At a conference last month called Investigating the Mind, held here at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars discussed attention, mental imagery, emotion, and collaborations to test insights gleaned from meditation.
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. Excerpt: In the face of modern neuroscience we should give up on constructivism, even more so on radical constructivism, and stick to the physical and psychological reality given in science and daily life, even if it is the brain’s illusion from associative networks. The illusion of constructivism may hurt!
Purpose: Constructivism postulates that the perceived reality is a complex construct formed during development. Depending on the particular school, these inner constructs take on different forms and structures and affect cognition in different ways. The purpose of this article is to address the questions of how and, even more importantly, why we form such inner constructs. Approach: This article proposes that brain development is controlled by an inherent anticipatory drive, which biases learning towards the formation of forward predictive structures and inverse goal-oriented control structures. This drive, in combination with increasingly complex environmental interactions during cognitive development, enforces the structuring of our conscious self, which is embedded in a constructed inner reality. Essentially, the following questions are addressed: Which basic mechanisms lead us to the construction of inner realities? How are these emergent inner realities structured? How is the self represented within the inner realities? And consequently, which cognitive structures constitute the media for conscious thought and selfconsciousness? Findings: Due to the anticipatory drive, representations in the brain shape themselves predominantly purposefully or intentionally. Taking a developmental, evolutionary perspective, we show how the brain is forced to develop progressively complex and abstract representations of the self embedded in the constructed inner realities. These self representations can evoke different stages of self-consciousness. Implications: The anticipatory drive shapes brain structures and cognition during the development of progressively more complex, competent, and flexible goal-oriented bodyenvironment interactions. Self-consciousness develops because increasingly abstract, individualizing self representations are necessary to realize these progressively more challenging environmental interactions.
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. First paragraph: Cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and cognitive systems research provide diverse clues as to how we are able to incrementally construct representations of the perceived environment and how we consequently understand other individuals and society. The construction of an individual’s reality starts with the capability to control one’s own body and to be able to predict the usual sensory effects caused by body movements. To be able to infer the potential intentions of others, mirror neurons project one’s own behavioral codes onto perceived patterns that are caused by others. Equipped with representations of many other individuals, personal social realities are constructed. In this commentary, I focus on these points for the construction of social reality and the consequent existence of society as a whole.
A review of the attempts at establishing neurophenomenology as a new research paradigm for neuroscientific research on music concludes that the integration of the first-person perspective of phenomenology and the third-person perspective of neuroscience remains an unfinished project. Relevance: This paper proposes methods for phenomenological investigation of music, and discussion of research in the neurosciences and music.
The paper proposes a renewal of the problem-space in which the relation between psychoanalysis and the cognitive neurosciences is played out, this is in response to the persistent embarrassment or stand-off that characterizes current attempts at dialogue. The authors suggest going beyond classical conceptual oppositions, (mind-body, subject-object etc.), and beyond the seduction of the idea of some ‘natural’ conceptual translation between the two practices. A process of reciprocal ‘transference’ becomes central to creating the space in which the “mixed,” (both biological and subjective), quality of our objects may be recognized and the pitfalls of reductionism be avoided. For psychoanalysis the hysteric was originally such a mixed or “quasiobject’ in which psyche and soma were in a relation of reciprocal representation. On the other hand, the cognitive neurosciences’ ‘embodied-enactive’ and neurophenomenological perspectives provide a philosophical framework for the place of subjectivity and interpretation in scientific work. This important epistemological shift in scientific thinking offers evocative conceptual tools (emergent processes, circular causality), which should transform the difficult dialogue between the neurosciences and psychoanalysis.
Little has been done yet to study the synchronization properties of the sources estimated from the MEG/EEG inverse problem, despite the growing interest in the role of phase relations in brain functions. In order to achieve this aim, we propose a novel approach to the MEG/EEG inverse problem based on some regularization using spectral priors: The MEG/EEG raw data are filtered in a frequency band of interest and blurred with some specific “regularization noise” prior to the inversion process. This formalism uses non quadratic regularization and a deterministic optimization algorithm. We proceed to Monte Carlo simulations using the chaotic Rössler oscillators to model the neural generators. Our results demonstate that it is possible to reveal some phase-locking between brain sources with great accuracy following the computation of the inverse problem based on scalp MEG/EEG measurements.
From the introduction: We will argue that OCD patients testify to the general condition that exercising an increased conscious control over actions can in fact diminish the sense of agency rather than increase the experience of freedom. Referring to Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty we argue that conscious control and deliberation may be useful when the natural flow of action is disturbed: for instance when a necessary tool is broken or missing or when one learns a new skill. However, deliberation itself may also disturb the flow of unreflective action. Too much deliberation on and analysis of one’s unreflective, habitual actions may cause insecurity and even a breakdown of what was once ‘second nature’. We introduce three different ways in which too much deliberation can have negative effects on patients with OCD, rendering them even more unfree.