How do thoughts form

cracking the code..

Studies of mental functions, behaviors and the nervous system.

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How do thoughts form

#1  Postby Macdoc » Aug 19, 2014 1:46 pm

NEUROHACKS| 18 August 2014
How to speak the language of thought

We are now beginning to crack the brain’s code, which allows us to answer such bizarre questions as “what is the speed of thought?”

When he was asked, as a joke, to explain how the mind works in five words, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker didn't hesitate. "Brain cells fire in patterns", he replied. It's a good effort, but all it really does is replace one enigma with another mystery.

It’s long been known that brain cells communicate by firing electrical signals to each other, and we now have myriad technologies for recording their patterns of activity – from electrodes in the brain or on the scalp, to functional magnetic resonance scanners that can detect changes in blood oxygenation. But, having gathered these data, the meaning of these patterns is still an enduring mystery. They seem to dance to a tune we can't hear, led by rules we don't know.

Neuroscientists speak of the neural code, and have made some progress in cracking that code. They are figuring out some basic rules, such as when cells in specific parts of the brain are likely to light up depending on the task at hand. Progress has been slow, but in the last decade various research teams around the world have been pursuing a far more ambitious project. We may never be able to see the complete code book, they realised, but by trying to write our own entries, we can begin to pick apart the ways that different patterns correspond to different actions.

Albert Lee and Matthew Wilson, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) first helped to set out the principles in 2002. It progresses like this. First, we record from the brain of a rat – one of our closer relatives, in the grand tree of life – as it runs a maze. Studying the whole brain would be too ambitious, so we can focus our recording on an area known as the hippocampus, known to be important for navigation and memory. If you've heard of this area before it is probably because of a famous result which showed that London taxi drivers developed larger hippocampi the longer they had spent navigating the streets of England's sprawling capital.


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http://www.bbc.com/future/story/2014081 ... ughts-form
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Re: How do thoughts form

#2  Postby kennyc » Aug 19, 2014 4:26 pm

I was going to suggest this should be posted over here somewhere as well. :)

We continue to get closer and closer to understanding. Many many tiny steps will get us to the destination.

Thanks for posting this!
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Re: How do thoughts form

#3  Postby SafeAsMilk » Aug 19, 2014 4:57 pm

Ah, we should really be asking jamest about this. He did a module on it, so he's got all the answers. It has something to do with metaphysics, I think.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#4  Postby kennyc » Aug 19, 2014 5:11 pm

Yes but he's indisposed at the moment.....
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Re: How do thoughts form

#5  Postby Macdoc » Aug 19, 2014 9:07 pm

I stuck a repeat in Philosophy just to stir the ants nest. :F

I think this quest for the "neural code" ( for want of a better term ) is science at its best akin to the genome hunt.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#6  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 20, 2014 1:38 am

Suppose when subject one either experiences or imagines x that we obtain an exact description φ of actively firing neurons by subtracting out only what is always common. There are some issues to consider in mind-reading.

First, we must find a way to identify neurons countably. This is almost in principle doable with a single subject. Not quite though, see below *. But then going from one individual to another there are two killer differences.

One is 'encoding'. The exact history of the organism concerning this experience will make it astronomically unique.

The other is there being no way to set up a correspondence in countable neurons between any two subjects.

*Within the experience of one subject the neurons that were there may not be an hour from now and the synaptic strengths as well as many other physiological measures, so neurons and surrounding glia and interstices ALWAYS change, particularly in the area that the experience activates. So it's not quite doable even for an individual.

Now a further problem is this. No matter how controlled an environment it is only approximately the same. The activation area of the brain will be affected by concurrent physical phenomena outside of the brain and by it's recent history. You may end up with these fuzzy areas of activation shifting about and because of this areas that DO MATTER may get differenced out of the data.

Still another issue is that what we perceive happens in time and is an interval not an event. Having a thought about a tree is going to be a sequence of φ states and it will have a temporal as well as a spatial shape.

However I see no reasons that with clever tests and high resolution data that we couldn't make very good guess about what one subject is thinking if we had the data on him. We would just have a hell of time using that data on the second subject.

There is good reason to believe that other discoveries could be made for an individual and for groups of individuals about how we think and associate and how knowledge actually works for us. We have every reason to believe that these discoveries are right around the corner and that they will be surprising and immensely useful. (This is why the woo piss me off so. They will impede that kind of research with every last ounce of woo-bull they can muster. They are in effect the very fucking Devil Incarnate)

This thumbnail sketch of a mathematical system I just offered is a simple model. But even with just this simple model we can begin to find surprising things about how we think and perceive. The difficulties mentioned above of reading minds itself points to useful information about our minds and the human condition. The fact that it does not work like a well oiled java program tells us something about knowledge and beliefs and hosts of other folk-psychologic artifacts that will, I think, surprise us.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#7  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 20, 2014 2:47 am

So we take one subject and do several hundred tests on him in a low stim environment, dark room and show him an oak tree. We do hundreds more with variations in stim and maybe variations in tree but I would do that later as another random variable.

We get sets of activated nodes in a network: Φraw = {φi}[t0..tn] as a sparse set, meaning that i is not necessarily continuous on the integers.

We have a system evolving in time and there will be things common to all tests, with luck, at approximately the same time slice. we can do statistics by differencing out many nodes. We get Φtree = {φi}[t0..tn]. Even sparser than the raw.

Now how we choose i and how it varies is interesting. Some nodes are in local proximity and we could identify a nuclei for them. Some nodes are distant. There are relationships in time and space conjoined to consider.

When the subject sees the tree at some t the primary visual cortex will have the elements and over time it will move toward the front of the brain and add nodes. The visual stimuli is still at the retina so it will be adding nodes not simply changing them.

Now a number of things could happen. It could be that for different days that the tree cluster has shifted or that on two occasions there is a disjoint set. Not likely but possible. Most certainly there will some fuzz at the edges of the clouds and this tells us a very interesting and often left out something about consciousness and percepts.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#8  Postby Macdoc » Aug 20, 2014 3:52 am

Within the experience of one subject the neurons that were there may not be an hour from now and the synaptic strengths as well as many other physiological measures, so neurons and surrounding glia and interstices ALWAYS change, particularly in the area that the experience activates. So it's not quite doable even for an individual.


I suggest you are incorrect....a Bayesian comparator in the brain will bring up very related clusters depending on similarity.

Just as I type tree into a database and get a lot or oak tree and get less or oak tree and swing ....etc down the line.
A cross reference with say falling off a swing on an oaktree may call on some trauma storage and so activate a companion set which in that case may offer a strong signal.

I don't think mind reading is possible - but some image induction maybe even some form of induced synaethesia might be.
That brings up the potential for combining with a movie for additional senses to be triggered.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#9  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 20, 2014 4:31 am

Macdoc wrote:
Within the experience of one subject the neurons that were there may not be an hour from now and the synaptic strengths as well as many other physiological measures, so neurons and surrounding glia and interstices ALWAYS change, particularly in the area that the experience activates. So it's not quite doable even for an individual.


I suggest you are incorrect....a Bayesian comparator in the brain will bring up very related clusters depending on similarity.

Just as I type tree into a database and get a lot or oak tree and get less or oak tree and swing ....etc down the line.
A cross reference with say falling off a swing on an oaktree may call on some trauma storage and so activate a companion set which in that case may offer a strong signal.

I don't think mind reading is possible - but some image induction maybe even some form of induced synaethesia might be.
That brings up the potential for combining with a movie for additional senses to be triggered.

Very related but never exactly the same. I am right because brains change continually throughout life. It is astronomically improbable for the same exact response to ever occur twice.

The best that we ever get is a statistical clustering. Now that's measurable and yes you are right that we can read that. So ALL I said is that is a statistic not a fixed response.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#10  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Aug 20, 2014 5:15 am

I wonder if this phenomenon of a larger hippocampi for Taxi drivers will disappear as more use GPS navigation devices?
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Re: How do thoughts form

#11  Postby Macdoc » Aug 20, 2014 5:52 am

Within the experience of one subject the neurons that were there may not be an hour from now


pretty specific and leaves the impression of randomness...

Searching for the Jennifer Aniston Neuron [Excerpt ...
http://www.scientificamerican.com › ... › Web Exclusives
Jan 15, 2013 - and see if the neuron responds equally to all the photos (in other ... the neurons in the hippocampus encode concepts such as a person or a particular place. ... pictures of her in costume, even though her face was not visible.


http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... on-neuron/

snip

For example, in a patient who happened to be a soccer fan I found a neuron that responded to Argentine player Diego Armando Maradona; with a patient obsessed with the Rocky films I tried different characters from the series until I found a neuron that fired when we showed an image of Mr. T;


a neuron

snip

The first (and by far the most famous) of these neurons was one that responded to seven completely different images of actress Jennifer Aniston and to no other stimulus (including other people, animals, or places). The neuron fired when presented with different pictures of Aniston, but not when shown other celebrities like Kobe Bryant, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, or Pamela Anderson, places like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, or different animals.

Another neuron from the same patient responded to different images of the Sydney Opera House, and yet another to the leaning tower of Pisa. The patient knew all of those people and landmarks quite well.


I'd say that's not a cluster....that's A neuron responding to what it has stored as part of the Bayesian comparator.

I suspect illusions are an argument between a couple or three over ownership ;)
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Re: How do thoughts form

#12  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 20, 2014 12:27 pm

Well then we have:
Φraw = {φJenniferAniston}[t0..tn]

My guess is that if this were the entire story then your conscious percept of JA would be precisely the same as that of a Honeywell mercury switch thermostat. But then with males observing females this is probably adequate and even typical.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#13  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 20, 2014 9:28 pm

Imagine a graph. The x-axis is one msec slices. Along the y-axis we place a mark for every active neuron for each of 100 billion of them. We divide it into bands for various brain areas and then further divide for nuclei. If you take any 10 second experiment you end up with 10,000 vertical bands that look like bar codes. You may see shapes in this picture that are consistent across similar or same perceptual experiments. It may also be possible to transform the bar codes in some way so as to create 3D geometries that make a bit more sense.

What you have is in effect a picture of what we are thinking and perceiving and in fact anything happening in the brain. We may notice that on after 400 msec from turning on the percept we have a word forming in the temporal regions. We may be able to see working memory being juggled and refreshed or find patterns in the HC as a result of spatial orientation.

It is my claim that this is a picture of conscious perception. The whole thing. There can be no difference in the graph unless there is a corresponding difference in our percept. It has nothing to do with WHAT we think we perceive because that is just another process that will show up on the graph. If we try and introspect our perception the graph will change radically.

Yet! What a fucking mess such a graph would be until we find a way to process it into usable information.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#14  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 20, 2014 10:04 pm

It seems nuts but if you use a sharp mechanical pencil and make a mark for every neuron you would end up with a graph that is 31,000 miles high. We are going to need a bigger boat!
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Re: How do thoughts form

#15  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 21, 2014 1:44 pm

The trick is to get all of that data via coloring and 3D representations to make some sense as a visual shape. Only active neurons would be represented but which ones they are would no longer correlated to their vertical position. The idea is to have some shape in the one millisecond horizontal slot that represents say the subject thinking the word 'red'. With the right depiction of the data we could start to explore the 'content' of our minds and correlate this with subjective reports.

I think it would straighten out the pesky aspects of our philosophical musings about all of this. One could see in data that if I make a report or if I introspect or change my awareness for the purpose of introspection that this would just be MORE DATA.

It's data and graphs all the way down.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#16  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 25, 2014 2:09 pm

I am always amazed that no one want to have the discussion at this level.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#17  Postby felltoearth » Sep 24, 2014 11:58 pm

Not my area of expertise but I'm interested. Especially when it comes to brain plasticity. That might be a bit of a non sequitur though.
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Re: How do thoughts form

#18  Postby james1v » Sep 25, 2014 12:47 am

Fuck knows. Oh! There goes another one! Interaction?
"When humans yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon". Thomas Paine.
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