Mind vs. Brain.
– girl, interrupted by susannah kaysen (via basedlacigreen)
Whatever we call it—mind, character, soul—we like to think we possess something that is greater than the sum of our neurons and that “animates” us. A lot of mind, though, is turning out to be brain. A memory is a particular pattern of cellular changes on particular spots in our heads. A mood is a compound of neurotransmitters: Too much acetylcholine, not enough serotonin, and you’ve got a depression.
So, what’s left of mind?
It’s a long way from not having enough serotonin to thinking the world is “stale, flat and unprofitable”,- even further to writing a play about a man driven by that thought. That leaves a lot of mind room. Something is interpreting the clatter of neurological activity.
But is this interpreter necessarily metaphysical and unembodied? Isn’t it probably a number—an enormous number—of brain functions working in parallel? If the entire network of simultaneous tiny actions that constitute a thought were identified and mapped, then “mind” might be visible.
The interpreter is convinced it’s unmappable and invisible. “I’m your mind,” it claims. “You can’t parse me into dendrites and synapses.”
It’s full of claims and reasons. “You’re a little depressed because of all the stress at work,” it says. (It never says, “You’re a little depressed because your serotonin level has dropped.”)
Sometimes its interpretations are not credible, as when you cut your finger and it starts yelling, “You’re gonna die!” Sometimes its claims are unlikely, as when it says, ‘Twenty five chocolate chip cookies would be the perfect dinner.”
Often, then, it doesn’t know what it’s talking about. And when you decide it’s wrong, who or what is making that decision? A second, superior interpreter?
Why stop at two? That’s the problem with this model. It’s endless. Each interpreter needs a boss to report to.
But something about this model describes the essence of our experience of consciousness. There is thought, and then there is thinking about thoughts, and they don’t feel the same. They must reflect quite different aspects of brain function.