Nice research out of King’s College London this week, reported here:
“Computers are often used as a metaphor for the brain, with logic boards and microprocessors representing neural circuits and neurons, respectively. While this analogy has served neuroscience well in the past, it is far from correct, according to the researchers from King’s. They suggest that the brain is a highly dynamic, self-organising system, in which internal and external influences continuously shape information processing ‘hardware’ by mechanisms not yet understood, and in a way not achieved by computers.” (emphasis added)
The timing is interesting, after a week in which some Twitter debate arose as to whether a ‘person’ was merely an illusion constructed by a brain, or whether a person had a brain (along with all the other organs and physical bits) and in this way existed as a living, sentient, acting, whole human being, in the world.
Falling into the latter camp, I was moved to share an excellent paper by Evan Thompson which discusses the enactive approach to mind and humans:
“According to the enactive approach, the human mind is embodied in our entire organism and embedded in the world, and hence is not reducible to structures inside the head…
The human brain is crucial for these three modes of activity, but it is also reciprocally shaped and structured by them at multiple levels throughout the lifespan…
If each individual human mind emerges from these extended modes of activity, if it is accordingly embodied and embedded in them as a “dynamic singularity”—a knot or tangle of recurrent and re-entrant processes centered on the organism (Hurley 1998)—then the “astonishing hypothesis” of neuroreductionism—that you are “nothing but a pack of neurons” (Crick 1994, p. 2) or that “you are your synapses” (LeDoux 2002)—is both a category error and biologically unsound.
On the contrary, you are a living bodily subject of experience and an intersubjective mental being.” (emphasis added)
The idea that the brain is “a highly dynamic, self-organising system, in which internal and external influences continuously shape information processing ‘hardware’” as put forth by the King’s College researchers seems to dovetail nicely with the enactive view.
I’ll be writing about the paper that launched the original Twitter debate next week.