Monday, April 7, 2008

Neuroscience Production theory v.s The Transmission Theory

As Professor Sir William James pointed out there is more than one imaginable functional dependence of the mind and brain relationship. Now the production theory is more simpler than the transmission theory which is why most neuroscientists are in favor of it however that does not mean it is the correct one.

Evidence that fits into the Transmission theory of the mind and brain for example are

1. The reality of psi has been experimentally established beyond any reasonable doubt, and any viable theory of human personality will have to accommodate this fact.

2. Evidence of post-mortem survival. The amount and quality of such evidence is impressive, although it is little known outside the psi research community. In suggesting that some aspects of mind including procedural and declarative memories may persist independently of the physical organism, it presents the most stark and direct challenge conceivable to prevailing views. Serious and able students of this evidence remain divided about its proper interpretation, but the subject clearly merits intense further investigation.

3. Mystical experience. Previous workers such as William James, Aldous Huxley, and Walter Stace have demonstrated convincingly that there is a fundamental commonality to these powerful experiences which unites them as a class throughout recorded history and across diverse religious cultures. What has not been so clearly recognized is that their strong truth claims receive empirical support from the verifiable effects such experiences produce in the lives of those who have them. These effects may include, for example, incursions of psi abilities, increases in reading speed and other readily-measured cognitive skills, etc. Another relevant feature new since James’ time is that we now have a lot of information about transformative practices, and a large cadre of active practitioners, which should make the phenomena more accessible to study.

4. Near-Death Experiences. At least some such experiences appear to occur under physiological conditions which most neuroscientists would expect to be incapable of supporting any kind of organized mental activity, let alone the complex and powerful experiences that sometimes occur. A recent example is a case reported by Michael Sabom, involving an NDE that occurred during a drastic medical procedure for repair of a cerebral aneurysm (see Bruce Greyson’s presentation). The increasing use of multidimensional physiological monitoring in major surgical procedures can be expected to make additional cases of this important type available for detailed study.

5. Pschyedelic experiences. Huxley’s interpretation of such experiences as resulting from a suspension of the normal "filtering" action imposed by the brain should be revisited in light of more detailed information about the physiological modes of action of specific agents. Ketamine, for example, is a dissociative anesthetic, and a powerful entheogen at subanesthetic doses. It selectively disrupts the NMDA receptor system of the upper cortical layers, which plays a major role in tangential interactions among cortical areas, and yet such interactions are widely presumed to provide the normal physiological basis for organized perceptual and cognitive experience.

6. Multiple personality disorder and trance mediumship. Many unusual phenomena have been reported in such cases which appear to strain conventional theories of overall brain function. For example, in co-consciousness a personality B may be simultaneously aware of its own experience and that of personality A, but not vice-versa. Similarly, when an MPD subject stands in front of a mirror, different "alter" personalities may simultaneously have radically divergent visual experiences, e.g. seeing a young blond female vs. an old dark-haired male. In the case of "Old Stump", described by James, a background personality was apparently unaffected by an illness that produced concurrent delirium in the surface personality. The trance medium Mrs. Piper, discovered by William James, occasionally carried on interactions with three sitters at once, speaking to one and writing messages to the other two using both hands simultaneously. All such cases, conventionally viewed, seem to involve simultaneous engagement of major brain systems in different and potentially incompatible ways.

7. Calculating prodigies, especially "idiot savants". From a neurocomputational perspective, the only way to get greater logical and arithmetic precision out of individually unreliable elements (the neurons) is to use more of them, and the few existing studies of these fascinating phenomena suggest that savants must either be using virtually every neuron they have, or doing their calculations in some radically different way. Functional neuroimaging studies might quickly resolve this.

8. Intentionality, meaning, and the felt unity of conscious experience. The "aboutness" of our mental life, the fact that our thoughts, images, feelings, memories, … are experienced as being directed by ourselves, operating as unitary agents, toward external or internal states of affairs, remains a fundamental mystery despite recent discussions of the "binding problem" etc. These properties are fully present even in the simplest acts of perception, as recognized already by William McDougall in his 1911 book Body and Mind. Recent work on cross-modal interactions in perception has belied earlier characterizations of perception as a bottom-up calculation from the patterns of activity appearing at the receptors, and emphasized the role of top-down controls. But where is the "top", precisely? Philosopher Roland Puccetti has recently updated arguments originally advanced by James’ contemporary F. Brentano to the effect that this property of intentionality lies at the heart of the mind, and that it cannot conceivably arise in ANY physical system as presently understood.

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