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« on: June 20, 2008, 08:37:44 PM »

Sam: I posted this writing with the permission of the author, I think it is worthy of considering.

This is where dualists and materialists are talking past each other in this thread.

Let me begin by saying that you have a very valid question: if the transmission theory (TMT) is correct, understanding the mechanism for transmission is of vital importance. If no plausible mechanism can be found to test, then obviously, TMT is a non-starter. All of that said, materialism is in no better shape, with no plausible proposal that has survived empirical testing.

Let me also say that I think your reasoning is backwards here, as you seem to be admitting essentially the point I was making in our conversations earlier, which you vehemently denied (but then seemed to refuse to take me up on what I thought was a very reasonable challenge to prove my point). You're right: we understand neurons down to the very last molecule. We know how they're wired together. We understand the brain's circuitry almost completely. Yet mind continues to elude us. This seems to argue for the plausibility of dualism, not materialism.

So now: the question is pretty simple. Is there a plausible mechanism for how a non-brain-instantiated mind could communicate with the brain. Fortunately, I believe there are some available options, at least one of which already enjoys some experimental confirmation.

The mechanism I would propose is through the Sodium-Potassium pump. We know that normal EM transmissions (i.e. radio or television transmissions) work in a similar way. A field of sufficient strength can cause ions to perform in an organized fashion. In the case of radios and televisions, it is usually copper or aluminum ions that provide the receiver. Televisions and radios are typically powered quite differently, and with considerably more wattage passing through a smaller area, than human tissues are.

Since sodium and potassium are relatively lighter elements than copper (though potassium is heavier than aluminum), we would expect a lower strength field to be sufficient. Simultaneously, the relative lack of charge in the brain as compared to a radio or television, as well as the difference in frequency of oscillations, explains why we don't have radio shows playing in our heads (though I suspect radio and television waves do affect our consciousness in some ways that we haven't fully detected, and there is some data to support this). So suppose mind is a field, something like a Higgs field that has the ability to maintain coherence without a medium (some might say that Higgs fields are their own medium). This field is proposed as the non-brain part of the mind (if Higgs fields are determined not to exist--something we ought to know in a few years--then whatever replaces them is a likely candidate as whatever it would be must be capable of affecting electrons).

Modulations in this field affect the flow of ions--probably the flow of sodium ions for reasons I can go into if you'd like. If enough sodium ions are propagated across the ATPhase molecule, this will cause the neuron to fire, which would then cascade throughout the downstream neural circuitry. It should be noted that the relatively different permeability of the potassium and sodium channels guarantee that neurons will be firing all the time, providing plenty of potential energy for the field to re-arrange (thus preserving the law of conservation of energy). Simultaneously, and interestingly, unusual concentrations or patterns of axial firing would cause modulations in the field itself (this is why you can apply a little extra current along an antenna and produce weird effects on your television). Ions produce a field on their own of the less exotic EM variety.

The brain's function in the mind is to format and transmit sensory data, decode intention from the mind and calculate motor actions, and also to serve as a calculator. The field handles everything else, like phenomenal perceptions, intentions, and understanding. How it does so remains mysterious for now, but I suspect these things will turn out to be fundamental properties of fields, and perhaps of an underlying field.

We know that TMS (trans-cranial magnetic stimulation) works to produce some profound changes in consciousness. For instance, it can induce depression, blindsightedness, pain relief, and euphoria. This shows that the idea of a field having some effect on the ion channels of the brain is entirely plausible. Indeed, the brief sketch given above is how TMS is thought to work.

Now, this leaves open several questions. For one thing, we still wouldn't know how the field modulates itself. I have two points in response to this criticism.

First, our empiric investigations might well provide us a mechanism for self-modulation of a field or the specific field which is advanced here as being responsible for part of mind. I repeat once again that we have nearly exhausted our investigations of the brain qua brain. It seems pretty reasonable to suggest that we start looking at other alternatives to explain the mind.

Second, we don't really know how this might work for the brain, either--and we have spent a considerable amount of time investigating the brain empirically.

There are further advantages to admitting the plausibility of this theory. Among these:

1) if it can be tested and turns out to be correct, it will also provide a way to resolve the problems of histogenesis and organogenesis.

2) it would provide a good explanation for Libet's 1977 experiment.

3) it may also provide a means to solve the problems of animal navigation and related phenomena

4) it provides a means to explain psychosomatic influence

Again, it does pose further questions, and it would have to pass empiric testing. The point I'm making, however, is that there are plenty of ways the mind doesn't have to be beyond the ken of objective investigation. We have enough information in hand about the nature of the universe, and about the functioning of the brain, to come up with a fair few proposals that could be tested.

It occurs to me that in my haste I left out a fairly important piece of the above account, and I would like to preempt any criticism that might derive from that gap, so as not to be accused of ad-hoc defenses later.

What of brain damage cases?

One feature of the above account is that the brain does affect the mind regularly--indeed, is part of the mind. It provides almost constant feedback to the mind in the form of sense data, as well as other feedback that is probably more of a procedural kind.

Damaging the brain re-formats that feedback, which in turn results in the mind reacting differently. More importantly, since the proposed field would have the property of remaining organized without an organizing medium (actually, I think it's even more complex than this--I think the brain serves as part of the medium, and some levels of organization are lost upon death--just not all), different spatial regions of the field are responsible for different functions of mind, just as we find in the brain.

The question is going to inevitably rise just why, given the specifics of this account, we need to posit anything other than the brain in the first place. I would answer that while the relationships that exist within the general brain-field relationship probably are good rules of thumb, they are not always truly nomic relationships. This is why one person can suffer a type of brain damage and the result is sub-par intelligence, while another can suffer the same damage and overcome the injury, at times even acheiving greater ability than before.

Certain types of brain damage would result in a more or less uniform result across all cases. Split brain patients, for instance, all exhibit certain characteristics that remain constant. I suspect this is due to an asynchrony that arises between brain hemispheres as a result of their activity no longer being connected. This is something that likely could not be adjusted for by the field as a nomic relationship exists between oscillations in the brain and oscillations in the field itself. As Skeptician pointed out much earlier in this thread, such people maintain a sense of personal identity, which seems to undercut the notion of interpretting the results of split brain as supportive of materialism.

I would also again point out that we understand the brain but don't really understand mind; if the brain were responsible for mind, it seems that this wouldn't be the case.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2008, 08:41:35 PM by Sam » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2008, 10:19:26 PM »

With regards to brain damage, it has been well documented that the once thought "hard wire" of the brain is an incorrect assumption. That the brain is more like software; that can be reprogrammed through certain rehabilitation techniques. Even victims of stroke who have received de-habilitating injuries can overcome all deficiencies and lead normal lives even though the brain injury still exists.

This has been documented in case studies by Dr. Bach-y-Rita. He calls this "Plasticity of the Brain". In his case studies, he was able to reroute operational functions to uninjured portions of the brain without surgery by using simple rehabilitation techniques.

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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2008, 05:29:57 AM »

Great post, I found it very interesting to read!

This guys brain had been constantly shrinking since he was 14 years old and he lived a normal life.  He's in his mid 40s now, married, has two children, and works as a civil servant.

He's operating on only a fraction of a normal brain.  I do believe the brain can be reprogrammed, it's been shown time and time again when one part of the brain fails another part of the brain, given time, will sometimes pick up the duties of the failing part.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2008, 05:34:36 AM by RideTheWalrus » Logged
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