Secret Ingredient?

Most great recipes have a secret ingredient. This is the spice that your grandmother leaves out of the recipe when she writes it down. The secret ingredients of Coca-Cola supposedly are only known to two people who are not allowed to travel together, but they have also been written down and stored in a vault. I listened to a cook on the radio swear that a single bay leaf made all the difference in the flavor of a particular recipe.

Does consciousness have a secret ingredient? If you think I’m talking about EM fields, not this time. Actually it may be something more obvious, not really all that secret, but something that actually gives us some insight on the evolution of consciousness, its nature, and how Friston’s theories fit into all of it.

In my comments on my last post, I mentioned there seemed to be a lack of clarity about how Friston’s free energy principle (FEP) related to consciousness. Since it seemed to be a theory as much or more about life itself, what made consciousness something unique in it? He didn’t seem to be claiming all life was conscious but he did seem to be claiming all life followed FEP. So, there must be something more than FEP by itself to explain consciousness. Both Friston and Solms called attention to learning but how do learning and consciousness connect? What is it about learning that needs consciousness or would create it? In a separate comment, I called attention to the yet previous post on electrical low frequency oscillations primarily in the Hydra but also in life in general. The paper discussed in that post does call out Friston as well as Buszáki in discussing low-frequency oscillations in the brain.

Let me speculate some and try to put some of the pieces together:

If the main goal of life is to maintain a stable internal state in the face of a changing external environment (part of FEP per my understanding), then maybe the best way of doing this is with electrical low-frequency oscillations. Think of a spinning top as a rough analogy. (Note: I understand the physics is not the same. This is an analogy.) The spinning top is stable but also in a slow motion of precession. If the top is tipped slightly, the top will adjust to account for change in gravity. There is also a rotational inertia that keeps the top stable when perturbed by outside bumps. Think now of an organism trying to maintain its form by using electrical oscillations to coordinate its different parts. There may be slow changes in form analogous to precession in the top and larger changes in response to external forces, but there is also a general resistance to change. The oscillations provide stability and structure to what might otherwise disintegrate into a dead, motionless mass. Hanson in the paper I referenced earlier conjectures that electrical low-frequency oscillations “may be the ultimate organism-wide electrical information integrators and communicators in all biological systems at all levels of scale, making them critical for maintenance of organism unity and coherent, adaptive behavior”.

As more complex organisms evolve, the same mechanisms are used resulting eventually in the development of brains and nervous systems with highly specialized cells involved in the low-frequency oscillations. These cells not provide for coordination in the body (basic things like heart and respiration rates), but also allow for movement and primitive reflexes in simple animals. According to the view of Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka, as consciousness appears in more complex organisms, it correlates with complex learning.

Let me repeat a question I asked earlier: What is it about learning that needs consciousness or would create it? Or, to put it another way, what do we need to add to oscillating neurons to make complex learning possible?

Let me answer that it is simply memory that is the missing ingredient.

Solms makes his consciousness and feelings argument by saying (debatably) that feelings are always conscious. Let me make a similar statement. Consciousness does not exist when there is no ability to recall or create memories. When we are sound asleep and not dreaming, we cannot create memories. When we are completely anesthetized (assuming no resistance), we cannot create memories. Learning is impossible without an ability to store the results of the learning, and storing representations of sensual impressions, associations, motor actions is exactly what memory is.

Consciousness may be all about recalling memories, matching memories to current experience, and adjusting the internal memories to match the current experience. The matching of internal models with the external world is what FEP is all about. To be clear I am not talking about episodic memory (which does play a role with humans and maybe some other animals) but about more fundamental memory like memory we accumulated when we learned to see, walk, and ride a bicycle. I am also not suggesting that we might not be born with certain memories. Buszáki thinks that our brains come pre-wired with patterns of firing and consciousness is involved with matching and refining these patterns with experience of the real world. It is the same or similar process in either case. We are recalling patterns, matching them with the world, and refining them.

Consciousness exists to recall memories, match them with current experience, adjust them if necessary, and create new ones when required. The prediction and interference engine that is the brain could not do what it does with an ability to recall and store information. For some reason, consciousness is critical, maybe identical, to this process.

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55 Responses to Secret Ingredient?

  1. Steve Ruis says:

    I don’t think learning requires consciousness, just memory. If an organism finds a certain food to be poisonous, it needs to remember that fact in order to take advantage of the fact and not eat that food again.

    Memory requires storage and retrieval mechanisms and the next step toward consciousness, I think, is imagination. I think of imagined events, etc. as artificial memories. It may require consciousness to imagine but I am currently operating under the simpler concept that it does not. So, having real memories and imagined memories allows us to compare our current real position with all of those “previous” ones and survive a bit better.

    Possibly the physical act of retrieving these memories and shuffling them about leads to consciousness. I really do not know; is great puzzlement!

    Thanks, James, for another stimulating post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      What have you learned while you were asleep?

      Like

    • James Cross says:

      I wrote a longer post on this topic. Let quote from it.

      “Consciousness is required for most learning and memory.

      Bernard Baars, originator the global workplace theory of consciousness, notes that “there appears to be no robust evidence so far for long-term learning of unconscious input” and the “evidence for learning of conscious episodes is very strong.” He also writes: “Consciousness is also involved with skill acquisition. As predicted by the hypothesis, novel skills, which are typically more conscious, activate large regions of cortex, but after automaticity due to practice, the identical task tends to activate only restricted regions”.

      https://broadspeculations.com/2020/01/15/evolution-learning-and-uncertainty/

      There may be some primitive associative learning that doesn’t required consciousness.

      Like

    • James Cross says:

      Sorry for so many comments but I do agree on the importance of imagination. The fact is that imagination and memory are really closely related. Memory, particularly episodic memory, is some like an imaginative reconstruction of events. And imagination often is a rearranging of memory. Here’s an interesting article talking about and it seems like the same parts of the brain are involved with both.

      https://www.cogneurosociety.org/imagination_remembering_kirwan/

      I think the difference is that the complexity of brain and their place in evolution.

      So you have:

      1- Life, single cells, really simple organisms
      2- Organisms with associative memory and reflexes
      3- Organisms with complex learning here is where Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka argues minimal consciousness appears
      4- More complex organisms like us with imagination

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  2. Marilyn Morrison says:

    What it is about consciousness that we need and gravitate toward is simply a need in times of great stress and contradiction in the physical world to look toward something that we can count on, something unseen and sometimes elusive. As humans, we need to trust that there is a plan for our Universe and our planet, a connection to us as humans and our environment. We need trust and faith that we are here for a reason, to make the world a better place to live for all humans. You don’t have to go the religious route to understand the heart’s need to trust in a higher power.
    Logically, it makes no sense to think this entire Universe was created without some kind of order.
    There are no mistakes, we are not a mistake. For humans to bond in a Spiritual sense takes a strong commitment to find and strengthen our higher self through actualization.
    Change is the most difficult issue with humans but we must change our thought process and our hearts yearning for love and acceptance. If we go to a higher power for a clearer mind and acceptance, our spirit can help the process. This requires slowing down and being more conscious of our intentions and what is of real importance in our lives.
    Simple but not easy to accomplish. It is a lifelong journey to become present with the energy that surrounds and moves us toward our highest possible potential.
    Not very technical but 75 years of exploration has made me a more calm, peaceful, and grateful person just to be alive.
    .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An interesting idea, and I like the functional way you’re thinking! 🙂

    This reminds me of the speculative reason Victor Lamme gave for why he thought recurrent neural processing might essentially be consciousness, that it enhances synaptic plasticity, in other words, memory.

    I definitely think memory is part of the picture. But it does seem like we can lay down memories and learn unconsciously. You mentioned procedural memory like learning to walk or ride a bike. We can remember the effort involved in a lot of these scenarios. But I often pick up habits, which is learning, without realizing I’m picking them up. This type of model free learning seems like it complicates the picture.

    What might separate the conscious learning from unconscious variety is the sheer amount of novelty involved. I can probably learn new habits if they’re a sequence of largely pre-existing habits driven by particular stimuli. But learning how to ride a bike, or drive a car, is very novel when we begin, requiring a lot of cognitive resources, which might be why it’s conscious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      Yes, there is implicit learning. Learning a first language is obviously a skill we all learn but nobody teaches us explicitly grammar or vocabulary. However, even that learning requires that we be conscious.

      To me the most interesting example is biofeedback. Just providing feedback about the brain rhythms can allow someone to gain a degree of control over them but it’s impossible to say how exactly that happens. Feedback mediated by consciousness seems involved but it isn’t clear how it works at the neuron level. I think Baars noted that biofeedback can produce control down to the single neuron level. Language learning and many other skills are learned implicitly but feedback from the environment is almost always involved.

      Consciousness may be required in creating the fine-grained degree of control needed in complex learning and may be necessary when integrating across multiple senses and motor actions. I would interested in the Lamme reference. Although I haven’t brought in EM fields so far, I can’t fail to mention that EM fields could be part of the feedback process especially in integrating learning across multiple brain regions. I haven’t seen McFadden talk much about learning but he has discussed of the unusual computer chip that seemed to develop some unique qualities when they inadvertently designed EM feedback into the circuits.

      Artificial Consciousness?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the elephant in the room here is that we’re speaking of “memory” in both non-conscious procedural ways, as well as conscious episodic ways. So it seems sensible to make the distinction between “phenomenal” and “non-phenomenal” varieties of memory. I presume that our computers require non-phenomenal memory to function right, while I instead require various past conscious experiences to remain accessible to me in reduced and degraded ways, such as my memory of people’s faces and names. The tricky part is that there seems to be a phenomenal sort of computer that has phenomenal memory as an input (along with phenomenal valence and sense inputs), and this unlimited and purpose driven form of computation is taken as input to a non-phenomenal brain in order to give a person the ability to procedurally enunciate various words and so on. So apparently science will additionally require effective phenomenal theory to straighten this business out, both neurologically and psychologically.

    By the way James, I’ve been meaning to ask you if you can find any holes in my recent proposal to test McFadden’s theory? Surely your site is the best place for this. If a transmitter were implanted in the head, and so an aware person could tell researchers of anything phenomenally strange while countless series’ of synchronous charges were fired that simulated the synchronous charges commonly displayed by actual neurons, do you believe that McFadden’s proposal would progressively be falsified or validated? As far as you can tell, have I missed anything?

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      Eric,

      Actually I am not sure I am following either of your items.

      What is the “phenomenal sort of computer that has phenomenal memory as an input”? Are you really referring to the brain or an actual computer I am unaware of?

      There is a good deal not understood about memory. It seems pretty easy to trace particular types of specialized memory capabilities to identified parts of the brain. Retrograde amnesia and anterograde usually are caused by damage to specific parts of the brain but learning in a more general sense seems to be all over the place. We know even learning to see requires a certain amount of learning. People blind from birth who regain their sight later in life frequently never can see the same way that somebody with sight from birth can. Language also needs to be acquired during certain critical phases of development or a person never develops good facility with the language.

      Where I think Solms is somewhat right that the role of consciousness is interact with the external environment to learn but then push the learning itself into automatic reactions. I think I ended my post on learning with a quote from Solms about that. So we need consciousness to learn anything that is not instinct and we probably even need to learn how to apply instincts in the real world, but ideally the brain would more efficient and require less energy if everything were automatic. But as Solms acknowledges in the quote the real world always has surprises and we use our repertoire of learning to respond to surprises and/or to learn new responses.

      On the second item, your use of the word “transmitter” is throwing me? We already have evidence that stimulation of the cortex can produce sensations or evoke memories. Some of that research goes back to Penfield. I think proving McFadden’s theory requires that EM fields be shown conclusively to be the critical part of that loop.

      Liked by 1 person

      • James,
        On “the phenomenal sort of computer”, your suspicion was right that I’m not referring to the brain but rather a computer that the brain produces. Though you may not be aware of this computer, ironically I’m referring to awareness itself. If you recall McFadden also speaks of this non-brain computer which is theoretically constituted by an EM field. While the brain functions as a vast parallel computer, consciousness functions as a modest serial computer. Here he speaks of a scientific dualism — energy versus material — and though I agree with him on that, I doubt that he grasps the unfortunate baggage which the “dualism” term carries.

        In any case while he developed a neurology based dual computers model, I developed the same from a psychological perspective. I’d love to show him what my model adds to his! Here this awareness computer is informed by both phenomenal memory and phenomenal senses, and is fueled into action by phenomenal valence that serves as purpose, or good/bad. You may recall me bringing up a diagram where this second computer exists as an output of the brain, and the brain uses that function for input to its its function. Unfortunately it tends to require quite a bit of explaining to grasp, so I won’t include it for now unless you’d like to get into some of those particulars.

        In any case while the brain may permit the phenomenal computer to have memory, it’s only the memories themselves which will exist for it, theoretically in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Technically we should try not to conflate the first computer from the one its creates. So I’d say that the brain computer of a person blind from birth should not have been properly developed in crucial years without a phenomenally sighted second computer. It should be similar for language. I think this model fits quite well with the view that you and Solms advocate here.

        On my transmitter proposal to test McFadden’s theory, let me first emphasize what I’m not talking about. I’m not talking about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Yes we can cause various neurons to fire this way, with associated effects that are even used in medicine. And as you note, that doesn’t truly test his theory since both “wired” and “wireless” activity occur. We need an EM wave only mechanism so that we might check whether or not it’s able to alter conscious experience. This is exactly what I propose.

        The physics of this mandates that something be put in the brain (which I’m currently calling “a transmitter”) that’s able to produce the same charge firing magnitude as a typical neuron. This machine would not just function like a single neuron however, but rather hundreds, thousands, or whatever number is standard when brain neurons fire synchronously. My thought is that if the consciousness which each of us are experiencing right now does exist as a single EM field associated with synchronous neuron firing, then an EM producing machine which functions similarly in the brain should directly alter this field if the right combinations of charge firings can be achieved. Thus a person with such altered phenomenal experience should be able to tell us about this if true. Does that sound right to you?

        Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          TMS is electromagnetic, isn’t it?

          Actually Susan Pockett, I think, proposed a experiment that involved projecting a complex EM field at a part of a room and then have somebody put their head at that spot. I’m not sure how much power would need to be used to create such a field, but I think it would be a lot because the strength of a field rapidly drops with distance., which is good, otherwise we could be interfered with by the wires in our house. Pockett, BTW, when I communicated with her was extremely concerned about 5G technology and was focusing on that.

          There could be some other issues was these sort of experiments. We don’t really know what spatiotemporal forms in enough details are being generated by the brain to be able to know to engineer something like the device. The other thing is that the brain itself is not going to stop producing its own field, so you could end up with just a muddle of interactions between what the device is producing and what the brain is producing.

          Another note, there is also the Shakti device or God helmet which maybe you have heard about. I actually had an older version of this device and it produced some unusual sensations but ultimately I wasn’t sure about the safety of experimenting with it long term. This was based on research by Persinger.

          https://www.god-helmet.com/wp/winshakti/rotating/index.htm

          Liked by 1 person

        • James,
          Weeks ago Stephen Wysong objected to McFadden’s theory given that consciousness should thus be altered by standard endogenous radiation. I countered with something that McFadden wrote in his 2002 paper entitled “Synchronous Firing and It’s Influence on the Brain’s Electromagnetic Field”. Furthermore thinking about this led me to devise a way to test his theory. So I’ll begin with what McFadden wrote for that paper. You’ve incited me to do a bit more reading on the subject as well.

          Prediction 6. The high conductivity of the cerebral fluid and fluid within the brain ventricles creates an effective ‘Faraday cage’ that insulates the brain from most natural exogenous electric fields. A constant external electric field will thereby induce almost no field at all in the brain (Adair, 1991). Alternating cur- rents from technological devices (power lines, mobile phones, etc.) will generate an alternating induced field, but its magnitude will be very weak. For example, a 60 Hz electrical field of 1000 V/m (typical of a powerline) will generate a tissue field of only 40 μV/m [or .00004 V/m] inside the head (Adair, 1991), clearly much weaker than either the endogenous em field [which seems to be around 2 V/m] or the field caused by thermal noise in cell mem- branes. Magnetic fields do penetrate tissue much more readily than electric fields but most naturally encountered magnetic fields, and also those experienced dur- ing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) scanning, are static (changing only the direction of moving charges) and are thereby unlikely to have physiological effects. Changing magnetic fields will penetrate the skull and induce electric cur- rents in the brain. However, there is abundant evidence (from, e.g., TMS studies as outlined above) that these do modify brain activity. Indeed, repetitive TMS is subject to strict safety guidelines to prevent inducing seizures in normal subjects (Hallett, 2000) through field effects.

          I added the two “[]” clarifications btw. In any case electric fields now seem entirely off the table. Magnetic fields can have effects however, which is what I’ve been reading about.

          McFadden says that NMR machines (which today are called MRI machines to take the “nuclear” stigma away) use fixed magnetic fields. I presume he’s right about that and so there’s no potential for this to produce current in the brain that incites neural function. I have however noticed it mentioned that these machines also use what would be electromagnetic radiation, though by design interference comes too close to the source for it to be termed “radiation”. They refer to this as “near field” stuff that doesn’t have fully formed waves, whereas actual radiation (from radio to gamma) is called “far field”. The distance required for full wave formation might be around a wavelength.

          Apparently TMS machines use magnetic fields which oscillate between 1 and 5 herts and can induce current in the brain up to 5 centimeters deep. So they don’t fire EM radiation into the brain, but rather use a magnetic field that changes polarity as noted to affect neuron firing. I see that modern treatment costs between $6,000 and $12,000, so surely there’s some serious stuff going on in these machines! In any case the point of them is to cause various neurons to fire / not fire in mood altering parts of the brain.

          The god helmet seems to be a very cheap knockoff of TMS. Does the changing polarity of magnets strapped to the head alter the function of any neurons? Perhaps. If you could dig out your old model and give it another try, I’d love to hear what you feel today. I see from the ad that they say there is no EM radiation involved, which seems entirely correct — the changing magnetic field is suppose to affect neuron function, not create any radiation.

          Conversely my proposal to test McFadden’s theory is not to incite neurons to fire, since here we wouldn’t know if field effects or standard “wired” effects were responsible for subsequent observations. Instead it’s to put something in the head which independently fires charges that have around the same energy levels that individual neuron firing does, and to have this device simultaneously set off a number of them that’s typical of synchronous neuron firing. It would need to be in the head because otherwise such low energy fields shouldn’t reach the endogenous field that is theorized as consciousness itself. And I presume that amplification through synchrony is required as well since that’s what the brain uses in order for such radiation to be strong enough to do much even while inside “the Faraday cage”.

          The experiment itself wouldn’t be to potentially impart coherent forms of qualia, such as an image. It would be to see if the qualia that a subject is having at a given moment could be affected at all in any reproducible capacity by means of nothing more than certain combinations of synchronous machine firings. Waves of a given form that are in proximity with other waves of that form, interfere through a spectrum of negation to amplification.

          Initially countless combinations would be tried, perhaps taking cues from what’s known about synchronous brain neuron firing. And I’d expect a subject to generally notice nothing strange at all. But perhaps a given combination would affect McFadden’s theorized field in a way that’s phenomenally noticeable, and so that combination would be studied further. Does it seem to have this supposed effect on a subject repeatedly? (And note that subjects wouldn’t be able to cheat because they wouldn’t know which patterns were being tried at a given moment.) Would a successful series in one subject be observed have qualia effects in other subjects? If successful observations led to more such results, it seems to me that McFadden’s theory would eventually be validated.

          I haven’t yet gotten much feedback on this proposal however. I think Mike once said that he’d be very interested in such studies if validated, and would perhaps come around to McFadden’s perspective. (Right Mike?)

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          I doubt if you will get Mike to agree with you no matter what evidence you produce.

          I’m still not sure your proposal will prove what you hope. McFadden’s approach seems to be to make a lot of predictions that can possibly be proven. For me, I think the best ways would be to come up with some way of blocking EM fields while preserving normal neuronal activity to see if something different behaviorally or by report happened. The best subjects might be simple systems like spiders and insects, perhaps reacting to odors.

          Here you see olfactory senses across phyla seem to use similar frequencies:

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4374988/#:~:text=Neural%20oscillations%20are%20ubiquitous%20in,of%20mammals%2C%20insects%20and%20molluscs.&text=Beta%20(20%20Hz)%20and%20theta,within%20and%20across%20brain%20regions.

          Here specific to honey bee brain:

          https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.0115

          I know this is somewhat tangential but there is also a good bit of evidence that direct electrical stimulation at the cortical surface does induce sensations. In my original post on this topic, there is a diagram from Pockett showing how she believes the EM field works and critical to it is charge at the surface of the cortex. My thought for a time has been that maybe stimulating the surface of the cortex was changing consciousness by directly altering the EM field, not as has been supposed by triggering neuron firings.

          “Electrocorticogram electrodes on the primary somatosensory cortical surface were stimulated with varying current intensities, and a visual analogue scale was employed to provide a quantitative measure of intensity of the evoked sensations. Evoked sensations included those of the thumb, tongue, and hand. A clear linear relationship between current intensity and perceived intensity of sensation was observed. These findings provide novel insight into the quantitative nature of primary somatosensory cortex electrical stimulation-evoked sensation for development of somatosensory neuroprosthetics for clinical use”.

          https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2019.01019/full

          Liked by 1 person

        • That’s not fair James. Evidence is exactly what would convince me. But it has to be evidence where the simplest explanation is the proposition in question. I haven’t seen anything like that yet for EM theories.

          Making predictions already made by mainstream theories, or that could be made by them, doesn’t really help. It’s equivalent to string theory making the same predictions already made by general relativity and quantum theory, except with lots of additional assumptions. The more complex theory has to make unique predictions (ones that can’t be made with other theories) that bear out.

          What I recall telling Eric is similar to what you said. But demonstrating it seems like a very tall order since we measure neural activity via EM fields. (It’s worth noting that that kind of measurement is very sensitive to environmental conditions. Masland discussed how it used to have to be done in a wire mesh cage to block police radios, TV stations, and the like.)

          Liked by 2 people

        • Right Mike. As I said, evidence is exactly what would convince you of a parsimonious explanation. I haven’t looked it up but when we were talking before I don’t think my proposal to test McFadden’s theory was quite figured out yet. Furthermore my perception is that the concern you expressed was that we merely presume that the brain fires neurons by means of EEG machines which directly detect associated radiation, not an actual witnessing of neural function itself (not to mention synapse function). So how might we know that a given set of detected radiation was responsible for a given bit of qualia, when it might instead have been the standard neural chain which produced it?

          Actually I’m going to stop here for a simple “Yes that’s the problem I was referring to” or “No that’s not it (with clarification about what you do consider difficult about testing McFadden’s theory)”.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Eric,
          I’d say that we have plenty of evidence that EEG (and MEG, fMRI and other scanning techniques) correlate with actual neural firings. Remember, neuroscientists can measure the spike of a single neuron by inserting a microelectrode into it. It’s just extremely invasive, and it obviously can’t be done for many neurons at a time. And we have centuries of evidence from the peripheral nervous system of many different animals on how neurons in general work and what fields they generate.

          But I think you did broadly get the problem right.

          That said, thinking about what I know about the actual theory, I wonder if someone like McFadden would agree that we’re thinking about this right. Isn’t his theory that it’s the field in interaction with the neural substrate? If so, attempting to modify just the field might be pointless. And any modification of actual behavior will by necessity involve modifying neural processing, in the motor regions if nowhere else.

          Given that even mainstream neuroscience sees possible stochastic perturbations from the EM field as a factor, this seems like a very hard theory to test.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Okay Mike, thanks. That’s about as simple a “Yes” as I could have expected. I agree that science has no reason whatsoever to doubt that when evidence (hopefully corroborated with other evidence) suggests neuron firing, that it’s because that’s exactly what happens. And of course in science we’ve done all sorts of horrible things to non-human animals to help validate our tools.

          Isn’t his theory that it’s the field
          in interaction with the neural substrate?

          Actually no, my interpretation of McFadden’s theory is not that consciousness requires an interaction with a neural network. I consider him to propose two fully independent computers in themselves, and even though in practice the first (a brain) is proposed to create and take feedback from the second (or qualia (which convention holds may be referred to in many other ways as well)). What I think you’re thinking about here is how McFadden demonstrates that evolved consciousness can’t simply be like an otherwise functionless train steam whistle. Evolution mandates that it must actually “do” something as well as exist alone. Agreed, and good for you for getting that far into his theory! As you imply it’s well known that ephaptic coupling does occur. This is to say that a known output mechanism exists for his cemi field theory to use. This is all tangential to my testing proposal itself however, which I’ll now get into.

          To answer your question, the reason that the experiment which I’m proposing is not hindered by the brain’s inherent connection between neural firing and how we measure neural firing (such as detected neuron radiation), is because here the radiation would be a known factor which we produce in the brain, not something that we would need to try to measure the brain’s production of at a given moment. My proposed experiment takes EEG and so on out of the equation entirely and replaces them with a very different kind of detector. Here I mean no less than the conscious report of a literate human test subject! If certain EM radiation that we exogenously create in the subject’s head (which should thus not be associated with standard brain function), has repeatable correlation with reported conscious disturbances, then it would seem very difficult for standard information processing theories of consciousness to remain on the table. Wouldn’t their defense then have to be that our random EM tampering amazingly also gets enough ephaptic coupling done to put such disturbances back into the information processing paradigm, and so neural firing would theoretically be responsible for such disturbances rather than altered EM fields / consciousnesses? That would seem to be a tall order, and one that could be empirically assessed as well.

          I’m asking if you see any problems with my proposal to prove or disprove cemi field theory? If a human made transmitter in the brain that fired certain charges similarly to the ones that are synchronously fired by actual neurons, were to reproducibly alter phenomenal experience (and perhaps at some point certain standard sensations such as “hunger” could reliably be created with the right machine firing patterns), do you think that you’d eventually decide consciousness probably does exist as a quantifiable product of a specific sort of electromagnetic field rather than as generic information processing alone? If not then what would you say my proposal gets wrong? Or how would you assert that various informationist proposals like global workspace theory would be able to account for such evidence as well? (I consider informationism unfalsifiable and so adherents should remain even if science ultimately leaves this position and all its ridiculous implications behind. But I’m asking this of you personally.)

          Liked by 1 person

        • Eric,
          On ephaptic coupling, I wouldn’t say it’s “widely known that it does occur”. As far as I know, it’s only been demonstrated in one experiment at Case Western university, which was done in vitro, in an artificial environment, not in vivo, in a living brain where neurons are generally separated from each other by surrounding glia. I haven’t seen any replications of even that yet. (Admittedly, I haven’t been looking.)

          Your proposal seems somewhere between TMS and deep brain stimulation. The problem is, how are whatever changes you induce going to be reported by the subject? Even if CEMI is true, the subject reporting their experience will require motor neurons firing to control the relevant vocal cord and other related muscles. This is an issue with any kind of behavioral evidence, including report. Once we know neural activity has been altered, your results seem contaminated.

          Maybe you could do it in sensory regions well away from motor regions. If the information still somehow reaches those motor regions, you might be on to something. Although you now have to demonstrate that you did not in fact alter neural processing in those sensory regions. The problem is you just flooded that region with an EM radiation which clouds any ability to measure neural activity. Even microelectrodes would be affected by the implanted transmitter’s field.

          Maybe you could come up with computer algorithms that could back out the effects of the transmitter, maybe calibrated with a transmitter implanted in a cadaver first. The trick would be doing that in a manner that could itself be reliably validated. And that’s all before the issue that motor activity itself alters sensory activity (we had a conversation on this a while back), so now those changes have to be backed out of any measurement, although maybe they could be sussed out with the timing. The problem is any report is going to take far longer than these dynamics, clouding what is actually causing the report. All in all, the complexity is getting really high.

          As I noted to James, maybe the easiest test, which McFadden eluded to in his recent Aeon piece, is to see what happens with AI. If it hits an insurmountable obstacle, one that can only be overcome with EM fields, then we’d know something.

          Finally, on your points about information processing, it’s worth noting that CEMI (conscious electromagnetic information) is an information based theory. That’s actually a plus for me, but in light of your remarks, it seems like it would be a negative for you.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Mike,
          You don’t seem to be grasping my proposal at all yet. It’s definitely not “somewhere between TMS and deep brain stimulation”. They involved inciting neuron function. If we simply make neurons fire then we shouldn’t know if it’s standard neural connections that are responsible or the potential field effects that cemi depends upon. That’s exactly the problem I get around by not involving the neuron. So try to delete that entire conception of my proposal because it’s simply not what I’m talking about. I have a very simple idea, though if you add things to it then I’ll have to correct you.

          McFadden proposes that as we speak, there is a single amazingly complex EM field in your head which constitutes all that you see, hear, think, and your moving subjective experience in general. This is an important idea to always keep in mind when you’re assessing his ideas. It’s the foundation upon which his model rests.

          How might such a field be created, as well as be affected? Physics mandates that singularly fired neurons will be too weak to create or influence such a field. Instead neurons will need to fire synchronously to potentially create or alter this theorized field of subjective experience.

          My proposal is for a standard person (who theoretically also has such a field in their head while they’re conscious), to sit down with scientists and tell them if anything phenomenally strange happens while various combinations of synchronous charges are fired in the subject’s head, hopefully similar to standard synchronous neuron firing itself. And even if McFadden’s theory is true, it may be very difficult for such a transmitter to get into a zone where the theorized EM field becomes affected by this firing. But if certain combinations of this exogenous firing does affect the theorized conscious field of a subject, we’d expect the subject to notice some strange things, such as blurred vision, dizziness, or whatever, and also be able to report such effects. The subject should be able to report because it’s not like their consciousness should be altered all that much given this adddition (unless it were substantially altered, which would also be observable).

          If researchers did this in many ways with many subjects for an extended period of time without repeatable evidence of subjective experience alteration, I’d think that McFadden’s theory could safely be dismissed. But if there were evidence of phenomenal alteration at some point, and the associated combinations helped researchers learn how to provide relatively complex forms of qualia, like specific images or smells, then I’d think that his theory would ultimately become validated.

          What do you think? If you now grasp my proposal (and I’ll want evidence of that), do you think that such an experiment would validate or refute McFadden’s model?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Eric,
          I understand what you’re trying to do, alter the field without altering neural activity. But you don’t seem to have parsed my points. Maybe you stopped reading after the TMS / deep brain stimulation remark? (Which you misinterpreted but it doesn’t matter.)

          If you did read the whole thing, then consider how someone can tell us about change to their conscious experience. Consider the physiology of how it happens. Work backward from the muscles involved in the telling and tell me if that can be done without affecting neural activity. Describe the causal chain of how you see it working.

          Liked by 1 person

        • “If you did read the whole thing [and yes I did, several times], then consider how someone can tell us about change to their conscious experience. Consider the physiology of how it happens. Work backward from the muscles involved in the telling and tell me if that can be done without affecting neural activity. Describe the causal chain of how you see it working.”

          I could go through all that Mike, though I might as well just tell you that yes, neural activity should be altered by a changed conscious experience. I guess you didn’t figure that my experiment depends upon normal neural function in order to effectively test whether or not McFadden’s theory happens to be valid?

          Let’s say that all sorts of firing combinations were tried. Scientists would depend upon standard neural function for the subject to validly say that nothing seemed strange. Here McFadden’s proposal would seem more doubtful. Or if the subject were to notice some phenomenally strange things, then scientists would depend upon standard neural function in order for the test subject to validly tell them about what they experienced. Here McFadden’s proposal would seem more promising. You spoke of contaminated results, though I see nothing inherent to that claim either way.

          There’s little reason to think that simply creating EM fields in the brain should alter standard neural function, that is apart from random ephaptic coupling. And of course McFadden’s theory depends upon effective ephaptic coupling as well. If something unexpected is felt however then we should expect associated thought and neural firing to follow.

          So with the clarification that my proposal actually depends upon standard conscious and non-conscious function, including associated neuron firing, how would you now like to argue that my proposal wouldn’t test his theory? Or would you like to go on with the argument that a person who feels nothing strange when slight charges are fired in the head, will be too contaminated to tell scientists that things seem normal?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Eric,
          How do you know that you have “standard neural function” or altered neural function from the effects of the EM field you’re generating? That’s the contamination I was referring to.

          “There’s little reason to think that simply creating EM fields in the brain should alter standard neural function,”

          We know that creating a field of sufficient strength does alter neural function (TMS). If you mean weak fields, I agree, aside from normal stochastic perturbation, noise, which the system seems to do its best to compensate for through redundancy, repetition and thickening of key axons. But then where does that leave room for CEMI?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Mike,
          I realize that you think that you understand what I’m proposing, as well as disagree that it would have the implications I suggest. If you were to understand however then you should also be able to use your own words to tell me what I’m proposing, to which I’d either reply “Yes that’s it”, or perhaps I’d correct you about whatever specifics seemed amiss. One demonstration that you don’t yet understand is that you currently aren’t sure if I’m talking about inducing strong or weak EM fields in the brain. Let me try to clarify what I’m proposing so that you can perhaps describe this to me in your own words. And if you are able to do so, perhaps you’ll also find valid reason that such an experiment would neither help support nor refute McFadden’s CEMI? That is what I seek here — valid reason that such an experiment would not or could not provide a good test. From there I’d either figure out how to overcome any valid hurdle, or if I couldn’t then I’d dismiss my plan.

          McFadden proposes that when neurons fire synchronously, sometimes the right parameters are reached such that the disturbances here affect an amazingly complex standing EM field which exists as the qualia by which the human and various other forms of life perceive their existence and consciously act. I haven’t noticed it mentioned how many neurons typically fire in synchrony in the human brain, but that’s exactly what my experiment would seek to replicate exogenously. If we were to implant hairlike transmitters which extend into the brain that were connected to a machine which fires charges through them to mimic standard synchronous neuron firing, then it seems to me that if neurons produce consciousness as an electromagnetic field this way, and if our crappy machine could achieve the proper parameters, then it should tend to disturb consciousness in various ways since it’s known in physics that when waves of a given type are in proximity with other waves of that type, interference occurs between them. The main detector here would be a conscious human with instruction to report anything phenomenally unusual during testing, and whose behavior and physiology should be recorded in all sorts of ways as various combinations of firing were tried.

          You could try to make the case that the subject’s report should not be trusted since scientists would be imparting the tiny synchronous charges which are standard in normal brain function. But shouldn’t scientists have evidence of which evidence is more and less trustworthy? Shouldn’t subject report validity be a major component of such an experiment?

          Notice that your original objection, which I was able to describe to you before continuing, was that it should be difficult to test whether or not EM fields constitute consciousness since a standard way that we detect neuron firing is through EEG testing that measures radiation. So we shouldn’t know if EM field alteration were responsible for a given strange bit of qualia or the associated neural connections. I seem to have gotten around that concern of yours however by using known exogenous firing to potentially alter a theorized existing EM field beyond the parameters of neuron firing (though surely several kinds of monitors such as EEG would be used as well to assess what’s happening in the brain during such an experiment in general).

          If you’re able to paraphrase my proposal, can you also provide good reason that such an experiment would not or could not test the validity of McFadden’s CEMI? That’s what I seek to understand.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Eric, it seems clear we’re not getting through to each other. I feel like I’ve been making my point repeatedly and it’s just not connecting. You seem to feel the same. At this point, it seems best to just quiesce the conversation for now.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Alright Mike, for now you can claim this discussion as “a draw” if you like. Of course if you think that you both understand my proposed test of McFadden’s CEMI and have good reason that it wouldn’t or couldn’t help validate or invalidate it, then it stands to reason that you could both describe what I’m proposing in your own words, as well as why it wouldn’t work in that sense. So I’m currently skeptical that you’ve got a good objection.

          Furthermore my perception is that you’d hate it if it could be shown that McFadden’s proposal were quite testable, perhaps somewhat because I’ve been teasing you for years about the unfalsifiability and non natural nature of the status quo idea which you adopted long before we met. I call the position “informationism” as you know. If McFadden’s proposal is highly testable today while the status quo has no clue how they might test their widely believed competing presumption, then this in itself should look bad for your side.

          Nevertheless I’m sure that if CEMI were scientifically validated or invalidated essentially as I propose, then you’d have the integrity to admit that I got this one right. And would I have such integrity in reverse? Well I am currently looking for reasons why my plan couldn’t or wouldn’t work, though I’m not going to agree until someone can effectively describe my proposal and then make a good case that it should fail given that rather than any other conception of my test.

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Just added a sixth regarding Purkinje Cells (PC).

          “Here we find that a single PC generates sufficiently large extracellular potentials to open sodium channels in nearby PC axons. Rapid synchronization is made possible because ephaptic signals generated by PCs peak during the rising phase of action potentials. These findings show that ephaptic coupling contributes to the prevalent synchronization of nearby PCs”.

          https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627318308201

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Another reference.

          “Weak electric fields modulate neuronal activity, and knowledge of the interaction threshold is important in the understanding of neuronal synchronization, in neural prosthetic design, and in the public health assessment of environmental extremely low frequency fields. Previous experimental measurements have placed the threshold between 1 and 5 mV/mm, although theory predicts that elongated neurons should have submillivolt per millimeter sensitivity near 100 μV/mm. We here provide the first experimental confirmation that neuronal networks are detectably sensitive to submillivolt per millimeter electrical fields [Gaussian pulses 26 msec full width at half-maximal, 140 μV/mm root mean square (rms), 295 μV/mm peak amplitude], an order of magnitude below previous findings, and further demonstrate that these networks are more sensitive than the average single neuron threshold (185 μV/mm rms, 394 μV/mm peak amplitude) to field modulation.”

          https://www.jneurosci.org/content/23/19/7255

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Oops another.

          “Here we demonstrate a novel mechanism by which the nonlinear properties of single neurons “amplify” the effect of small electric fields: when concurrent to suprathreshold synaptic input, small electric fields can have significant effects on spike timing…Our results provide a precise mechanism for a functional role of endogenous field oscillations (e.g., gamma) in brain function and introduce a framework for considering the effects of environmental fields and design of low-intensity therapeutic neurostimulation technologies”.

          https://www.jneurosci.org/content/27/11/3030

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Sorry another.

          “We show that oscillatory weak fields effectively mimic anti-correlated inputs at the soma and dendrite and strongly modulate neuronal spiking activity in a rather narrow frequency band. This effect carries over to coupled populations of pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons, boosting network-induced resonance in the beta and gamma frequency bands. Our work contributes a useful theoretical framework for mechanistic analyses of population dynamics going beyond point neuron models, and provides insights on modulation effects of extracellular fields due to the morphology of pyramidal cells”.

          https://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006974

          Like

        • Fair enough James. Is there any evidence in this pile of papers that this amounts to anything more than stochastic noise for the system itself?

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Even in the quotes I provided there is “effects on spike timing”, “rapid synchronization”, and “modulation of neuronal spiking activity”. Unless you think such things as timing and synchronization of spiking activity are completely irrelevant to brain functioning, then there is evidence of more than noise. Timing and synchronization, I could see, might be irrelevant to a brain not using EM fields for something but then that theory would need to explain why the brain does synchronize neuron firings.

          Like

        • On whether the spike timings and whatnot amount to actual information, I’ll have to depend on professional neuroscientists for that assessment. Most don’t seem to think so. Maybe future data will change their judgment.

          As I’ve mentioned before, the brain synchronizing firing between regions only needs reciprocal connections between those regions, which are pervasive.

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          There you go why I said you said you would never agree despite the evidence.

          Here I present evidence that fields do affect firings and synchronization and you reject it because I guess the spike timings are irrelevant to processing. That’s a leap!

          And, what’s more you cite additionally exactly the same reason I said you would, consensus of professional neuroscientists . But, I assume, that is their views on McFadden’s theory not on the effect of fields because the people doing these studies I cited are neuroscientists or in a closely related field, though they may or may not buy into McFadden’s theory.

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Sorry, I never thought you had given the idea much serious consideration. Your objections have usually been along the lines of lack of consensus among scientists for the idea. EM fields actually seems like the simplest explanation to me but I guess explanations are in the eye of the beholder.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think we have to be careful not to conflate simplicity and intuitiveness. Given two theories, one explaining our mental life with neural mechanisms, and the other explaining it with neural mechanisms plus EM fields, the second theory has more components.

          As far as testing, another possibility, which McFadden himself alluded to in his recent Aeon piece, is that we eventually run into a wall with AI that can only be overcome with EM fields.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          Except I don’t consider neural activity by itself sufficient to explain many aspects of mental life simply.

          In particular:

          1- how the brain binds multiple elements into integrated whole
          2- why most of the brain does doesn’t generate conscious experience
          3- why consciousness is serial while the brain is parallel
          4- why synchronous firing of neurons correlate with consciousness

          All of those are indicative of wave-like properties that correlate with oscillatory activity of neurons which correlates with conscious experience and seems to be indicative of perception or mental processing across a wide variety of species.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’d find those problems more compelling if there weren’t already plausible explanations for them in mainstream neuroscience. In many cases, we may not know which of multiple possible explanations is the right one, but they exist.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          The problem is that suddenly the “neural mechanisms” explanation starts to become as complicated or more than neural activity plus EM field.

          Like

        • So transmitting information through an EM field wouldn’t be complex?

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          The information would be complex. The explanation would be more simple because wave/field simply addresses all four of the items I mentioned.

          Like

        • So given my discussion with Mike (which hopefully hasn’t concluded), I wonder James what your current thoughts happen to be on my scheme to test McFadden’s cemi field theory? My thought is that certain people with planned brain surgery would probably love to be compensated for having an otherwise benign transmission device left in their heads, that is if enough money were involved. Perhaps short leads would stick out like hairs? Then more compensation should be provided to get someone into the lab for actual study. If charges typical of synchronous neuron firing continually failed to affect a theorized endogenous EM field, shouldn’t that progressively suggest that consciousness doesn’t exist as an EM field? And if nothing more than such firing were to reliably alter phenomenal experience and eventually various varieties could reliably be imparted this way, do you think that McFadden’s cemi would become validated? Or if you’re skeptical of this either way, what objection would you raise?

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          If you look at the links I’ve provided already, it seems to me to be ample evidence that fields play some more than trivial or noise role in the brain. Your proposal might provide more evidence for McFadden’s theory but only if the device could be of sufficient sophistication to integrate with the brain’s natural processes. Whether we could built such a device now, I can’t say, but my feeling would be we probably couldn’t. Certainly working over a number of years, a team could perhaps develop something like that but that also would require enough guinea pigs to perfect the device. All in all, a device worn outside the head to me would seem to be a more promising approach.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James,
          Hopefully the recent iteration of my proposal that I just gave Mike will also give you a better sense of my proposal. One alteration that I’m now emphasizing is that what gets implanted in the head would merely be a conduit from which an advanced machine would incite the proper charges inside the head. Furthermore these tiny charges should need to happen inside because the head seems to function as an effective Faraday cage.

          If you do grasp my proposal well enough to provide a good account of it in your own words, are you also able to provide valid reason that such an experiment wouldn’t either help support or refute McFadden’s CEMI? That’s what I’m trying to assess right now.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          I think your proposal could work but I still see it as somewhat similar to TMS which has the advantage it doesn’t need to be implanted. At rate, it also seems like it could be done perhaps with a more sophisticated TMS. It doesn’t seem like current TMS produces any of sort complex or information intensive waves which I think would be needed for complex experience. Of course, even if the device were implanted on top of the cortex, the pulses still might not reach deeply enough into the brain to have the desired effect.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think I see where you’re coming from now James. Your plan would be to use a machine that directly creates a complex field that theoretically exists as consciousness, and is projected into the head to see if it interacts with a person’s consciousness. But while a complex alternating magnetic field should make it into the brain pretty well (unlike such an electric field), isn’t the field that McFadden proposes instead made up of electromagnetic radiation? You might be proposing the wrong variety of field here.

          Let’s say that we could project the right variety of field to the right place however. How might we decide which parameters to try? That may be a shot in the dark even after the hurdle of getting it where needed. And indeed my idea might be a bit like that as well. But I at least try to minimize this randomness by sticking with McFadden’s theory and following what the brain is already known to do.

          Surely synchronous charges would be required not only because they’re already associated with consciousness, but because otherwise the low energy of EM waves associated with neuron firing shouldn’t be strong enough to create a standing EM field in the brain. So if we had conduits into the brain for a machine to fire typical neuron-like charges in typical neuron-like synchrony, with enough iterative trials shouldn’t a person notice some phenomenally strange things if CEMI is true? In that case I presume that there’d be an amazing number of synchronous firings at a given moment of a conscious person’s brain, since our experiences can be so varied and rich. This should at least mean that there’s a tremendous number frequencies in this field to potentially tamper with given similar types of waves.

          When neurons fire synchronously, do you have any idea of the range in typical numbers that do so? If merely 100 then this shouldn’t be to hard to set up. There might be 10 lines into the brain with 10 places on each of them which would potentially fire. If thousands or millions of neurons typically fire together at a given moment however, how would we get that many EM emitters to fire in the head? That might at least be quite expensive to set up.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          I’ve been pondering your questions about numbers firing. Honestly I’m not sure. I think it might vary according to a variety of conditions.

          I’ve thought of posting something on olfactory systems in insects for a while. If we assume there is consciousness involved, it would seem like examining a small system would provide a lot of insight into how it scales up.

          Let me quote from the paper in case I don’t get around to posting on it soon. This may give you a rough idea of how many neurons are involved in even a similar system. In this case, it is the system of a locust that involves up to 50,000 neurons.

          “Odor-driven circuit interactions coordinate these neurons into widespread oscillatory synchrony [1], and transform representations of any given odor into specific, reliable, exuberant and temporally complex patterns of action potentials 2, 3 distributed across the majority of the 830 or so projection neurons (analogous to the vertebrate mitral cells). Projection neurons, in turn, synapse upon a group of about 50,000 follower neurons, the Kenyon cells, within the mushroom body (Figure 1), a structure analogous to the vertebrate piriform cortex. Interestingly, Kenyon cells are nearly silent. They respond to odors rarely and barely, often with just a spike or two, but reliably and with remarkable specificity.”

          https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982207011207

          I’m wondering if most of those neurons are like the chorus of an opera and the leads are just a few neurons. They may be there just to boost the signal of neurons that matched the pattern for the odor. But that is speculation without much knowledge in this area.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          Let me clarify what I wrote a little bit.

          It looks to me like there is a pattern across 830 neurons that feeds into just a small number of Kenyon cells out of 50,000 to represent an odor. What exactly this is doing probably isn’t exactly understood. Just speculating again, it might be that general type, direction, intensity of an odor is generated in a pattern in large number of cells that gets matched to a exact odor in a small number of cells that may be like memory cells.

          Liked by 1 person

        • That paper seems beyond me James. The best way that I know of to keep myself thinking effectively is to not trick myself into believing that something makes sense to me when it doesn’t. I do appreciate your efforts though.

          I’ve regressed back to McFadden’s cemi page (https://johnjoemcfadden.co.uk/popular-science/consciousness/), since his writing tends to make sense to me. I now notice from his introduction that one mistake I’ve been making is thinking of low energy levels in EM radiation as something that doesn’t affect a singular brain EM field. Instead he speaks of all firing adding to this field, though firing associated with non conscious (or non synchronous “wired”) function should tend to get canceled out with other such firing. Conversely the synchronous kind should tend not to get canceled, not because its strength gets it to the right place, but rather because this makes it different from standard brain EM radiation. Here my plan still seems viable in the sense that we’d be using synchrony to potentially mess up some of this kind and see if it’s phenomenally noticeable. But I’m not yet sure how many synchronous firings it would take to get in a typical range. Would we need to counteract synchronous firing instantly? That first paper on his list seems quite relevant, not that numbers are cited in it. Perhaps they are in some of the studies that he cites though.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          It’s a little beyond me too which is why it has been in the background for me for so long.

          Obviously it seems oriented toward a computational approach but, when you look at the diagram, it looks like a complex network which touches on the topic of the simulation post. It isn’t clear from this paper how many of the 830 neurons are firing and if they are firing in sync. I would assume they are but I can’t seee it explicitly in the paper.

          A concern I have about McFadden’s argument is whether the EM field generated by the visual cortex, for example, would affect the fields generated in the prefrontal cortex. I certainly can see that EM fields could have a big role in feedback in local cell assemblies but how it propagates all over the brain seems a little problematic to me. In the case of the locust and olfactory processing, the 830 neurons are close so I could see an EM field affecting the processing.

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Actually it does in the abstract state:

          “Odor-driven circuit interactions coordinate these neurons into widespread oscillatory synchrony [1], and transform representations of any given odor into specific, reliable, exuberant and temporally complex patterns of action potentials 2, 3 distributed across the majority of the 830 or so projection neurons (analogous to the vertebrate mitral cells”.

          Like

  5. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    In many ways you are asking the same questions about our conscious experience as David Chalmers. As a physical system, there is absolutely no fundamental reason why the human species could not functions exactly as we do being philosophical zombies. But we are not philosophical zombies and that distinction is what fuels the debate.

    The Cartesian Me is the system that is having the experience not the brain, and that system is turned on and off by the system we know as the brain. It would be interesting to note which section of the brain performs that specific function of switching the Cartesian Me on & off, if it is indeed just one section. If it could be identified and isolated, then in theory one could artificially bypass that circuit and control all bodily functions in the same manner as the Cartesian Me does. But in this scenario, it would not be the Cartesian Me interfacing with the brain but a computerized algorithmic program. Equally, this philosophical zombie would be indistinguishable from other human beings however, the Cartesian Me who was initially having an enriching experience would still be asleep.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      “As a physical system, there is absolutely no fundamental reason why the human species could not functions exactly as we do being philosophical zombies”.

      But apparently so only if all responses were automated. However, as living beings, they cannot all be automated. As machines, perhaps they could be including even learning. For neurons to learn consciousness is needed. Hence, the rationale for consciousness.

      I think consciousness must play a key role in learning and memory and that these are closely related.

      Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        I would phrase it that “sentience plays a key role in learning and memory” and that consciousness is a term developed to describe our own sentient experience of mind.

        Consciousness is a broad brush, one that expresses our experience in the most ambiguous of ways. As a quasi intelligent species, we really do need to learn how to use the word consciousness correctly, even if one is forced to be pedant. In many ways, I am sympathetic to the tribe of idealism in that I can appreciate their unique perspective of mind and what it entails. Where I diverge from their dogmatic stance is that I am convinced that mind is a system that is 100% physical, a quantum system that emerges from the classical brain.

        Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          Lee,

          Admittedly, I’m a little less precise than you. However, a 100% physical system seems so contradictory to idealism I find it hard to see how you could find much to be sympathetic about. 🙂

          Like

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