Dear FIS colleagues,

This is the month of deadlines in my Institute, so I can only draft a few comments on the past messages.

To Maxine: the action theme is very rich, and very well acquainted and discussed in last decades neuroscience. Gallistel C.R: with his magisterial "The Organization of Action: A New Synthesis" (1980) heralded the new views. More recently Alain Berthoz "The Brain's Sense of Movement" was boldly claiming "In the beginning was the deed", "In principio erat actum" so replacing "verbum" (the concept) for actum the act. Joaquin Fuster (Cortex and Mind, 2002) also was debunking the traditional views on concepts, claiming instead for "cognits", with both perceptual sides and motor sides... One can argue a lot about that, but most of these visions are well grounded and fertile. Berthoz's book is very elegant and makes for a rewarding reading.

As for Soeren, another explicit vision of meaning comes from Gerald Edelman (his neural darwinism, later on "evolved" to more integrative views). I copy from Oliver Sacks notes (sorry if it is a little bit long):

/"With his Theory of Neuronal Group Selection (also called Neural Darwinism in analogy of the Darwinism in the immune system) Gerald Edelman presents a neurobiological theory of the mind. He and his colleagues at the Neurosciences Institute have been developing it over the past 15 years. He imagines a comprehensive theory of a dozen disciplines of neuroscience. The outline of the theory is as follows: /

/After birth a set of inborn values (feelings) //allows us to begin building the structure of the brain. The smallest entity of this structure is a group of neurons (map) //in which internal links represent our experience. Maps are then used as new building blocks and interconnected with links into scenes //representing what we experience as the present. Ever richer maps are constructed//, ultimately //maps of meaning//. In our search for meaning our mind develops up the evolutionary //ladder to consciousness//until we form the new categories of "past" and "future". /

/On this way, the building blocks acquire step by step more internal structure that can be accessed. A continuous stream of //establishing and testing of hypotheses//on the basis of the existing interconnections weakens or strengthens existing connections or builds new ones//. The fittest maps and connections survive (thus the name neural Darwinism). These maps are //dynamic //in that they are continually redrawn //according to our perceptions//..."//

To Loet: building upon the above, a disciple of Edelman, Giulio Tononi, has coined the term "integrated information" phi as a sort of informational metrics, which is based in an information theory approach to the structure of mapping exchanges between neural areas. Seemingly the values of phi beyond some threshold indicate the emergence of consciousness as a brain epiphenomenon ("PHI: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul", 2012). The view, well built upon info theory (almost Loet's style), has attracted a lot of discussion, but ultimately the approach continues to be more structurally focused than dynamic... critics have argued that the phi value of a smart cell phone is nowadays quite close to self-consciousness.

The suggestion (to all) is to explore whether phi, rather than relating it to the emergence of consciousness, would relate to the emergence of meaning. All the fast circulating activations and inhibitions between neural mappings, usually involving opposing flows of neuronal "energy" and informational "entropy", when they finally "click" and achieve convergence on an optimized state, it represents the collective achievement of meaning. Thus, phi would be a highly dynamic, fluctuating indicator showing the evolution of the cascades of meaning. Let us imagine the thresholds pointed by Bob in ecological networks, but circulating at a fiendish speed (could values of phi and resilience indexes have similar nature?): The ecosystem of the mind...

To emphasize finally that multiple disciplines may approach meaning, but explaining it I think does correspond in our times to explorations like the above, neurodynamic. Like the biological phenomenon of heredity... after centuries speculating in all realms of inquiry, finally it was explained molecularly by Watson and Crick in 1953.

Anyhow, all of the above is very hurried, and it just points to the necessity of discussing in depth these exciting matters.

Best regards


Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud
Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón (CIBA)
Avda. San Juan Bosco, 13, planta X
50009 Zaragoza, Spain
Tfno. +34 976 71 3526 (& 6818)

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