observations, they should be able to tell what the mental events are that they are indirectly observing, without relying on first-person reports of subjective experiences. But they can do nothing of the kind. Without such reports based on the direct experience of the mind, they wouldn’t even know that mental events occur, let alone know what they are or what they are about. This fact undermines the widespread and virtually unchallenged notion that mental events are emergent properties of configurations of neurons, similar to the way a wide range of physical properties emerge from other, more basic physical processes.


Now to quote you, lucid:

QUOTE
...in the absence of empirical data, we cannot conceive how a brain can give rise to a mind.


You suggest that we need empirical data in order to understand how a brain can give rise to a mind. I think this highlights an approach you may be adopting: "given that the brain gives rise to the mind, we need empirical evidence to understand how this happens." The assumption is that the brain does indeed give rise to the mind -- we just need empirical data in order to understand how. So it seems to me that you begin your reflections or investigations from within the materialist camp, working on the accepted assumption that the brain causes the mind. That assumption is not an hypothesis being tested, it's a given. You're seeking empirical evidence to explain how the assumption could be the case (or rather, how the assumption is the case).

QUOTE
The hope of many a neuroscientist is that Nature will provide the answer if we but examine her closely enough; that she will provide the requisite clues to give us an 'aha' moment, where the pieces come together, and where we finally understand what previously was inconceivable.


So say we all smile.gif

My personal feeling is that the 'aha' moment will come more readily from directly investigating the mind than from investigating the brain. That's not a neuroscientific approach, of course -- it's a meditative one. I think neuroscience is extremely useful for many things, but that realising the ultimate nature of the mind is probably not one of the things it's useful for.
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post Nov 03, 2009, 07:05 AM
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QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 03, 2009, 01:39 AM) *

My personal feeling is that the 'aha' moment will come more readily from directly investigating the mind than from investigating the brain. That's not a neuroscientific approach, of course -- it's a meditative one. I think neuroscience is extremely useful for many things, but that realising the ultimate nature of the mind is probably not one of the things it's useful for.

I hope you're right! What a delicious thought! Welcome back, by the way...
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lucid_dream
post Nov 03, 2009, 02:35 PM
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hi Lao, i should clarify my statement about brain giving rise to mind, as if mind were a separate thing. I do not believe mind is separate from brain. They are one and the same, viewed from different perspectives. And because they are one and the same, we can gain more insight by viewing mind from a different, and more precise, perspective; i.e., by comprehending the brain.

There is a good analogy. When you first study logic gates, at the single gate level (AND, OR, NOT, etc.), it is inconceivable how a collection of logic gates, wired together, can ever give rise to something like a computer. But when you walk meticulously through the process, of seeing how logic gates can form a half adder, and then onto a CPU, and then onto a computer, you reach a new level of understanding. What was previously inconceivable is now readily understandable. That is one reason I believe that an intelligent strategy to approach mind is through understanding how neurons, connected together in a certain way, and interacting in various ways, can give rise to mind and consciousness, which is currently inconceivable for us...
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 04, 2009, 04:52 AM
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Thanks Lucid, that is a very useful clarification!

Perhaps, since you say that you believe mind and brain are one and the same but viewed from different perspectives, you would agree that perhaps the mind-brain problem is basically a category error, as described here (Wikipedia).

I'm not familiar with how the linguistic criticism would resolve my questions, though, which follow...

Your analogy with the computer is salutary. Through close examination we can understand how a very complex arrangement of logic gates, combined with an electric current and various electronic devices, gives rise to a computer. So we can understand the processing of information in this way. Information can be processed by a large number of carefully arranged, simple units, giving rise to something very complex.

The analogy is great as far as it goes, which is as far as information processing. Perhaps it is not meant to go any further. But it doesn't speak to the question of consciousness. (Perhaps the linguistic criticism would make this a non-question -- I'm not sure.) A brain processes information analogously to a computer, but we also have a consciousness of the information being processed, an internal, first-person awareness (and then awareness of awareness, and so forth) as well as awareness of things like seeing blue or hearing music. This does not seem to happen with a computer (although we actually have no way of verifying this one way or the other -- but then, strictly speaking, we have no way of verifying whether other people really see blue or hear music).

Anyway. That question is the 'hard problem', of course. So while I think the computational analogy points to a way for neuroscience to understand how the brain processes information, I don't think it points to a way for neuroscience to understand consciousness.
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 04, 2009, 05:09 AM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Nov 03, 2009, 05:35 PM) *

hi Lao, i should clarify my statement about brain giving rise to mind, as if mind were a separate thing. I do not believe mind is separate from brain. They are one and the same, viewed from different perspectives. And because they are one and the same, we can gain more insight by viewing mind from a different, and more precise, perspective; i.e., by comprehending the brain.

There is a good analogy. When you first study logic gates, at the single gate level (AND, OR, NOT, etc.), it is inconceivable how a collection of logic gates, wired together, can ever give rise to something like a computer. But when you walk meticulously through the process, of seeing how logic gates can form a half adder, and then onto a CPU, and then onto a computer, you reach a new level of understanding. What was previously inconceivable is now readily understandable. That is one reason I believe that an intelligent strategy to approach mind is through understanding how neurons, connected together in a certain way, and interacting in various ways, can give rise to mind and consciousness, which is currently inconceivable for us...


Although perhaps a rough and overly simplistic analogy, I see the brain as being similar to any other organ in the body. The heart, for example, helps to pump and circulate blood. Circulating blood is what the heart does. We can better understand the heart by closely examining the valves and overall physical structure. Similarly, the living brain "thinks" and has consciousness. Despite the phenomenal experiences we have of thinking, it is still a process that is driven by an organ similar to "circulating". Much of the history of the philosophy of mind seems to be riddled by this experience we call "thinking". And yet, thinking appears as biological as "circulating". Both processes may strike us as rather miraculous and perhaps even transcendental. And yet, do we thereby need to assert some kind of hackneyed dualism to understand such processes?

While thinking and consciousness are undoubtedly two of the most sophisticated and complex functions of biological structures, they are nevertheless in the end biological. Our minds seem to have a difficult time fully grasping this perhaps due in part to the primacy we assign to thinking. And yet both thinking and circulating can be attributed to organic organization. As we better understand the biology of the brain, it is likely that we will have a clearer picture of how this exceptional organ gives rise to thought, awareness, and personal consciousness.
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 04, 2009, 05:58 AM
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That's interesting, GC.

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 04, 2009, 04:09 PM) *

The heart, for example, helps to pump and circulate blood. Circulating blood is what the heart does. We can better understand the heart by closely examining the valves and overall physical structure. Similarly, the living brain "thinks" and has consciousness.


Your analogy is salutary, too: the heart pumps blood; the brain 'pumps' consciousness. Well, it's true that when we examine the heart we find it pumping blood. But there the analogy fails, because when we examine the brain we find it pumping neurochemical and neuroelectrical signals, not consciousness. We have found physical, neural events; we have not found mental events.

It is only later, when we admit reports based upon a direct, first-person experience of the mind, that we can start to correlate neural processes with mental states. We find consciousness only when we use direct, first-person contemplation.

If it was true that we did find mental events (or consciousness) when we examined the brain, then we should be able to say what those mental events are (or what the consciousness is conscious of) by examining only the brain, without any recourse to first-person reports. But we cannot.

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 04, 2009, 04:09 PM) *

And yet, do we thereby need to assert some kind of hackneyed dualism to understand such processes?

Well, I'm not suggesting any kind of dualism, but I'd prefer to steer clear of ontology for the time being. Buddhist philosophy does not believe that the mind is completely dependent on the brain, but Buddhists are not dualists. That may raise questions (which is understandable, as substance dualism is the only alternative to materialism that most Westerners are familiar with) but they aren't relevant to the unsolved problems of neuroscience. In the interests of topic relevance, let's leave the ontology here for the time being and stick to the neuroscience.
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lucid_dream
post Nov 04, 2009, 10:19 AM
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QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 04, 2009, 05:52 AM) *

The analogy is great as far as it goes, which is as far as information processing. Perhaps it is not meant to go any further. But it doesn't speak to the question of consciousness. (Perhaps the linguistic criticism would make this a non-question -- I'm not sure.) A brain processes information analogously to a computer, but we also have a consciousness of the information being processed, an internal, first-person awareness (and then awareness of awareness, and so forth) as well as awareness of things like seeing blue or hearing music. This does not seem to happen with a computer (although we actually have no way of verifying this one way or the other -- but then, strictly speaking, we have no way of verifying whether other people really see blue or hear music).

Anyway. That question is the 'hard problem', of course. So while I think the computational analogy points to a way for neuroscience to understand how the brain processes information, I don't think it points to a way for neuroscience to understand consciousness.



yes, it's a very hard problem. But, my computer analogy was not limited to computation. That is my belief, that by reverse engineering the brain, which involves a complete mapping of connections at single axon level, that the result will provide a revelation about brain function that is not limited to computation, but may well extend into consciousness.

Our imagination is very limited. We cannot currently conceive how billions of neurons can be associated with our conscious experience. But by mapping precisely how neurons are connected and interact with each other, we will receive insight and understanding that is beyond our current collective imaginative capabilities.
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post Nov 04, 2009, 12:33 PM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Nov 04, 2009, 10:19 AM) *

by mapping precisely how neurons are connected and interact with each other, we will receive insight and understanding that is beyond our current collective imaginative capabilities.

And how far have we advanced in this regard? From what I've read we can now understand some sensory abilities at the molecular level in the brain of a worm. That leads me to wonder in awe how much further we've got to go yet.
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post Nov 04, 2009, 01:17 PM
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CB, here is a good article from Nature.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/...l/4611149a.html

In short, the neural circuit diagram of the worm, comprised of 300 neurons, was mapped out in 1986, after more than 10 years of work, using serial section transmission electron microscopy. Within the past 5 yrs, new technologies have appeared that make the next step in neural circuit mapping possible. The most promising of these, in my opinion, is serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, which automates the process of imaging specimens at nanoscale resolution. What this means is that the complete circuit diagram for the mouse brain is on the horizon and is expected within the coming years.

But for something like the complete circuit diagram of the human brain, this is still a long ways off, due to its sheer size, though technological innovations could change everything.
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post Nov 04, 2009, 05:15 PM
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Looking at bigger and bigger tangled bundles of wires does not seem promising for understanding anything. The key to understanding how consciousness arises might lie in a single synapse. Or it might not lie anywhere. The medium problem (how consciousness?) might not be solveable. The hard problem is "why consciousness?"
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post Nov 04, 2009, 07:55 PM
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QUOTE(Rick @ Nov 04, 2009, 05:15 PM) *

The hard problem is "why consciousness?"

Cool! So, it may turn out to be not how much we know, but how much we dare to dream! Or some combination of the two!
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