News Briefs 02-08-2007

Neurons are a perversely fragile place to store memories. I still know the exact situation, place and age at which I first heard the words ‘broccoli’ and ‘pizza’, but ten years of piano lessons have utterly vanished.

Thanks, Greg.

Quote of the Day:

I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.

Nikola Tesla

  1. Memories. . .
    Memories aren’t stored in the brain. That rat study doesn’t show this at all — just shows some changes that occurred in the brain when learning took place.

    It will end up going nowhere, just like all the other attempts to show where memories are stored in the brain have gone over the past hundred years.

    1. Rationale and memory
      I can only concur with you on your affirmation.

      It is interesting to note that rationale thinking is limited by memory though. So, if rationale thinking cannot think what is already part of the experience, and that memory is not stored in the brain, where does it come from?

      1. Consciousness
        The location of memory, mind, cognition … it is all up for grabs. There is no real science of the subject. Check out the supposed experts. They all come from possibly related disciplines, but there is no actual science of consciousness.
        Science is presently in the stage of amateurs trying to grasp what it is all about, where it lies, what it is.
        I can hear the howls as I write …

        Reality, like time, is relative to the observer

        Anthony North

        1. Where are memories stored?
          Replying to all…

          As someone with a traumatic brain injury from an auto accident, it’s been my experience that, whether memories are actually stored in neurons or not, neurons – or perhaps more precisely, the microtubules between neurons – are necessary in order to access memories.

          >>There is no real science of the subject.

          Imho, there’s some very interesting scientific research on the subject. For instance…

          The Entwined Mysteries of Anesthesia and Consciousness. (pdf)

          Consciousness, the Brain, and Spacetime Geometry

          For more info, check out author Stuart Hameroff’s website on Quantum Consciousness.


          1. Science of consciousness
            Hi Kat,
            I think you miss my point. The Hameroff/Penrose partnership is perhaps the most important work done on the subject. I first wrote about them way back in 1996. But this isn’t science.
            Look at it like this. Biology is studied by a biologist. Physics by a physicist. Hameroff is an anaesthesiologist and Penrose is a mathematician. Putting a strict scientific requirement upon this, they are not qualified to deal in consciousness because they are not specifically, and academically trained in the subject. They are, in effect, amateurs. Even Crick isn’t qualified – he’s a biologist.
            The point is, there isn’t an accepted science of consciousness. That’s the point. There should be. And until there is, it won’t be taken seriously – which is a disgrace.

            The secret of life is optimism and broad shoulders

            Anthony North

          2. unqualified amateurs
            >>Putting a strict scientific requirement upon this, they are not qualified to deal in consciousness because they are not specifically, and academically trained in the subject. They are, in effect, amateurs.

            So in essence you’re saying that for an anaesthesiologist and a mathematician to be theorizing about the nature of consciousness is as absurdly unscientific as, say, a professor of mathematics theorizing about astronomy, a chemist theorizing about microbiology, or a patent clerk conducting ‘thought experiments’ in theoretical physics.

            Well – I’m sure glad you cleared that up! Obviously, we’re not going to learn anything of value about the nature of consciousness from the likes of Hameroff and Penrose. If they had any sense at all, these two amateurs would immediately cease such unscientific investigations before they make fools of themselves and ruin their careers.


          3. You’re getting me wrong
            Hi Kat,
            Believe me, I want consciousness research and science. I think people like Hameroff and Penrose are doing great work. I yearn for more consciousness research. But I also yearn for it to be taken seriously by science. And that won’t happen until science accepts a need for a specific branch of science known as consciousness.
            Your hints towards Newton, Einstein and the rest prove my point. Until these total rebels told science it was wrong, science didn’t accept it. I look forward to people like Hameroff and Penrose being named as official consciousness researchers.
            We’re on the same side here, Kat. I want consciousness official, celebrated, ground-breaking. At the moment, mainstream science doesn’t class it as worthy of this.
            As for my use of the word ‘amateur’, this is not an insult. Let me name two well known amateurs – Mendel and Darwin.

            I’m fanatical about moderation

            Anthony North

          4. amateurs and qualified people
            If as you say there isn’t really an established “consciousness sience”, then working on this field is an amateur. That’s consistent. I mostly agree that nobody really has a clue about how consciousness works. We talked before about my speculation about it. But in my case that’s all I claim – interesting speculation.

            But saying that the amateurs trying to establish the field are not qualified, I think that statement is too strong. Since we are all amateurs, nobody is qualified.

            There is a field called “cognitive science”, which is interdisciplinary. Not the same thing as “consciousness science”, but heading in that direction.

            You can observe a lot, just by watching. (Yogi Berra)

          5. Consciousness
            Hi Earthling,
            How can I put it. If I made it to the top – had bestsellers; influenced the way people think in a big way – I’d still be a pseudoscholar, which is, basically, an amateur. This would be correct – I left school at 15 and am not academically trained. I’d be proud to be classed as a pseudoscholar.
            Penrose and Hameroff are scientists. They don’t deserve to be classed as amateurs, but they dared to go against scientific consensus so that’s how they’re treated.
            I admire these guys. They’ve got courage, and excellent ideas. Their work is vital to my own ideas. And science should damn well accept this and give them scientific status in the work they do.
            Yes, cognitive science is interdisciplinary and seems to be a move in the right direction, but with a proviso. As I see it, the discipline is about how the mind relates to ‘outside’. A vital branch of consciousness, yes, but also something else.
            Much of the early cognitive work seems, to me, to be analogous to the computer. If we think of AI, etc, then it does seem to fit into consensual science. So I must ask, is it really a move in the direction of research outside clearly delineated areas?
            I’m not sure.

            I’m fanatical about moderation

            Anthony North

          6. not sure
            I think your last line “I’m not sure”, should be what everyone writes at the conclusions paragraph of research in this area, in the “conclusions” section. In the language of the sport (ha!) of golf, this is par for the course. The state of the art is simply that we don’t know.

            As I wrote before, I favour explanations that use only things that we know are there. Occam’s Razor type of stuff. It is not a way of finding the truth, sure. Sometimes the truth is complicated.

            But here is my approach, using 3 methods:

            1 – observation: I read and see what has been done in the area of cognitive science, and philosophy and all the related science and pseudo-science, including politics

            2 – introspection: I am honest with myself about what I think, what I dream, and what I want. I know, to a reasonable extent, why I do things. And why I don’t do things. Lots of “I” in this point? Well yes it is introspection, so it is about me. The details are not very interesting, I’m a normal person.

            2.1 — observation about introspection: most people that I observe and talk to, seem to behave similar to me

            3 – reverse engineering: This is the computer part. If we can make something that approximates what consciousness does, then this could explain how it consciousness works. It is not proof of course. But it is useful.

            What I do not do, is call for help from magical sources. You know, the part where we cannot explain something, and we say, oh it must be magic.

            If there is something outside the observable universe, we should look for what it is and start observing it.

            If it is quantum physics, we should strt measuring what we can. Saying that we can never measure it, that’s the same as if we say it is just magic. I’m with Einstein on this one, God does not throw dice.

            If consciousness is within what we know about the brain, then we have to, at least, show how that can happen. I work on this part, and I let the rest of the world work on whatever they want.

            My conclusion?

            I keep trying.

            But I’m not sure.

            You can observe a lot, just by watching. (Yogi Berra)

          7. Agreed
            I pretty much agree with that, but …
            We CAN ask questions about what can’t be measured, as yet. I see it like this. If we belong within the universe, are we fundamentally linked to that universe? Our bodies are fundamentally linked to our cellular construction. Without the latter, there wouldn’t be the former. We do not know what ‘machanisms’ produce the former from the latter.
            Below the cullular there is our subatomic ‘fuzz’. Is it valid to suggest we are also fundamentally linked to this? If so we can make a rational leap to ask: could properties within the subatomic have an effect upon us?
            To do so, we must (1) search for mechanisms that could allow ‘transmission’, (2) place the properties of the subatomic upon our existence, and (3) work out a theory to try to explain why we do not experience these properties in normal life.
            If an identifiable ‘system’ can be theorised for all these factors, (1) would that constitute science, and (2) if elements of consciousness could be seen to flow from one to the other, would this affect the role of the brain?
            I’m not sure.
            Shouldn’t science be going all out to try to see through the shadows?

            I’m certain of only one thing. Nothing is certain.

            Anthony North

          8. directions
            Of course, we have to go in many directions in this question of what consciousness is. Because we are so uncertain, we have no concept of the most promising approach.

            That’s why we cannot discredit most approaches.

            With respect to the subatomic, or quantum, or other things like that – we have to apply the same principles.

            We have to see what it can explain, where it works and where it fails. I don’t know how that would be done with a lot of these theories. If I had a way to test them with certainly, I would tell you, or the the proponents of the theory. But you know this has to be done.

            As for my little theory, I work on some small parts of it. When there is something publishable (if there is), I will let you know. But I won’t claim things until I have something better than speculation.

            You can observe a lot, just by watching. (Yogi Berra)

          9. Speculation
            Wasn’t the Special Theory of Relativity speculation? Aren’t most scientific thesis speculation? There is nothing wrong with publishing speculation – science only thrives because of it.
            It is only seen as ‘unwise’ when it is done outside the consensus.
            Most of what you say is quite right, and I would agree – in a level playing field.

            I’m fanatical about moderation

            Anthony North

          10. and verification
            I’m sure most people understand this, and certainly you do. Science progresses by speculation and verification, in leaps and bounds. The hard part is the verification. Sure you can self-publish a book with your speculation.

            But the “peer-reviewed” journals are few, and the “peers” are very busy. How much of the submitted material do you think they read? Or their graduate students, who do most of the work?

            If your work is unusual, “out there”, you know they will hesitate to publish it. Part of the reason is that, frankly, most of the material that seems crazy actually is crazy. How do these people pick the good parts?

            I think if your novel concept is valuable, you have to work very hard on the presentation. Don’t rely on the reviewer to be smart, sympathetic, or patient.

            Ok, I’m done preaching for now 🙂

            You can observe a lot, just by watching. (Yogi Berra)

          11. Verification
            A person like me can never get scientific verification. I’m well aware of that, and I don’t ask or desire it. Hopefully, one day people like me – pseudoscholars – will produce evidence and ideas to the point that they gain critical mass, and society, politics, science – the lot – will be more open to new, ‘crazy’ ideas.
            I don’t even want to overturn the present systems – simply refine them, tweak them where they’re stuck; brush them down where they’re rusty …
            We’re both preaching now.

            I’m fanatical about moderation

            Anthony North

          12. Necessary to access memory
            Hi Kat.

            This also works if the brain is electrified to receive information and stimuli, as the material relay to other relays on other planes that all together constitute the human psyche.

            The problem I have with mechanical scientific conclusions is that they necessarily exclude any possibility that is not part of the model and the model requires observation from this last relay and none from other parts of reality.

            I would even say this is why we still are an inferior race and still find everything to be impossible even though our possibles keep on being bashed by observation at an ever increasing rate.

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