Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryNeuroscience

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Blume des Lebens mit Sternenkosmos und Lichtstreifen

The Science “Advances” Disproving the Mind Are Ever More Elusive

A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear

University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth, author of Being You: A new science of consciousness (October 2021), is quite determined to stamp put consciousness as an immaterial idea. It’s “stubbornly mysterious,” according to Tim Adams for The Guardian. But, we are assured, “Advances in understanding how the brain functions undermine those ideas of dualism, however.” But those advances prove increasingly elusive. From the interview: Anil Seth: It’s the boring answer of continuing to do rigorous science, rather than proposing some eureka solution to “the hard problem” [the question of why and how our brains create subjective, conscious experience]. My approach is that we risk not understanding the central mystery of life by lurching to one or other form of magical…

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Inside the brain. Concept of neurons and nervous system.

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the Timing of Sensory Processing

One neuroscientist, encountering the timing, made up a theory that didn’t really work, but he was a great neuroscientist anyway

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with host Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, Dr. Egnor talked about the troubles of being a non-materialist medical scientist, including demands that he be fired and death threats and so forth. In this segment, he talks about the meaning of “soul” in philosophy. Not a “spook” of some kind but common sense reasoning about life and death: Arjuna Das: So there’s a delay in how long it takes for the brain to process visual sensations compared to auditory sensations. So it’s a half second delay and this creates a problem. … We have no free will then. (01:57:50) Michael Egnor: If I can…

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Active nerve cells

How Complex Is a Single Neuron in Your Brain?

An artificial intelligence network did not do nearly as well

Every single neuron in your brain is this complex: Today, the most powerful artificial intelligence systems employ a type of machine learning called deep learning. Their algorithms learn by processing massive amounts of data through hidden layers of interconnected nodes, referred to as deep neural networks. As their name suggests, deep neural networks were inspired by the real neural networks in the brain, with the nodes modeled after real neurons — or, at least, after what neuroscientists knew about neurons back in the 1950s, when an influential neuron model called the perceptron was born. Since then, our understanding of the computational complexity of single neurons has dramatically expanded, so biological neurons are known to be more complex than artificial ones.…

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Electrocardiogram in hospital surgery operating emergency room showing patient heart rate with blur team of surgeons background

Why Some Scientists Think Consciousness Persists After Death

We should not assume that pepole who are near death do not know what we are saying

A very significant change that happened in the last century or so has been the ability of science professionals to see what happens when people are thinking, especially under traumatic conditions. It was not a good moment for materialist theories. Here is one finding (there are many others): Death is a process, usually, not simply an event. Consciousness can persists after clinical death. A more accurate way of putting things might be that the brain is able to host consciousness for a short period after clinical death. Some notes on recent findings: The short answer is, probably, yes: Recent studies have shown that animals experience a surge in brain activity in the minutes after death. And people in the first…

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human memory loss

Our Brains Break DNA in Order to Learn More Quickly

Memory loss in old age may be easier to understand if we know more about the mechanisms our brains are using to keep key memories intact

An interesting 2015 discovery sheds some light on memory issues: The urgency to remember a dangerous experience requires the brain to make a series of potentially dangerous moves: Neurons and other brain cells snap open their DNA in numerous locations — more than previously realized, according to a new study — to provide quick access to genetic instructions for the mechanisms of memory storage. David Orenstein, “Memory-making involves extensive DNA breaking” at MIT News (July 14, 2021) The paper is open access. Jordana Cepelowicz explains an “unsettling” discovery made by Li-Huei Tsai’s team at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory: … to express learning and memory genes more quickly, brain cells snap their DNA into pieces at many key…

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Ultrasonic transducer on the blue background

A Neuroscience Theory That Actually Helps Explain the Brain

Robert Epstein’s “transducer” theory is an instance of getting something right

Many of my posts here at Mind Matters News entail debunking nonsensical materialist theories of the mind–brain relationship. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do so. But, at times, thoughtful and very promising ideas are proposed by modern neuroscientists. One of those ideas is discussed in an essay in Discover Magazine by neuroscientist Robert Epstein. Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He proposes that we re-examine a theory that has had a number of prominent proponents over the past several centuries. It is the theory that the brain is a type of…

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AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. Deep learning. Mindfulness. Psychology.

Is Brain Science Helping Us Understand Belief in God?

To the extent that materialist researchers are still looking for a God switch in the brain, no, it doesn’t

A recent article about a Harvard neuroscientist’s research on the correlates of religious experience in the brain raises many familiar questions about the relevance of neuroscience to religious experience. Michael Ferguson is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. He grew up as a Mormon and was quite religious. But, he reports, his beliefs have changed. That’s probably fairly common at Harvard –- there is a pervasive and palpable bias against serious religious beliefs in many of our leading universities. Nonetheless, Ferguson thought, As a scientist, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these types of [religious] experiences that made them feel so rich and so profound. Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at The Scientist (Jul 13, 2021)…

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man before big brain

Can Science Really Engineer a Bigger Human Brain?

Computational neuroscientist Daniel Graham wonders why we would bother. There is no strict relationship between brain size and intellectual achievement

In a three-part series at Psychology Today, Hobart and William Smith College computational neuroscientist Daniel Graham, author of An Internet in Your Head: A New Paradigm for How the Brain Works(2021), tackles that question: First, most parts of the human brain are already larger than they should be for an animal life form of our size. But the difference is hardly commensurate with average human intelligence vs. average chimpanzee intelligence. Sure enough: Neuroscientists have struggled to explain what our extra brain mass actually accomplishes. The best guess seems to be that, at the species level, our extra brain mass allows us to store more lifetime memories. One piece of evidence for this is that bigger-brained (and therefore bigger-bodied) mammals also…

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cuttlefish

Cuttlefish Have Good Memories, Even in Old Age

They are cephalopods and many types of cephalopod show a number of intelligent characteristics which we are only beginning to investigate

Octopuses have been called a “second genesis” of intelligence, that is, they are invertebrates with high intelligence, instead of vertebrates. But their close relatives, squid and cuttlefish (they are all cephalopods), are not far behind, according to recent research. One unusual finding is that cuttlefish have very good memories: Can you remember what you had for dinner last Tuesday? Or on this day last year? It turns out that cuttlefish can, right up to old age – the first animal we’ve found that doesn’t show signs of deterioration in memory function over time. David Nield, “The Incredible Brains of Cuttlefish Hold Memories That Never Seem to Fade” at ScienceAlert (18 August 2021) Of course, cuttlefish live only a couple of…

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Horseshoe Crab and Sand

Do Brains Really Evolve? The Horseshoe Crab’s Brain Didn’t

It’s very rare to find an intact fossil brain but a rare combination of minerals preserved one from 310 million years ago

Recently, paleontologist Russell Bicknell and colleagues found a fossil horseshoe crab in the Yale Peabody Museum, originally from the Mazon Creek fossil beds near Chicago. That, in itself wasn’t spectacular but, for geological reasons, the creature’s brain was preserved, an extremely rare situation. So how much had the horseshoe crab’s brain changed in 310 million years? Not at all, really: A new beautifully preserved fossil of a horseshoe crab has now revealed that their brains have hardly changed since at least the Carboniferous Period… The brain structure of the ancient crab is almost identical to that of living species. In fact, it is this extraordinary similarity that meant the researchers could be confident that what they were looking at was…

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Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout, Epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, seizure disorder, mental health concept

Epilepsy: If You Follow the Science, Materialism Is Dead

Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, Dr. Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnordid a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which people’s minds sometimes become much clearer near death (terminal lucidity). Dr. Egnor suggested that that may demonstrate that the brain constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at objections raised to the view that epilepsy provides evidence for the mind as not merely a function of the brain. Dr. Egnor begins by focusing on the work of Wilder Penfield, the founder of epilepsy surgeries, who worked in Montreal in the mid-twentieth century, “a wonderful scientist, one of the best scientists that neurosurgery has produced”: Here is a…

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Cocktail drink on night club.

Defending the Mind’s Reality at a Materialist Cocktail Party

What to say when you find yourself among self-assured elite sloganeers

Most of the university cocktail set is quite sure that the mind is simply what the brain does. To doubt that, in their view, is to part company with science. And yet the evidence points in the opposite direction. If you are stuck with them, here are some snatches of their usual brilliance, along with suggested replies and their sources. Arguments from evolution Claim: We are just animals so, as we might expect, the human brain is not really unique. The human, mouse, and fly brains all use the same basic mechanisms!1 Response: That’s the remarkable part. What we do with our brains sets us apart. And greater size doesn’t really account for that. Lemurs, whose brains are only 1/200th…

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Caregiver supporting sick woman with cancer dying in the hospital

Why Do Some People’s Minds Become Much Clearer Near Death?

Arjuna Das and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor discuss the evidence for terminal lucidity at Theology Unleashed “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.”

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at how the human mind often becomes much more sharp and clear near death. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 26 minute mark to the 1 hour 32 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You’re either doing science or you’re defending your dogma. (01:25:59) Michael Egnor: Exactly. John Searle, a philosopher of mind, who is an atheist and not a dualist has a tremendous distaste for materialism. And he commented one time, ”When…

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Woman pray with bible, Asian woman believe in the prayer to God, Christian student pray for study to pass the exam in the library at the college .Bible and christian study concept

Researchers: Prolonged Meditation Alters the Brain

The changes were detected mainly in the frontal and parietal lobes

Andrew Newberg and colleagues have found that extended periods of prayer and meditationcan change the brain: We studied one such seven-day programme in Pennsylvania based on the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius. Our research on this retreat programme, which is typically conducted in silence and consists of extended periods of prayer and meditation, showed a number of differences in participants’ brains after the retreat compared with before it. For one, our study looked at the effects of the retreat programme on serotonin and dopamine, two critical neurotransmitters involved in many of our emotional and cognitive processes. The results suggested that a person’s brain becomes more sensitised to the effects of serotonin and dopamine, which might help us understand how retreat…

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Two Indian tibetan monk lama

Researchers: Buddhist Monks’ Bodies Decay Very Slowly at Death

According to traditional meditation lore, they are in a meditative state (thukdam) until their consciousness is clear; only then does the body begins to decay

We are told that one of the more remarkable effects of a lifetime of meditation can be a comparatively slow decay process for the body. Recent evidence for that emerged in the death of Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Lhundub Sopa, August 28, 2014, at the age of 91. Sopa, who had been tutor to the Dalai Lama in Tibet, moved to Wisconsin in 1967. There he co-founded the Deer Park Buddhist Center and taught South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, becoming a friend of prominent American neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson. According to Daniel Burke, former religion editor for CNN, Davidson recalls the scene as follows: Three days after his heart stopped, Geshe Lhundub Sopa was leaned upright against…

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light at the end of the tunnel

The Brain Does Not Create the Mind; It Constrains It.

Near-death experiences in which people report seeing things that are later verified give some sense of how the mind works in relation to the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way that the split-brain research that followed Roger Sperry’s findings has increased the evidence for the reality of the mind. In this segment, they discuss the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind. That may seem counterintuitive at first but consider the evidence: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 12 minute mark to the 1 hour 25 minute mark: Arjuna Das: So, this relates to how I understand perception in the brain, despite the mind being non-material: “The brain is a reducer of consciousness rather than a…

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Colorful wooden alphabet letters  isolated on white background and texture, top view

How the Split Brain Emphasizes the Reality of the Mind

Fascinating research following up Roger Sperry’s work — which showed that the mind is not split when the brain is — has confirmed and extended his findings

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discuss the significance of the fact that there are aspects of the human mind that cannot be split into parts — as demonstrated by the work of Nobelist Roger Sperry (1913–1994). In this segment, they discuss the neuroscientists who followed up on and extended Sperry’s work — one of whom met a tragic end: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 6 minute mark through the 1 hour 12 minute mark: Michael Egnor: There has been some absolutely intriguing work done since Sperry that I think very clearly shows the existence of…

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Models of two brain halves on black background

The Brain Can Be Split But the Mind Can’t

Neuroscientist Roger Sperry found that splitting the brain in half does not split consciousness in half. It just gives you a rather interesting, but very subtle set of perceptual disabilities

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, they discuss the significance of the fact that there are aspects of the human mind that cannot be split into parts — as demonstrated by the work of Nobelist Roger Sperry (1913–1994). Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 57 minute mark to the 1 hour five minute mark: Michael Egnor: If one is to try to understand the mind in a coherent, consistent framework, one wants to have a metaphysical perspective that does the job, that makes sense. I think there are three different metaphysical perspectives that one could consider, materialist, idealist, and dualist… By…

Environmental awareness, global warming consciousness and aspirations to protect future of the planet conceptual idea with close up on hand holding the earth in the open palm

The Day Philosophers Started To Take Consciousness Seriously

Of course, once they did, they found themselves deep in huge conundrums

We sometimes forget how far we are from solving the mystery of consciousness. An anecdote from 1994 might help us understand. Picture an utterly boring, pointless conference in Tucson, Arizona, one of whose attendees was an obscure philosopher from Australia, scheduled to give the third talk. And shook everything up: The brain, Chalmers began by pointing out, poses all sorts of problems to keep scientists busy. How do we learn, store memories, or perceive things? How do you know to jerk your hand away from scalding water, or hear your name spoken across the room at a noisy party? But these were all “easy problems”, in the scheme of things: given enough time and money, experts would figure them out.…

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Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout, Epilepsy awareness, seizure disorder, mental health concept

The Reality of the Mind: The Argument From Epilepsy

Why do epileptic seizures evoke many odd behaviors but not abstract thought?

In the recent debate between neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and philosopher David Papineau, “Atheist Philosopher and Christian Neurosurgeon Debate Materialism” at Theology Unleashed, there was sort of digression at 49:30 on the nature of thought. Dr. Egnor talks about what he learned from his experiences with treating epilepsy and Dr. Papineau responds. Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist.” On that view, “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.” Michael Egnor: There are three metaphysical questions that I think can be answered in an inferential way,…