Michael Roland

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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?

  • 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

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      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 !
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    Jan 28 2012: It has been explained to me that the neural may be the infrastructure to transport and retrieve, but the owners of this metaphysical warehouse is much deeper in the universe. It is a collective association of intellect, emotion, and comprehension. All of them directly influenced by imprints of the past and/or the future, the present "being" is the sum manifestation. It has also been explained to me, in this same thought, that DNA is better defined by: Decendant Now Ancestor, if you can follow that. It is these sacred mysteries that bend me at the knees and raise my arms to the sky. Thank you for the provocative inquiry.
  • Jan 27 2012: I think Dr. Seung is allowing that neuroscience is just a view. And there are other views available. When you have the freedom to pick and choose views to look at something from and switch freely between them without trying to reconcile them to one another, you can really get closer to experiencing or knowing something.

    The trap we fall into (maybe this is the age we are in, or this is a Western problem) is to conflate a useful view or model of something with the idea that that view or model represents how it ~really~ is. To the child with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To the neuroscientist, the brain looks like a neuroscience-based machine.

    So to answer the question you've asked directly: I choose not to champion that view in most cases, as that gives very little room for humanity. Although the brain as described in neuroscience is a learning and adaptable machine (and a wondrous one), it's still beholden to ideas of brain electrochemistry.

    If I were having some kind of issue with my brain, however, I'd certainly consult with someone who had tremendous facility with the neuroscience view.
  • Jan 24 2012: I am not a scientist, but here is my thinking on this question:
    Neural activity is like microchip/ CPU, the human brain wiring& chemicals for processing information (learning, analysing, imagining, perceiving etc)

    From when you are born, you learn from your surroundings/ circumstances (parents, siblings, friends, school, books, tv, surroundings etc). Based on what the norm is in your upbringing (thieving, working hard, life of luxury, religion , culture etc) your sense of self is formed . Your brains wiring starts to become "hard wired" biased towards curtain deep/ inert feelings, which become your personal filters. These filters will influence your thoughts and perceptions towards others.

    If your are born from a hard working, honest family, with a happy (& tough times) up bringing then you are likely to see the world in a balanced way. If your upbringing was biased towards hardship or extreme luxury, then your feelings/ thoughts and perceptions will be filtered and biased in an imbalanced view point...

    In summary in my laymans / non scientific opinion, neural activity is brains capability to process information/ learn and evolve. It is your learnings from your surroundings that form your inner thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
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    Jan 23 2012: It's curious to see that the question ("Is neural activity truly the basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?") evokes comments related to a constellation of religious axioms -- and only one among many religious ideologies, specifically monotheism. Essentially, concepts like "God", "soul", "spirit", "revelation(s)" -- which have no common logical core are agglutinated -- when the question is raised. I have no problem with hypotheses, but when several 'pile on' and masquerade as fact, I wonder about the motives and interior life of those doing the agglutination.... (Yes, I know: faith. But that's just a word.) I find it quite liberating to admit that we simply don't understand much about the bases of our thoughts, feelings and perceptions -- and I find it quite stultifying to posit allegations while the mystery is still unsolved (and may well remain so!). Why do some folks jump all over other folks who say, "Beats me!" or "I don't know!" Why the desire to 'kill the wonder' with an Answer (or Answers)? I much prefer to follow the ins and outs of neuroscience, speculation, theoretical constructs -- not necessarily because they are 'proven' but simply because the search for answers (note lower case!) is fun.
  • Jan 21 2012: natasha nikulina 20+TED Translator
    18 hours ago: 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 :)

    ...I don't hate the word actually, I hate that with it comes such a disdain that those that claim objectivity and scientific rationale won't even look toward any set of data that their esteemed colleagues might turn their nose up at. It's a shame because there exists methodologies that elaborate extensively upon the concepts being addressed in this thread and even propose experiments one can implement toward the observation of said concepts. We are using modern wordage for millenia-old concepts and much of what's being expounded upon and revealed in exotic and quantum physics and even advanced psychology and neurology is old news in the oft-mocked spiritual circles. The Penroses, and Hawkings of today once walked the earth and were called sages and they are telling us today the same things they told us long ago. Ask the practitioner, the pursuant of enlightenment, and they will express hopeful amusement and patience at what looks like the sleepy start of some catch-upage on the part of modern science. Case in point, check out this TED video on connectomes http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sebastian_seung.html (specifically the 4min 32sec mark ) -and this is but the tip of the iceberg of scientific/spiritual corresponding!
    • Jan 21 2012: Hi, Monte !
      You are right , this '4min 32sec ' part is mind blowing ! I was amazed with beauty and complexity of 'I am " :)
      I like the way how science changes its attitude towards 'empty' space, it seems to be in the focus of attention all over the genre. For how many years we've known that the atoms which make up solid matter are over 99.99 per cent empty space ? About 80 years, I guess, but somehow science has absorbed this without letting it alter its attitude. But time has come and 'empty' space is viewed as full and fertile and the womb of All. Science and sacred teachings seem to be on the way to reconciliation ! New age is called the age of reason , maybe it's true ? :)
      Thank you very much for attracting my attention to this piece, I'll watch it once/twice... more !
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    Jan 20 2012: If the brain informs the body, and it does...the body informs the brain, and it does. There are lots of strings of big words we could use here...and we have in this conversation. my answer is yes...neural activity is the basis for thoughts, feelings and perceptions...however the real question in my opinion is ...what informs neurons? Environment? Habit? Genetics? Does the pathway change from within as well as from without? It's a two way street, right? So there are how many unknowns? I believe in a moment that changes everything...that pulls it together. A moment that we can not yet explain with this science.
    • Jan 20 2012: Mary,
      Agree, and agree ... yes ... yes ... two way street of course... But my question is this. Are there no motor nerves and no receptor nerves?..... Is there is only one sense apparatus that is the transmitter of sense impressions. consciousness is not "only" in the brain?..did you say that or are those my words. Can there be consciousness in the fingers of a violinist? Is science now saying that neural activity seems to be flowing in all directions and simultaneously throughout the body? In the very same moment.

      And not only "within" our own body .. but in "other" bodies as well...?? Excuse me if I seem to be carrying this too far... but I do have a point here... Ever heard of mirror neurons? If not, go and read a little bit about it. Neural activity in another person ... such as a pinched finger of pain or the sweetness of a candy in pleasure, .. mirror neurons give me the impression of what you are experiencing. At least to a small degree.
      This is science. Not just my own wild theory.
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    Jan 19 2012: This really is true in the same way our computers and the internetnet is the physical base for our conversation.
    • Jan 19 2012: Hi, Frans !!!
      Thanks for a 'hot' metaphor ! I agree, it's something like this :)
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        Jan 20 2012: Hi Natasha,

        If we draw the line further the electronic web will become one superbrain of the human species. Maybe then we all share the same mind, who knows?
        • Jan 20 2012: Yes, some call it ' God '... only names , words are different, but our human intuition leads us to the same image :)
  • Jan 19 2012: .....Did I hear the man say "Know thy self" .... Seems like I've been down this way before...

    Will it ... in the end.....finally boil down to "I am" the "I am"
    • Jan 19 2012: Hi, Daniel !
      If you can answer the old age question " Who am I ?" it means you've grasped everything !
      At least I truly believe so, but don't know how it is humanly possible :)
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        Jan 19 2012: Hi Natasha and Daniel:>)
        I think/feel it is possible to say and believe I know who I am in this moment, and as I am continually open to explore who and what "I am", I discover that my knowledge of my "self" and others is constantly changing:>)

        Dear Helen,
        I cannot connect a response to your comment below within a reasonable distance, so I'll do it here. Communications "get scattered" because that is how the reply system works...when we're responding on the 3rd level, there is no place else to go!

        I don't believe neurons "act on their own" either. I believe neurons are made of material substances, just like the rest of the body? In my perception, the energy that powers the rest of the body, powers the neurons as well. When the energy that powers the body leaves at the time of death, the neurons die, the same as the rest of the material body.
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          Jan 21 2012: Hi.....I think that it is awful that our communications get so scattered. Thank you for your suggestions. I shall read or watch them. It just does not appear to me that neurons act on their own, without input from some kind of force. Again thank you.
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          Jan 19 2012: The neurons are a part of the body/mind, are they not?
        • Jan 20 2012: Hi, Adriaan !
          Of course you are right, but the very act of dividing "I am" into 'body' and 'soul', 'matter' and 'spirit' prevents us from understanding how it all works .
          There must be the realm where they are one. My point is, that the matter in its deep root level is 'spirit'... Bizarre idea, but here I try to give my intuition a voice :)
          Thank you !
        • Jan 20 2012: Hi Adriaan, and Colleen and Natasha,

          Just wanted to say one last word before I'm off to bed.

          Thanks for the message Adriaan, have to agree with you there.

          I see the human being as a being of a threefold nature. Body, soul, and spirit... or as you might also rather consider ... thinking, feeling and willing. Three separate yet distinct parts each interpenetrating the other to different degrees. The thinking element having its seat or center in the head, the feeling having its center in the heart region and the will having its center in the limb system ...
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        Jan 20 2012: Natasha,
        Have you answered your own question with your comment above?
        You say..."the very act of dividing...prevents us from understanding how it all works".

        You have said, in your other comments that "getting to understand the change is in a way shaping fixing it, isolating it from the flow". You have also suggested that you feel "trapped"? Is "trapped" a form of isolation?

        I believe there is a "realm where they are one", and we simply need to percieve that as a possibility. It seems like it may be difficult to percieve everything as one and connected, if we are also percieving the process as having "isolated" functions? The "realm where they are one", may be our perception?
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          Jan 21 2012: Hi Colleen............Do neurons control us or do we control neurons ?
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          Jan 20 2012: Hi Adriaan,
          I know you have presented this concept before, and it apparently is your truth. However, I don't agree that the "mind is a separate, distinct level of existence above the physical brain level" unless you have a definition for "mind" that is different than the usual?

          the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and esp. reasons; the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism; the organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism; the normal or healthy condition of the mental faculties; intellectual ability...etc."

          Perhaps those functions happen for you Adriaan, in a "seperate distinct level of existence above the physical brain level", but I think/feel that for most humans, those functions are part of being human, and happen within the "organism" which is the human body/mind. It is, as you say Adriaan..."we certainly need our brain and all its components and chemicals to connect and control our body and so to communicate with this physical world".

          It serves no useful purpose, in my perception, to seperate the processes. My "mind" is right here with me in the body, on this earth, it is not "on the other side":>) My character IS part of the chemical composition and neuron connections because everything is connected...in my humble perception:>) That is one very important thing I learned with the NDE/OBE.
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          Jan 20 2012: Adriaan,
          Please do not answer for me, or try to put words in my mouth...I've asked you this before. My statements are clear, and if they are not clear to you, I'm glad to clarify.

          I respect your beliefs Adriaan, as your beliefs. I have expressed my thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs regarding the NDE/OBE on many TED sites when that was the topic. It is not the topic here, and I do not wish to pursue it here unless the facilitator wants to bring it into the discussion. The topic question is....."Is neural activity truly the basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?" I have shared my perceptions regarding the topic.
      • Jan 20 2012: Hi Natasha and Colleen,

        I've been trying to keep up on the thread here best I can. Lots of interesting and exciting comments here.
        What Natasha says about being trapped within the body is very interesting. There is a video out there somewhere on the vast eithernet ... believe it was you tube I saw it a while back. Where a young girl born severely handicapped without language of any sort. Later on in life as a teen she was helped through the language barrier with a computer that helped her to communicate. She was banging her head often. As her language developed in time, her communicating faculties also developed to the point of which she could describe how it felt for her to be so handicapped. She then told of how she was always trying to "get into my body" Those are her exact words...
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        • Jan 21 2012: Hi Adriaan !
          There is no disagreement between us, simply slight difference in image :) You didn't forget to mention :
          "... that the most rewarding and uplifting aspect of this approach (to see the two realms as different) is that those that die, it is 'only' their body that dies. Not they themselves. It makes it possible to meet again in that very different, spiritual realm."
          Maybe you are more comfortable with two dimensional image and I prefer to see it three dimensionally. I don't see the line which divide reality into two realms: 'spiritual' and 'physical', but as a spiral, like the basic structure of the gene: the double helical format of DNA. There is no problem with 'eternal' life here, it gives the impression of everlasting always changing stillness, dynamic world within a world..OK,.I guess non of these pictures is true though, it's the realm of our imagination, which creates perception and we are free to choose.
          Thanks for your concern Andriaan, but I am not SO trapped:) I've got the impression that we don't quite understand each other. What I am trying to do is to use both : rational mind and intuitive mind, actually they both reside in my brain " between two ears" :) So I don't need to go anywhere to be outside the box .We can't even in theory separate the mind that sees from the thing that is seen. What is mind if it has the awesome power to create the world ? In even attempting to answer this question in a sensible way I am at once tired down by the limitation of language. (that's what I meant saying "I feel trapped" :)

          Anyway, thank you for sharing and your kind concern !
      • Jan 20 2012: Natasha,
        I think this is something that develops within us..... over many lifetimes.
        We are all on the path towards being "Christ-like" We are all moving forward at our own speed.
        It was the Christ that said those words "I am the I am" Now put that together with what consciousness is... yours.... mine ... everyone's.. We are all individuals yet we share a reality that is both "within" our being and "without" ... or better said "outside of" our being. When we sleep, we are outside of our wakeful being, we are disengaged from the flow of time. We, upon waking, our eyes open, we sit up in our bed and we are again "incarnated" Our "I" has been to another place, another place in time..? ....maybe.... Another place spacially...?.. well maybe that too.
        But to feel "trapped" as you say is not such a surprise as we are, in a certain way all trapped her... but only for the time being...Colleen can tell you an incredible story of how it is to be truly free from the bounds of the physical world.. she has had a NDE .... so don't let anyone tell you that the physical is all there is, that we are no more than a product of our neural activity or our connectomes . The deeper truth is that we are much much more. We are spiritual beings walking around in these forms of flesh and blood and bone. ... And your thinking is your tool on the stage of your consciousness. It will lead you through the darkness towards the light.... as Bob Dylan sang "were gonna get all the way from here to there, even if we've gotta walk a million miles by candle light".
        • Jan 21 2012: Daniel!
          This conversation was quite slow until your "I am " comment :)
          Generally, we understand/ hear/see something when we are tuned to it. When i saw your comment I was properly tuned ,being in "Who am I " state of mind and asked you whether it was humanly possible to grasp "I am" complexity. Now I've got the answer: Yes,"...being Christ-like" I came up with it too and it's quite recent and only dimly visible to me, but it highlights a lot already !

          We shall not cease from exploration
          and the end of all our exploring
          will be to arive where we started
          and know the place for the first time.

          Thank you for being here !
    • Jan 19 2012: Hi, Colleen !
      Generally i agree with you ... but... 'moment' is everlasting and encompasses all changes, getting to understand the change is in a way shaping fixing it, isolating it from the flow, it makes it real, but not quite true. It's how we think about ourselves, but we are much bigger than that. And how I've understood Daniel's "I am " and what the topic of the conversation suggests it is about that ' bigger', deeper, quintessentially human spiritual/physical part. How does all this works? ! That's what i think totally incomprehensible for human mind, for it is trapped in Time. Of course I could be wrong here :)
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        Jan 19 2012: I agree that if we are considering the "moment" as flowing, then it is indeed everlasting and encompasses all changes. I don't percieve this process as "isolating" it from the flow, but rather becoming part of the flow. Just as a river, for a time, may be seperated from the main body of water, and eventually, flows into it? For me, the bigger, deeper spiritual or physical parts of being human are all connected, rather than seperated. I don't think/feel you are "wrong" with your conclusions, and perhaps you are limiting yourself? I don't feel that anything is "trapped in time". It is our perception that may become trapped?
        • Jan 20 2012: Colleen !
          You said :
          "I don't perceive this process as "isolating" it from the flow, but rather becoming part of the flow. Just as a river, for a time, may be separated from the main body of water, and eventually, flows into it ? "
          It's a beautiful description of what we can experience and true to me too. I can experience it, ,but only momentarily, usually i am in a 'normal' self conscious state or as you put it in a "for a time separated from the main body of water " state and try to figure out how it all works ... and can't. Can you answer this question:
          "Is neural activity truly the basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?"

          I guess you feel as well as I do almost certainty that the answer is 'NO', but it is not enough. Can you shape in words how it works ? All this complexity boils down to the 'simple' question "Who am I" And we can't give any plausible explanation for this phenomenon either, because we shape our thoughts in words, and language by its nature is Time, for it is based on sequence, on 'before-now-after' concept, and here we are trapped because 'I am' is timeless and only can be understood from this realm, but our mind doesn't work in this realm! Or...does it ? I am highly open to suggestions! :)
          Thank you !
        • Jan 20 2012: "Time is an ocean, but it ends at the shore" ...... Bob Dylan said that too
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        Jan 20 2012: Dear Natasha,
        Please remember that I am a simple person...not a scientist:>)

        With that in mind, I do not believe that neurons are the "basis" for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. I believe the "neural activity" however, is very much part of the process.

        If we look at the definition of neuron...
        Any of the impulse-conducting cells that constitute the brain, spinal column, and nerves, consisting of a nucleated cell body with one or more dendrites and a single axon. Also called nerve cell".

        I believe neurons to be the conductor,conduits.channels, or carriers, if you will, for the energies that contribute to thoughts, feelings and perceptions. As I said in the pervious comment, I percieve everything to be connected and flowing, so it is all part of the process. In my humble perception, the energy flows through the neurons, and I do not seperate and/or label which "part" does what. It is only as "complex" as we want to make it Natasha.

        Think about electricity, for example. The electricity alone is not intelligent, correct? However, it facilitates a connection to the internet, where there is an abundance of information...correct? I percieve neurons, and/or neural activity in a similar way. The neurons/nerve cells in our body/mind carry and organize the information. I percieve our mind/body connections to be very much like a computer.

        You have said a couple times now..."we are trapped", and I don't understand why you feel "trapped". You also say "our mind doesn't work in this realm". Mine does, so I don't understand that statement either. It feels like you are trying to seperate the "parts" and functions, and I don't understand why you want to do that.
        • Jan 21 2012: Colleen!
          Thanks for the response! Again, generally i agree with what you've said in all your comments bellow and above ! And we are on the same page here, but... but :)
          You said:
          "Think about electricity, for example. The electricity alone is not intelligent, correct? "
          Actually nobody knows what electricity is, ( the experts included), the same way we don't know what consciousness is.
          Don't you think that it is unidentifiable through mind; hence language? We can give our understanding through image, which can be reinforced with another image or metaphor.
          And it's OK with me, but curious mind keeps asking questions... To cut the story short, I am one/many who wants to know what the electricity/consciousness is :)
          What I came up with, it's quite recent, that our consciousness should evolve to another state, from self consciousness to 'Christ' consciousness to grasp the mystery of ' I am '
          Maybe you are already somewhere there ? :)
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        Jan 21 2012: Hi Natasha,

        Ok...perhaps my use of electricity was not a good example. I was simply trying to answer your question in a way that I am capable of......I think! If you believe electricity has an intelligent componant, so be it:>)

        I believe that consciousness is energy, and the energy carries information, which also moves through the neurons, and is part of the process that creates neural activity. We can experience consciousness, information and neural activity on many different levels. Within the catagory of information and neural activity, we have language and language use, images, our perception of images, and metaphors.

        I believe the electricity/consciousness is energy, and science recognizes that we have energy moving through the body and mind.....it's not really very complicated, nor is it much of a mystery anymore:>)

        Again, I believe the body/mind is much like a computer, capable of programming, and capable of running different programs at the same time, or "disabling" certain programs while others are running. Our receptors (the senses and neurons) take in information by way of the energy, process and organize it.

        If you believe that your "consciousness should evolve to another state", then it will evolve as you make different choices regarding what information you accept and how you use it. As I said, I believe there are many levels of consciousness, and yes, I experience several levels. "I am" does not have to be a "mystery" when we live mindfully aware in each and every moment:>)

        BTW, It was suggested that you were not thinking outside the box. (Adriaan's statement..."Hi Natasha, I think you will remain feeling trapped as long as you cannot think outside the box (between your ears")

        My perception of you Natasha, is that you are always thinking, feeling and exploring outside the box:>)
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    Jan 28 2012: It is, and it is not up to debate. it is a fact.
    Of course your neural activity depends on the input you get (through your senses and food)
  • Jan 21 2012: We aren't controlled by neurons. We ARE neurons. "You" are a pattern of neural cells, which are made of proteins and other molecules, which are made of atoms, which are made of protons, electrons, and neutrons, which are in turn made of quarks and other subatomic particles. That's what your mind is made of, just like a book is made of chapters,paragraphs, sentences, words, letters. There's just no scientific basis to claim there is anything "more". There's no room left in science for a non-corporeal soul and this debate is pointless.
    • Jan 21 2012: Zanker,
      Your analogy of the book was an excellent example! Chapter, paragraphs, words, letters... and I guess you can even continue endlessly down to the amount of pixels in each individual letter on the page. But in the final end, the letters and symbols are meaningless.... if the idea is not conveyed. The words and letters mean no more than small black squiggly lines. They really are nothing more. But when the logical mind of the person reading the words that are represented by those funny little squiggly lines is engaged "then" meaning arises... of course the "meaning" is all in your head...
    • Jan 21 2012: Zanker !

      "There's no room left in science for a non-corporeal soul ..."

      May I take the liberty to remind you that there is no scientific theory that can explain /describe how particles get their masses? What is matter we are made of ?
      The whole Pyramid of 'matter' from its bottom down to the top rests on the ghost-like particle, heavily chased, but not yet caught: Higgs Boson, which has been called 'God' particle for a good reason, because presumably it 'gives' particles their masses, hence create matter.
      So, i can't agree with you that there is no room left. Modern physics faces the limits of the scientific method, it raises questions it cannot answer. This is not a failure of science, just a recognition that measurement is not the only source of meaning.
      • Jan 21 2012: Sorry, but you're wrong.

        Science raises questions it can't yet answer for a good reason - to answer them. The current physical theory (that includes the Higgs' Boson) makes perfect sense, and is likely correct, regardless of our having seen the thing yet. And the only reason it's called the "God particle" is media hype. Its original (provisional) designation was "that god-damn particle", but the publishers wouldn't go with that for some reason.

        Also, regardless of whether we know precisely why there's mass, we have a pretty good idea of how neurons work, and the human brain is nothing but a hundred billion neurons working. And a human person is nothing but the brain, sustained by the rest of the body. Even if everything we think we know about quantum physics is wrong, that's still the case.
        • Jan 21 2012: Zanker !
          I don't claim for truth :)
          Of course scientists will get new data and hopefully figure out what is going on there. Don't get me wrong, I am not against science, on the contrary, I highly value its achievements ! But maybe it is alien to your mindset, but "center is everywhere",and be certain that you know how 'neurons work' is a bit premature when you don't know what is the stuff where they operate in and what they are made of . My point is, nothing is certain, and I think, will never be, so all questions are always open and there is always room for 'soul'.
          And could you elaborate on this "Its original (provisional) designation was "that god-damn particle"
          Any link ? I am interested :)
          Thank you !
  • Jan 20 2012: Thanks Tim,

    Glad to hear you can still take a little poke ;-) I just made a few comments on this most interesting discussion. it reminds me of the good old days of ... consciousness, merely a product of the physical brain discussion.
    If neural activity is actually the basis .. then how do you explain what they call mirror neurons.

    Got to get to bed now, catch you again tomorrow
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      Jan 23 2012: Yes Daniel. Those old days sure were good.

      This concept of mirror neurons is a great example of the power of resonance. A radio receiver has within it a narrow band filter highly tuned to detect a carrier frequency. Likewise the brain is a giant filter. Programmed through evolution and life experience (both nature and nurture) to respond to outside stimuli. Seems only natural that observing another being having an experience would set it into oscillation.

      That one was easy Daniel. But regardless of whether we are capable of coming up with a rational explanation for phenomena, the invention of aether, spirits or elan vital is generally counterproductive in our search for the truth.
    • Jan 29 2012: Mirror neurons are simply the neuronal structures in the brain that connect between other neuronal structures that physically represent human movement external to self and our own physical actions.

      How do these structures come to be? They form because there is association between our own body parts, the similarity of the body parts of others, the way our bodies feel and the representation we have of our own bodies - and the efficacy of the link between the similarity of the body parts of others and the way we feel about our own body parts.

      It is something that is effective and reinforced by our environment (specifically as it relates to empathy and mimicry). As the neural structures are traversed frequently, specific links between external body movement representations and our internal body feeling are created and strengthened...

      Resulting in the structures that we call 'mirror neurons'.
  • Jan 15 2012: It should be up for debate... yes. Neural activity is only the footprint of the "real" activity that arises within the thinking, feeling and perceiving human consciousness. That which is not seen, weighed or measured. The question must always be pushed further and further behind the directly observable. In the complex system and determining factors of our shared human experience here on planet earth we cannot find satisfying answers to the mystery of mankind within the simple bounadries of the physical observation of neural activity. We must always go one step deeper to the immaterial ... the motivating factors of the human will. Without these things taken into perspective we are still looking only at the surface of things. Which is perhaps the biggest dilemma facing all aspects of science today.
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      Jan 20 2012: Hi Daniel. Nice to hear from you again.

      It is fine to speculate on the possibility of forces at action that which we have not yet been able to fully analyze. But the idea that anything can be said about things that have no demonstrable influence merely opens us up to being controlled by charlatans.
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        Jan 21 2012: Not if you are a critical thinker.
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          Jan 21 2012: Hi Helen,
          I cannot reply close to your question in another place in this thread...I can do it here:>)

          Your question:
          "Hi Colleen............Do neurons control us or do we control neurons ? "

          I believe it is scientifically proven that we have some control with neural activity. There are some TED talks which address this topic...Chris deCharms & Ramachandrin (both neuroscientists) to name a couple.:>)
  • Jan 10 2012: A model is never complete untill it is the same as the structure it is modelling. In this case, the limited models we have show that yes, the physical and 'spiritual' are the same thing. Plato's legacy lives on however..
  • Jan 7 2012: .The basis for thoughts, feelings and perceptions? No. The receptors and transmitters of said faculties? Yes,
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    Jan 7 2012: no. I am living proof of that.
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    Jan 29 2012: Hi Michael Roland,

    A very interesting question and at first glance (at your Chinese medicine background) an equally interesting perspective on the question of consciousness and thought and sense and mind and "wisdom."

    This is my first impulse at reacting to the question, but I would say immediately that both a "yes" and a "no" have to be acceptable in some sense. Just as we are more than a collection of cells (even trillions), our awareness is more than the firing patterns of neurons.

    Neural activity is certainly an important field of study and this field should yield many answers to problems in medicine and well-being. However, to say that the basis of thoughts feelings and perceptions is completely contained in our neurons is ludicrous. Perseity is a dangerous trap in this question. (That is, nothing exists in-and-of-itself, or "per se.")

    Ta da.
    See you soon after more reflection and study...
  • Jan 29 2012: ...Or perhaps we should take it one step further. I am my propositional attitude...
  • Jan 29 2012: This is something that can only ever be proven by scientific testing, it's not really open to ideological debate. Anyone can come up with some wild idea that sounds nice, like karmic imprints or race memory, but everything that's true can be proven. It'll take a long, long time before we can prove we're consciousness comes from, but it's absurd to think it's not achievable just because we don't know right now.
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    Jan 27 2012: My only reply would be to remove the head and see what happens. However, I'm certain that religion has nothing to do with it. Do single celled organisms feel? They respond to stimuli so my guess is yes.
  • Jan 26 2012: I dont know a word about Neurology but let me rely on what i see: and i hope someone can add something. Thoughts are some sort of energy that moves inside our brain. My doubt is if this thoughts originate randomly in the brain or is our "being" the one who generates this thoughts and uses the brain as an aid to circulate this pulses.
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    Jan 24 2012: I wish I had the time to comment your topic... and so many other people comments in this topic.
    Through out these last days there were made very interesting points here. Though no thumbs up or replies surely there are people like me that just read your comments.
    Unfortunately no time to write my own...rotations...

    Wish you all a fine day/night...
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    Jan 23 2012: I'm kinda happy my mind is 'trapped' in my body.... I'd hate to have it wandering around tapping into everyone else's body! It would be weird trying to bicycle and seeing my next door neighbor go wheeling down the road while I just watched....
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    Jan 23 2012: I do wonder why 'religious' people never seem able to answer precisely in the brain the 'soul' is linked to the neuronal networks. It would seem rather obvious if some organ in the brain were acting as 'antenna' for the emanations of the 'soul' since all kinds of neuronal activities would radiate from that point. (And be visible on fMRI scans). At least Rene Descartes had the courage to assign such a role to the pineal gland! (Unfortunately, as evidence accumulated, it became obvious the pineal gland was *not* the "principal seat of the soul" (cf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineal_gland#Metaphysics_and_philosophy )
  • Jan 21 2012: Natasha,
    Here is an interesting video about an autistic child who tells about the struggle with her body. Being trapped. A very interesting video that perhaps can tell us something about the true self trying to get through the physical body. It is not the first and only time this has happened. There is a book called "Miracles to believe in" by Barry Kaufman that tells the same story of his own child plus several others that were lead through serious autism to be fully functional.
    If we can adapt an understanding of the true nature of the human being, we can also learn to understand such phenomena as what it will say to be autistic. The kernel of the human being is the "I" or ego that wants to get into the physical body and through it to gain knowledge and experience of the world around us and within our own soul life. The groundwork that they neural scientist are now laying is only the beginning of what help we can give these children.
    But my main point is again, we have to realize that there is a spiritual element in or being that is trying to incarnate into and to flow through the physical body.
    To presume that the neural activity "itself" is the initiator of human behavior is like the example that Adriaan gave about the TV set. Science today is saying to us.... look we see activity coming from the neural fabric of the brain here and here... there and there.... and of course they do! But the impulses coming from the conscious ego or "I" is the true impulse giver. Not the neural activity that starts the hand in motion ...no! The individual ego... the "I" that starts the neural activity first, then the hand moves..... It simply must be this way.

    • Jan 21 2012: Daniel!
      Thank you for the link, it pushed me to thinking the way I've never thought before.It's like to watch the familiar movie backwards from the end to the beginning...
      We try to 'map' the intuitive image through highly ordered, time-organised mind via language and as for me I am usually disappointed with the result for it's clumsy, pathetic or in the best case scenario a kind of chalk outline of a beautiful colourful, multi facets picture I had a glimpse of. But this autistic child is striving to order her 'intuitive ocean' to gain the bliss of control over her body... Her challenge humbles me a lot, now I appreciate the bliss of the balance ! It's a gift ! Body is sacred and mind is a beautifully made thing that allows the spirit inhabit it in the most harmonious way ! " We are not a body with spirit we are spirit that inhabits our body." And spirit must feel comfortable in it :)
      Thank you !
  • Jan 20 2012: Hi again Tim, It's been a long time yes! I've had longer break as you may have noticed... as we often seem to circle in on the same discussions.
    It strikes me as strange that you can possibly be apposed to such a self evident phenomena as consciousness.
    If I understand your comment correctly that is. Without a doubt you have a point that "we" meaning I suppose traditional science ... the A4 type has hardly begun to understand it. ...."Demonstrable influence",well Tim, you've kind of painted yourself into a corner on that one... unless you perhaps have another suggestion as to what it is that's really at the core of our being. We think, we are aware of pleasure and pain, colors, smells, and thousands upon thousands of impressions go into our ...... what .... what's the word.... if it not be consciousness.
    But science is getting closer and closer every day. Have you heard the TED lecture on "connectomes" ? It's worth seeing if you haven't seen it. As you will see by the video that the "empty space" so to say ... the space in between all the neurons ... that are so incredibly small that it's almost like wandering into the universe... only it's turned inside out..... it's on the inside of our heads !! Take a close listen to what he says ... some very special words that come in towards the last few minutes of the lecture. The words are "know thyself" .. and what is "thyself"....? ....Tim.....?
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    Jan 20 2012: “Is neural activity truly the basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?”

    Well I suppose you could say that this is the basic cartesian fallacy of the duality principle of mind vs. body when in truth the universe is one and any bifurcation of the whole into parts is merely an oversimplification of reality. But the model seems to work a lot better then a theory based on spirits and boogiemen.
    • Jan 20 2012: ...Perhaps you should take a break from TED too, Tim. It might be good for you.... I think your consciousness is starting to get warped ...
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        Jan 20 2012: Ah, Daniel. How could I possibly survive without your cheery camaraderie?
  • Jan 20 2012: I believe so, an easy way to look at this would be the dilemma of personal verses impersonal or emotional versus logic. If we use the common example of a train travelling down a track towards 5 people and you can pull a lever to change the tracks so it would only kill 1 person, and the other example of the same situation but the only way to stop the train is by pushing a man of the bridge into it. We can see that the first example is impersonal and the second is personal. In the first case under MRI for 9/10 people the areas of the brain associated with cool rational thinking; the mediofrontal gyrus, and the left and right parietal lobes light up. However, we also know that these areas become less active during emotional thought, and this is exactly what happens in most people for the second option as well as this 4 other areas strongly associated with depression and anxiety light up. So all though by logic these are exactly the same. Due to neurological processes the majority of people would answer them differently. However, there are 1 in 10 people, the strict logicians, who when posed with the second decision they will take a much longer time to come up with an answer and decide on there being no difference between the two. But on the MRI you can see the anterior cingulate cortex light up which is the areas associated with internal conflict.
  • Jan 19 2012: Well, our thoughts, feelings and other aspects can be electrically switched on or off -- so...it is both biological but it's also really a matter of quantum computation within the brain and most thoughts, feelings and other aspects of perception are probabilistic -- The brain does not have a Von Neumann architecture....it has a quantum computing architecture of probabilistic outcomes

    This can best be seen by the question of what is reality and what is space? Is it a matter of illusion? Yes Can we bend the world around us if we believe we can? Yes (we do make our own reality after all).

    But...universe as hologram is the most important piece of this answer, the world as most QED and string physicists believe and some have mathematical certainty (with lab findings from the LHC) that the world as we see it is a mirage and a mental projection of a 2D data center with the source being unknown. Our brains for example really are prediction engines with stimuli which neuroplasticity can move to other functions of the brain

    What we see through our eyes are only one thing, we see 100% video data BUT when it is actually computed in the brain, it becomes probabilistic....the brain only responds to 10%-17% approximations of video data (and thus only that amount of data is perceived) -- even when cut the signal using optics and send the video data, the data is still only minutely added into perception.

    Overall: perception, feelings and memories are facets of quantum entanglement at a high, high level and the aspect of perception may be a very tiny piece of what the world, universe and everything ACTUALLY looks like or is.

    Read more from MIT studies on the ease to manipulate morality and the ease to make people hear voices as well as the ease to set energies to make people think what is programmed and also programmable matter is interesting. Catoms/claytronics and quantum, optical, DNA and other new forms of computing will give us the data, THEN we can augment abilities
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    Jan 17 2012: Rupert Sheldrake insists that memory is not stored in the brain, inside neural cells, but transduces to some field medium (holographic Universe?) external to the brain. Until we have proof that neurons contain the total bandwidth of perceptions, considerations and memories in high resolution across infinite gradations of 100 input modalities (hearing, sight, taste, touch, etc. being but the tip of an iceberg containing the sensations of weight, wet, temperature, balance, spatial orientation, motion parallax, etc.
  • Jan 16 2012: This discussion gives me the sense that we're very much like newborn babies, just beginning the process of coordinating our motor skills and defining where we end and the rest begins. It's interesting that while we do grope for understanding, we are simultaneously unlearning the truth that before we started pondering and trying to understand, we had a more accurate understanding of our place in the universe.
  • Jan 16 2012: I am not sure I understand the question but I believe our thoughts feelings and perceptions are more complex than that. It has been said that if you change your thoughts it can change the way you feel. In the same breath can I change the way think if I change the way I feel? As for perceptions they are somewhat complex. If it was just a matter of neural activity wouldn't all of our feeling, thought and perceptions be the same. But there are so many variables. Past experiences, bias,preconceived ideas all have a part in how I perceive things. Even my feelings can change my perception. They are too intertwined to just be a simple process.
  • Jan 15 2012: I believe it to be a consequence rather then a cause of thoughts, feelings and perceptions.

    Those who've had near death experiences and came back, can report what they have seen and felt.
    Unfortunatelly we still know very little of how the brain works, and what connection it does have with our subjective experience of life.

    I am not sure but I think physicians say that our consciousness is more of a whole body thing it cannot be localised to the brain.
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    Jan 15 2012: I think the only thing my brain has in common with another is the fact that it is above my shoulders, just like yours.

    Our life experiences create the neuronal pathways, (nano moment by nano moment) and therefore the different perceptions in each individual. We can talk about neurons, synapses, axons being mylinated by alegodendrictes and being destroyed by astocites etc,. (please excuse the spelling) but this is surely the mechanics or structure being effected by our conscious or unconscious attention to ideas.

    I don't think the brain produces anything of itself, rather it is responding as a receptor to what is coming in through the consciousness, senses,etc., therefore the neuronal pathways are subject to what might be called cause and affect responsiveness.

    Our feelings are influenced by thoughts. Understanding is not done, I think it is arrived at by paying a sincere interest towards the topic etc., Therefore perception might be determined by a quality of ones spiritually guided consciousness. This may not be popular science, but quality science might open the door to all and unseen possibilities.
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    Jan 14 2012: My intuition tells me it is the heart.
  • Jan 11 2012: We probably don't know enough to say we really know ... on another tangent are we our thoughts and feelings or are they responses that manifest
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    Jan 2 2012: Yes, I was not intending to open a debate. Just curious about his position. Thank you for your answer.
    • Jan 20 2012: Michael,
      Hot topic! Seems to have become a debate anyway. That OK though. Great discussion going on here. Are you following along. ... Any input?