Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
(no subject)
There is an absolutely fascinating essay by V.S. Ramachandran over at The Edge on the nature of self.


This is particularly interesting on the subject of how the mind constructs an image of itself, and how this relates to our image of others, and, in particular, to empathy. As someone who has real problems with empathy, and with understanding other people's feelings before they actually tell me about them, I was particularly interested in the idea that we are coming closer to discovering a physiological reason for this.

We suggest that many otherwise inexplicable neuro-psychiatric symptoms may arise from flaws in these circuits leading to "you-me" confusion and impoverished ego-differentiation. Lindsay Oberman, Eric Altschuler and I have seen strong preliminary hints that autistic children have a paucity of mirror neurons which would not only explain their poor imitation, empathy and 'pretend play" (which requires role-playing) but also why they sometimes confuse the pronouns I and You, and have difficulty with introspection. Even Freudian phenomena like "projection", seen in all of us, may have similar origins; "I love you" turns to "You love me" to make me feel safer.

  • 1
That makes me think about the other side of the problem: People who will blindly follow others, succumb to the mob mentality, and do things which they'd never do on a person-to-person basis. As far as I know, psychologists don't call this a "syndrome." A dysfunction which is widely shared enough is just "normal human behavior." But if lack of "mirror neurons" explains one, maybe their overactivity explains the other?

Could be.

Though I'm not sure there is any such thing as 'normal human behaviour' - just a spectrum of behaviours of which some are more approved by societies than others.

Very interesting: thank you.

I've just read this article and the 'work from hard evidence' part of me nearly jumped out of my body to attack the author. Observing somebody with brain damage always allows two options, the damage has subtracted something or the damage has added something new. Block a river and it cuts a new path.

At one point this author asserts as a fact that all historical religious leaders were suffering from TLE. His esteem at his own reasoning is obviously very high to be able to make such an intuitive and unobservable leap of faith.

This is not to say that I am opposed in any way to the majority of his assertions as working hypotheses (Though I thought his comment on the chimpanzee shows his lack of awareness of research outside his consulting room)

It would be nice to know if mirror neurons exist in animals (I'm willing to bet they will be found) and it would have been even better if he had put up other options that might map into the highly subjective evidence he presented.

He refers to the delusion of out of body experiences, but offers no evidence that anyone has tested whether it is a delusion. The subjective evidence I have seen includes testable observations by those people who have been there.

If we are to believe in some of the assumptions underlying Quantum Computing, then many other possibilities come into play. In a mind linked across an uncountable number of near identical universes, most of the people he observed are just badly linked.

It's worth remembering that the assumptions behind Quantum Computing are based on easily observable and repeatable tests. Not that I hold any great belief in those assumptions either.

Now when people like this author can explain how long term memory works in any animal of human brain, and I'm not fond of the new 'store it in the dna while the neuron is being replaced' theory, I'll be much happier for them to speculate about the more complicated stuff.

There has been, I believe, quite a lot of work that has shown that out of body experiences are, indeed, delusional. (The simple test is to put something on a shelf that could be seen by out of body experience but not seen from anywhere else.)

Nearly all work on mind has to be from case studies, simply because no scientist is allowed to experiment by chopping bits out of the brain - and a good thing too! However, the evidence for what happens from specific brain damage in specific sites has mounted up considerably over the years. If the same psychological symptoms are observed every time the same bit of brain is damaged then we can be pretty sure that that is what that bit of the brain deals with. However, there has certainly been work on producing religious experiences in the subjects, so much it has even been reported in the popular press.

As this is an essay (and on The Edge, a scientific speculation site, at that) posted for scientific discussion purposes, among scientists (and the comments were interesting) detailed case studies/results of multiple experiments are not normally expected. From the comments, it appears that the supporting experiments are well known amongst cognitive scientists at the cutting edge.

And, of course, there is as yet no real evidence that the multiverse actually exists, or that string theory is correct - that is, no experimental evidence, just a lot of mathematics (which is being argued over, and which I cheerfully admit I do not understand.). What's more, until we do, indeed, know how memory (and the mind) works, it is not going to be possibly to upload or link brains with computers on anything but the most basic level, so flights of fancy about brains linked across the multiverse using quantum computing is no more, for the moment, than science fiction.

I need to go back and look up his comment "on the chimpanzee" to see what you are referring to. There has been a lot of wishful thinking published about chimps...

  • 1