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Yates, J. (2015). Magical Thinking in Neuroscience. PHILICA.COM Article number 522.

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Magical Thinking in Neuroscience

John Yatesunconfirmed user (Institute for Fundamental Studies)

Published in neuro.philica.com

Abstract
A frequently taken view is that explanations in neuroscience are generally regarded as mechanistic explanations, but that dynamical explanations are undeniably novel and important Nowadays we frequently follow the views of Michael Turvey, J.J. Gibson and Harry Heft, over such matters of consciousness. But whilst the brain is clearly not a computer, it would be nice to have a foundational mechanistic, computational framework to help to partially understand how the elements of the brain work together for a model which will ultimately generate the complex cognitive behaviors we study. We show from historical results how the use of mechanistic models may need further consideration in terms of use and theoretical detail. We then use an example of a current schema. Those preparing the schema persistently mention “magic” and indeed it turns out that their own schema contains “magic”. Once we have examined some of the known current problems which their schema may give, we put matters right. We can move on from there to mindboggling results.

Article body

Introduction

A frequently taken view is that explanations in neuroscience are generally regarded as mechanistic explanations (34), but that dynamical explanations are undeniably novel and important (35). Nowadays we frequently follow the views of Michael Turvey, J.J. Gibson and Harry Heft, over such matters of consciousness.

But whilst the brain is clearly not a computer, it would be nice to have a foundational mechanistic, computational framework to help to partially understand how the elements of the brain work together for a model which will ultimately generate the complex cognitive behaviors we study (36).

In Section (1), we show from historical results how the use of mechanistic models may need further consideration in terms of use and theoretical detail.

In Section (2), we use an example of a current schema - that of Graziano (14). Graziano persistently mentions "magic" and indeed it turns out that his own schema contains "magic". Once we have examined some of the known current problems which the Graziano schema may give, we put matters right. We can move on from there to mindboggling results.


(1) Gleick, Winfree and George Minas

Gleick (1) mentions that in 1914 George Minas tried delivering small, carefully timed electrical impulses to his heart, at normal heart beat rate. Surely this should have helped keep his heart beating at the required rate ?

No, it killed him.
 
As Winfree (3) pointed out, hearts are not the same as clocks.  Read Gleick, Winfree and more to find out why. Winfree (3) gives a simple model which works a little better for ventricular fibrillation. And (3) is a great coffee table book for the thinking person with some physics.

On the same basis, I do not recommend arbitrarily applying voltages to your head and fancy terms like tDCS will not necessarily help - possibly the opposite.

So perhaps the moral is that we should take the advice of Professor J.A. Rossiter (10) and choose our models with great care, whether they are obtained by the use of Smith Predictors, or MPC Predictors, or otherwise (2, 5).


(2) Graziano's magical thinking

Michael Graziano's theory of consciousness (14) begs the question and commits the mereological fallacy, as described in Appendix 1.

The quite important question of "magic" is discussed with regard to Graziano's work in Appendix 2. Those who, like Dan Dennett, espouse materialism and various mechanistic approaches can often be dealt with in similar ways. Directions for use can also be created by carefully using the methods of Appendix 2, whilst avoiding the implied dogmatism of a materialist and/or mechanist approach.

Following or assuming Appendices 1 & 2, we now go back to physics models. Models are necessary in such cases and they have to be chosen (5) with great care (10). Now here (6,7) we are back to physics models. As reference (6) points out "Because the mathematical algorithms designed for detecting chaos are not reliably applied to nonstationary, relatively short and often noisy data sets obtained from most clinical and physiological studies, the intriguing question of the role, if any, of chaos in physiology or pathology remains unresolved ." 'Frontiers' journals and others are trying to sort it out now (8).

Article (2) could ultimately help us to resolve such problems. And right now we can use the important hints given at the end of Appendix 2, here.

Further in article (17) in Section 6 (b) "New Experimental Matters", many more ideas are considered.

Can we tell people apart inside one people's brain, and how ? The question of whether sensory attenuation and the self-other distinction can be simulated may be largely independently of external sensory input.

Windt's highly preliminary results (33) indicate that in the special case of lucid control dreams, the difference between self-tickling and being tickled by another is obliterated, with both self- and other produced tickles receiving similar ratings as self-tickling during wakefulness. Windt's further views which are subject to more detailed experimentation.

As in article (17) in Section 6 (b) "New Experimental Matters" we should consider Windt's work on touch and lucid dreaming. This is interesting, detailed work which should be read, as should the work of van Doorn and Hohwy. The methods used can, up to a point, by systematized in a somewhat similar way to the work of Zopf.
 
Feedback loops can be considered both from the place of view of (17) and also Windt's idea, of course. We think of Hofstadter's "strange loop" and there are many more ideas, perhaps less ephemeral. We can also carry out rather complex timing using results like the Yates equation. And there are feedback loops and lucid dreaming possibilities within the original Karolinska Institute ideas of Ehrsson and Blanke. Even Ganzfeld results can be focused with a systematised procedure like that of Zopf.

So we should soon have enough methods to glide through the abyss, as I also have outlined
above in (17).
 
And we can thus, if we wish, already take on some of the abilities and social uses which are often ascribed to Gods (32).


Conclusion

We illustrated some of the problems which a so-called "mechanistic" approach to neuroscience will introduce. We also examined how improved actual results are being obtained (17,31,32), even in cases where such "mechanistic" methods needed substantial change and modification, and where the basic philosophical and metaphysical aspects need improvement and close examination. Methods by which even more results can be obtained were also referred to in the work of Zopf (37) and Windt (38).


Appendix 1

Michael Graziano's theory of consciousness (14) begs the question and commits the mereological fallacy, as described below.

He says modern studies of robotics, using control theory, helps when they have an internal model of that thing being studied. In this case, the brain  needs a constantly updated simulation or model of the state of attention. The brain will attribute a property to itself and that property will be a simplified proxy for attention. A property of being conscious, or aware, of something.

So he says this gives his ‘attention schema theory’ : "The most basic, measurable, quantifiable truth about consciousness is simply this: we humans can say that we have it"

He continues to reason that : "Attention is a data-handling method used by neurons. It isn’t a substance and it doesn’t flow". He gives himself 2 directions: arrow A and arrow B . Arrow A is the route from neurons to consciousness. Arrow B is the route from consciousness back to the neurons.

Graziano then says: There is no need for anything to be transmuted into ghost material, thought about, and then transmuted back to the world of cause and effect. In other words he denies the normal idea of consciousness and says it is all in information theory.

This brings us right back to epiphenomenalism (13). But now Graziano says "Consciousness cannot be what is sometimes called an epiphenomenon — a floating side-product with no physical consequences — or else I wouldn’t have been able to write this article about it.".

Many people still seem to accept epiphenomalism and Graziano says he does not, for his theory. Ah, so effectively it seems that he may place Dennett and Huxley in the rubbish bin (13).

So Graziano can try to claim he is talking about facts, not the ideas of Dennett and Huxley.

Professor Graziano is confident, it seems. He says: "My particular theory is a step" (9) but then goes on to suggest that in time (perhaps in 300 years ?) it will go on to "copying conscious minds and creating copies". He then admits "At that point we run into a whole bunch of really bizarre philosophical issues that we’ve never had before."

Unfortunately we already have issues if we take up his theory. He is simply begging the question by indulging in the fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true. In other words, he says he is right and that sometime in the future (perhaps in 300 years ?) the problems he has put aside, right now, will be solved.

But these problems are part of his bold assumption that his theory removes 'magical' difficulties from our views on consciousness. In fact importantly they are at the core of his theory, not just a mild misuse of scientific method as some may say. A comment made for Tom Clark, repeated below (12) underlines this fact.

Graziano also commits the mereological fallacy (11) and this fact has already been considered in great detail (11) — he mistakes attributes of the whole for attributes of the parts. Our brain assumes nothing and reconstructs nothing. We — not our brain — assume and reconstruct. And of course there is the homunculous paradox to consider.

Clark (12) points out that a basic difficulty is that 'experience – e.g., your tactile experience right now – isn’t accessible to observation in the way life and the universe are. This makes it tempting to dismiss experience as an illusion, smoothing the way to a consistent physicalism in which everything that exists exists in public, so to speak. But in fact my experience does exist, but only for me – a private, qualitative reality that correlates closely with certain public, quantifiable neural goings-on having to do with various higher-level cognitive functions (see for instance Stanislas Dehaene and Jean-Pierre Changeux. 2011. “Experimental and Theoretical Approaches to Conscious Processing.” Neuron 70, April 28, 2011.)'

We have covered this field again and again by pointing out that the JME McTaggart paradox has led to the requirement that the JME McTaggart A series as well as the B series must be considered when we are dealing with individuals and not just hifalutin cosmological theories - in short throughout brain studies (15, 16,17 and others). We each, as individual people, have our own past and our own future.


Appendix 2

The quite important question of "magic" is discussed with regard to Graziano's work. The use of the term "magic" is quite uncommon in the modern literature on neuroscience and indeed by serious investigations on consciousness and the mind.

Of the more serious major authors, "magic" seems to have been only an idea of Christof Koch (20) and David  Eagleman (21). I leave aside the obvious polemics of materialists and so on. Because whether or not materialism or a few philosophical views are correct, we are only dealing with serious matters here.

Koch: "That is the universe in which we find ourselves, a universe in which particular vibrations of highly organized matter trigger conscious feelings. It seems as magical as rubbing a brass lamp and having a djinn emerge who grants three wishes."

Eagleman: "magical  technology … .if  our  brains were simple enough to be understood,  we  wouldn’t be smart enough to understand them."

Whilst both authors admit some level of naive wonderment at such ideas, in practice the "magic" is ignored as irrelevant - or possibly useful as a polemic tool.

Of course in some quite related fields this is far from the case (22,23). "Forcing" (23) occurs when a magician influences the audience’s decisions without their awareness. For example, asking someone to choose any tool or any playing card tends to bring predictable candidates to mind, such as a hammer or the Ace of Spades.

Graziano, as can be noted from Appendix 1, has at the very least begged the question and commits the mereological fallacy. So he is either simply standing up for his own position, has lacked philosophical rigour, or has himself been "forced". The title of this paper implies the third case. Dealing with the first two cases, is unfortunately clear.

Now let us see what Graziano has said.

Graziano (18): "the item that we introspectively decide that we have and report that we have is not attention; strictly speaking it is the informational representation of attention. In circumstances when the informational representation differs from the thing it represents, we necessarily report the properties of the representation, because it is that to which we have access. The mysterious and semi-magical properties that we report, that we ascribe to consciousness, must be attributed to the informational representation".

Graziano (19): "The attention schema theory goes beyond this idea in providing a specific functional use for the brain to compute that type of information. The heart of the attention schema theory is that there is an adaptive value for a brain to build the construct of awareness: it serves as a model of attention".Without this model he says "the brain possesses a magical, non-physical essence, but one which can nevertheless act and exert causal control over behavior, a mysterious conclusion indeed".

Graziano is distinguishing attention from awareness here, as he carefully shows in his lectures (24,25).

The "forcing" seems to occur where Graziano then says, like a magician who has just done what looks like a slick card trick ('a brain moving from attention to awareness') and so here we are "(with "awareness") and this is what we have (a "computer mind")". But we cannot accept that a "computer mind" is what we have. We hopefully believe we have our "own mind". I cannot accept from his schema that we necessarily have a "computer mind", also see Appendix 1. And, for my sins, neither, I believe, could a poststructuralist accept it.

The Magic done to Graziano and how to help him. (a) Jesper Sørensen (26) says that "In magical rituals, the violations of domain-specific expectations are utilised to emphasise iconic and indexical structures based on image-schemata  and  psychological  essentialism".

Simply, Graziano's apparent use of "awareness" as a synecdoche for "conciousness" is part of the "forcing". As for example when the word "wheel" is loosely used to refer to a "car".

Here, the problem for Graziano is clearly "psychological  essentialism".

"Essentialism is the view that certain categories (e.g., women, racial groups, dinosaurs, original Picasso artwork) have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly. Furthermore, this underlying reality (or "essence") is thought to give objects their identity, and to be responsible for similarities that category members share".

Susan Gelman points out that "recent psychological studies converge to suggest that essentialism is a reasoning heuristic that is readily available to both children and adults". Malt (27,28) points out, using the ideas of Hilary Putnam and experimental philosophy, that essentialist theories have serious problems in metaphysics. Susan Gelman agrees (29).

(b) However, Bolton's (30) very clear and lucid video shows that postructuralism provides us with a series of interesting answers. And Yates's recent paper (31) uses the modern work of Sherry Turkle, Jean Baudrillard, and even senior Professor Mary Midgley in conjunction with the work of Andy Clark.

We take this work much further In the article (31) and in many others (some references within (31) being (10,12,22,25,42.45,47,48,53,54,55)). We have explored how Astral Projection is a real entity and must be treated as such. Also, here we indicated that so-called Hebbian Learning is not just a mathematical way of describing an alleged entity like the "brain" and its "neurons" but is a mathematical technique which can be used to describe the embodiment of the mind in ideas and concepts like Astral Projection. A human being is a human being, not just some kind of computer of the materialism sect. Though he well have external embodiment, as Andy Clark suggests. And we cannot use him as an accurate model for another human's brain or for all human brains. Each will differ and must be treated as such.


References

(1) Gleick J., (1997), page 288, inter alia, "Chaos: Making a new science", Random House, 1997.

(2) Hunt B.R., Ott E., (2015)," Defining Chaos", arXiv:1501.07896v3  [nlin.CD]; and in "Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science", DOI: 10.1063/1.4922973

(3) Winfree A. T., (1980), Chapter 17, inter alia, "The Geometry of Biological Time", Springer

(4) Winfree A. T., (1987),"The Timing of Biological Clocks", page 177 inter alia, Scientific American Books.

(5) Ott P., (2015), "Controlling the Electrical Chaos of Atrial Fibrillation", http://heart.arizona.edu/heart-health/preventing-stroke/atrial-fibrillation

(6) "Nonlinear Dynamics, Fractals, and Chaos Theory for Clinicians",  http://www.physionet.org/tutorials/ndc/ ; 05/09/2015 23:54

(7) Goldberger AL, Amaral LAN, Glass L, Hausdorff JM, Ivanov PCh, Mark RG, Mietus JE, Moody GB, Peng C-K, Stanley HE. PhysioBank, PhysioToolkit, and PhysioNet: Components of a New Research Resource for Complex Physiologic Signals. Circulation 101(23):e215-e220 [Circulation Electronic Pages; http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/101/23/e215]; 2000 (June 13)

(8) Research Topic, Frontiers Journals, (2015),"Physiology and Network Science" http://journal.frontiersin.org/researchtopic/3011/physiology-and-network-science

(9) The Psych Report, July 29, 2015, "Rethinking Consciousness: A Q&A with Michael Graziano",  http://thepsychreport.com/science/rethinking-consciousness-a-qa-with-michael-graziano/

(10) Rossiter J.A., (2015), "Videos on model predictive control", https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/acse/staff/jar/mpcmaster ; starting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kCcXGDvjU8

(11) Egnor M., (2014), "Science News", http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/are_we_really_c090461.html

(12) Tom Clark in comment on Carroll S., (2015), "The Big Questions",  http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2015/03/05/the-big-questions/

(13) Robinson, William, "Epiphenomenalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2015/entries/epiphenomenalism/>

(14) Graziano M.,(2015), "How Consciousness Works", http://aeon.co/magazine/philosophy/how-consciousness-works/

(15) Yates J., (2014),"The Mathematics of Time Travel", http://ttjohn.blogspot.in/2014/03/the-mathematics-of-time-travel.html

(16) Yates J., (2014),"How physics has become a pathological science and a way it may be put right using Moreva's work", http://ttjohn.blogspot.in/2014/01/how-physics-has-become-pathological.html

(17) Yates J.,(2015)," Karl Jaspers, OSR and all that", PHILICA.COM Article number 512, http://ttjohn.blogspot.in/2015/08/karl-jaspers-osr-and-all-that-abstract.html

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(20) Koch, Christof. Consciousness: Confessions of a romantic reductionist. MIT press, 2012.

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(25) Graziano M.S.A.,(2012)," Consciousness and the Attention Schema", includes many comments - Harnad especially - which we must bear in mind; http://turingc.blogspot.ca/2012/07/michael-graziano-consciousness-and.html

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(28) Mayr, E. (1991). One long argument: Charles Darwin and the genesis of modern evolutionary thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard.

(29) Susan Gelman, (2005) "Essentialism in Everyday Thought", Psychological Science Agenda, May 2005, American Psychological Association,
http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2005/05/gelman.aspx

(30) Christopher Bolton,(2012),"Animating Poststructuralism",  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a2dLVx8THA

(31) Yates J.,(2015), "Astral Projection: The Next Steps", Journal of Science, to be published,
http://ttjohn.blogspot.in/2015/07/astral-projection-next-steps.html

(32) Yates J.,(2014), "How man is believed to think like God", http://ttjohn.blogspot.in/2014/09/how-man-is-believed-to-think-like-god.html

(33) Windt, Jennifer M., Dominic L. Harkness, and Bigna Lenggenhager, "Tickle me, I think I
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dreams." Frontiers in human neuroscience 8 (2014).

(34) Zednik, Carlos. "Systems, networks, and mechanistic explanations in neuroscience." , Causality and Complexity in the Sciences September 8-11, 2014

(35) Zednik, Carlos. "The Nature of Dynamical Explanation*." Philosophy of Science 78.2 (2011): 238-263.

(36) Brown, Joshua W. "The tale of the neuroscientists and the computer: why mechanistic theory matters." Frontiers in neuroscience 8 (2014).

(37) Zopf R, Savage G, Williams MA (2010) Crossmodal congruency measures of lateral distance effects on the rubber hand illusion. Neuropsychologia. 48. (3): pp. 713–725.
http://www.jove.com/video/50530/the-crossmodal-congruency-task-as-means-to-obtain-an-
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(38) Windt, Jennifer M., Dominic L. Harkness, and Bigna Lenggenhager. "Tickle me, I think I
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dreams." Frontiers in human neuroscience 8 (2014).

 









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Yates, J. (2015). Magical Thinking in Neuroscience. PHILICA.COM Article number 522.


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