TED Conversations

Michael Roland

This conversation is closed.

Is neural activity truly the basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?

"Neural activity is the physical basis, or so neuroscientists think, for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions."

In this qstatement, is Dr Seung implying that this is up for debate?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jan 9 2012: The real question is one of cause and effect. Is the presence/occurrence of structures/phenomena that we observe the cause or result of related , less tangible phenomena? Popular logic would say that based on our basic observations, occurrences in our world-like synaptic firing and neurotransmitter activity-are the cause of cognition, sensation, awareness, ect. However, the most modern quantum researchers speak of the subjectivity of physical phenomena and their reliance upon observation. Too much scientific data points at the likelihood of what we deem solid immutable matter existing in wave-states that don't actually "solidify" or settle upon an assumed form until someone observes a process. That being the case, what is the potential that exists before observable phenomena and why would such wave-particle ambiguity not extend to our neurological realm? If cause and effect condense from potential to actual, might not emotion and consciousness have a different phase existence of their own that is actual causal in relation to our delayed observation? What if we, in our intellectual/observational arrogance ( and subsequent presumption) have the whole process backwards?
    • E Pines

      • +8
      Jan 9 2012: Monte Delion's point above is both a very interesting and real possibility.

      As I recall, the mathematician/physicist Roger Penrose of Oxford University, took very seriously the possibility of such quantum-interference interaction between the sensory system, thought, and perception of consciousness itself. It was some years after his original consideration of this already back around 1990, that an expert came in on the biolodical end, I believe, and even helped establish the possibility of microtubule bringing the small-size, and global distribution required to make such a possibility real. Of course, the matter remains shrouded in scientific debate.

      Now whether this is true or not, consider the (also controversial) theory that the sympathetic feelings that one has are based upon a sympathetic neurons that make one sense the actions/pain of another as though they were our own. [Supposedly, the autistic spectrum demonstrates a diminishment of this, ergo their much diminished sense of body language queues.] If anything like this is true, then we see that what is normally taken fro altruism would be merely a wired feeling of pain or pleasure based on certain visual queues from another, or the memory thereof. The implication is that what is normally taken as altruism, may be merely another form of selfish taking of pleasure or avoidance of pain, not at all connected with the other person.

      We might come to a very interesting conclusion here then:

      1 - The well and woe of others may really represent a deep real interconnection with our own well and woe.
      2 - Whether so or not, what is taken as altruism to others, may actually be a limited pleasure/pain mapping in ourselves of only the immediate sensory or conceptual perception of the actual needs.

      Thus we may find that altruism is a vital nutrient for us, but our direct sense of it is only candy. One has a sense that, especially as the globe gets smaller, we desperately need to develop real mutual concern, love.
      • Jan 19 2012: Hi, E Pines !
        I can't agree more :
        "we desperately need to develop real mutual concern, love."
        It's stunning how simple is that, how basic !
        We do have to care about each other and Jesus was right !
    • Jan 19 2012: Hi, Monte !
      You said :"...why would such wave-particle ambiguity not extend to our neurological realm?"
      In a way it should. And quantum wave is 'time free', in timeless space continuum the 'cause and effect ' question does not exist . This implies that creation, observation and neurological reaction to the observed or experienced is happening at once, at one moment which is not even a moment in usual sense. let's put it in another way : through observation we react to what is , exists, but what if it does not exist until observed ? My belief is simply this " The seer is the seen " For me it is easier to' understand' this hard-to-verbalize complexity through mystic metaphor due to its holistic quality as opposed to the typically liner quality of logic . Frankly, i don't know, it's just 'gut' feeling :)
      • Jan 19 2012: It's a "gut-feeling" sentiment echoed in many "mystical" (man I hate that word!) teachings. I hate the word because it carries this stigma of impracticality. However, practicality-or the lack thereof-depends upon the willingness to exert in a thing towards its realization. Nowadays, the answers to these ontological issues requires a different exertion than in the past because the place that such feelings are revealed, the general field of human consciousness, was not as fissured by self-interest as it is today.

        To those with the inclination to ponder and know these matters, the exertion carries its own merit. However, because evolution is a general impetus, even those without the inclination will have to contemplate mending our fracture connections because of coarser stimulus, i.e.-economic, political, and environmental crisis.

        By this attention to consciousness itself and its 2 dipoles, egoism and altruism, and how to balance these to forces, we will eventually reveal in actual fact whether or not our gut feelings hold water, we will bypass the subjectivity that all our current "scientific" methods of observation can't and reveal the forces that manage our reality. And for those that could give-a-hoot-less about these lofty matters, a new fuel and fulfillment stands to reveal as the answer to the emptiness all our political and commercial maneuvering have failed horribly to sate and actually only exacerbate.

        The inexorable push of nature demands that we focus not only on what we do, but also why we do it. If we approach science and society from this new vector, we stand to understand what all the social and scientific paradoxes have been steering us toward all along.
        • Jan 20 2012: Hi, Monte !
          "mystical" (man I hate that word!)
          I don't ! :) For me it carries no stigma ! What is the main massage of quantum mechanics ? - ' Interconnectedness ' ! Isn't it precisely what mysticism as a teaching is about alongside with all sacred teachings? It helps to balance egoism and altruism: " What goes around comes around" ,"Dethrone yourself from your world, put another there and you'll evolve " Don't do to others..."
          We all know that, maybe it's time to live it... Am I preaching ? Sorry, I didn't mean to :)
          Thank you for your response !
          Have a nice day !

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.