notes on the human brain

It has long been my view that we understand our world by means of an internally constructed neurological representation or mapping of our experiences, and that there are "hard-wired" components to this process.  The motor and sensory homunculi serve as examples, however are insufficient to provide a complete model. The massively parallel auto-associative memory model provides a general framework explanation that accounts for intelligence. However, that leaves a gap in the explanation of the processing.

Many years ago I began to think of the brain as having a preferred orientation for processing, but also having an overlay that allows transforming virtually any orientation into the preferred one - front center.  My exposure to "trainable arrays" used in both RADAR and SONAR provided one key.  Trainable arrays use programmable variable time delays to allow a RADAR or SONAR to "see" to one side without changing the physical orientation. Brains contain structures called "ramp architectures" that provide for differential integration. If you look straight ahead, and allow your "mind" to pay attention without moving the focus of your eyes to something in your peripheral vision, you will experience directly first hand the result comparable to the operation of such an array.  In the RADAR and SONAR cases, the result will be more like actually moving the eyes, because the "picture" will change.

I provided a strictly causal theory of reference, representation, and perception in my master's thesis. As a follow on to that work, it has become increasingly clear to me that we understand our environment only in terms of what we do in conjunction with what we experience.  The "doing" part has been virtually ignored in traditional explanations and research into understanding and memory.  Recent brain research has shown what the corresponding motor circuits are active whenever one just remembers or thinks about doing something.  Even recall of things seen involves the motor-control portions of the brain that involve controlling the senses.

In order to "know" something, we must also know how we know it in terms of what we were doing, where, when, and how. In the essential minimal structure presented that means we know that we are attending to our sensory input, and what orientation our senses have together with the motor patterns that lead up to this orientation. In philosophy, for example, talk of the "qualia" of "just seeing white" cannot be separated from the knowledge that we are actively engaged in the act of seeing. Attempts to experience a quale involve mental gyrations that attempt to disconnect the various previous actions from the perception.  As such it essentially becomes an act of high level abstraction.

We "know" only in relation to what we did and what we experienced.

Left angular gyrus - important for understanding metaphor.

The angular gyrus is more developed in humans than in other primates and is located in the brain at the junction of areas specialized for processing touch, hearing and vision. (1)

After implanting measuring devices to catch neurons firing in the hippocampuses of four rats, [researchers] let the animals run up and down a track with food at each end. Upon reaching the end of the track, the rats paused to eat, groom or just be still.

But their hippocampus cells were in a frenzy of activity. These cells are known to play a role in the formation of memories in rats and primates, including humans. By measuring the amount and location of the hippocampus cell firing, the researchers were able to determine that the neurons fired in the exact reverse order of the firing that occurred when the rat scurried from one end of the track to the other. In essence, the rats' brains replayed the recent route, possibly committing it to memory.

Scientific American: Rat Brain's Instant Replay May Be Key to Memory
When we imagine seeing a scene, our visual cortex is active. When we imagine moving our bodies, the pre-motor cortex and motor cortex are active. In short, some of the same parts of our brains are active in imagining as in perceiving and doing. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago Press, 2003, p. 257.

This page was updated by Ralph Kenyon on 2017-08-20 at 00:17 and has been accessed 1152 times at 21 hits per month.