Two recent articles on neurons when combined together bring some additional support to EM field theories of consciousness. Both articles begin with a premise of some new mystery observation in neurons that seems to call for explanation. Yet the observations would be totally expected with McFadden’s cemi theory.
One article in Quanta Magazine Neurons Unexpectedly Encode Information in the Timing of Their Firing deals with researchers who claim to have observed for the first time “neurons in the human brain encoding spatial information through the timing, rather than rate, of their firing”. Frankly I thought this had been observed before and apparently it had been observed in rats. The article claims, however, this is the first time it had been observed in the human brain.
The phenomenon is called phase precession. It’s a relationship between the continuous rhythm of a brain wave — the overall ebb and flow of electrical signaling in an area of the brain — and the specific moments that neurons in that brain area activate. A theta brain wave, for instance, rises and falls in a consistent pattern over time, but neurons fire inconsistently, at different points on the wave’s trajectory. In this way, brain waves act like a clock, said one of the study’s coauthors, Salman Qasim, also of Columbia. They let neurons time their firings precisely so that they’ll land in range of other neurons’ firing — thereby forging connections between neurons.
The timing of neuron firing, of course, is critical to McFadden’s theory since it is synchronous firing of neurons that generates the EM field that his theory posits as the underlying substrate of consciousness. The researchers speculate that this timed firing is critical to learning; hence, the theory ties back to various theories that link learning and consciousness.
The other article in the Atlantic by Ed Yong is Neuroscientists Have Discovered a Phenomenon That They Can’t Explain. Researchers in this article are mystified by the observation that the neurons associated with a specific sensory input change over time. The neurons that fire in response to an odor in mice brains are different from month to month.
How does the brain know what the nose is smelling or what the eyes are seeing, if the neural responses to smells and sights are continuously changing? One possibility is that it somehow corrects for drift. For example, parts of the brain that are connected to the piriform cortex might be able to gradually update their understanding of what the piriform’s neural activity means. The whole system changes, but it does so together.
Another possibility is that some high-level feature of the firing neurons stays the same, even as the specific active neurons change. As a simple analogy, “individuals in a population can change their mind while maintaining an overall consensus,” Timothy O’Leary, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, told me. “The number of ways of representing the same signal in a large population is also large, so there’s room for the neural code to move.”
The high-level feature, of course, that could be staying the same is the EM wave form that represents the odor. This ties directly to McFadden’s eighth prediction for his theory that consciousness should demonstrate field-level dynamics: “The cemi field theory thereby predicts that if distinct neuron firing patterns generate the same net field then, at the level of conscious experience, those firing patterns should be indistinguishable”.
Others noticed the connection to McFadden’s theory.