Most brain scientists view a viable brain theory as a long term goal, to be reached in the distant future. The reason for this pessimism I argue is not a lack of KNOWLEDGE. Brain scientists have created a vast reservoir of brain data and knowledge. Rather it is a lack of brain UNDERSTANDING.
This starts with the mind. No one knows what the mind is. Therefore, how can it be connected to the brain? To connect the mind to the brain you have to first define the former, and do so accurately.
But, what if the mind COULD be defined with accuracy and precision? It could then be used to create accurate and precise functional (and eventually, structural) maps of the brain.
This is where the great news comes in. The basics of the mind – conscious & unconscious awareness and action – aren’t difficult to understand! I argue its contents and function CAN defined. However a thick smokescreen is cast over it by the brain sciences. Though completely unintentional and unavoidable, it has obscured the basics of the mind.
According to the conventional view, the brain “processes” or “computes” ongoing experience. Once inside the brain, experience disappears entirely. It’s all about neurons, synapses, dendrites, neurochemicals and the physical substrate. Where is the mind? Subjective experience? Nowhere to be found. After all, how could it possibly exist within the physical brain!?
The conventional view minimizes the mind, and eliminates experience altogether.
If experience is external to the brain, so the argument goes, it is unimportant. What IS important is how it is “processed.” Experience has nothing to do with the brain, in any direct way.
I argue the direct opposite. Experience in my view is central to the brain. The brain is filled with experience.
The argument is simple. The mind is located inside the brain. And, the mind encompasses all of experience. Therefore the brain encompasses all of experience as well — via the mind.
The contents of the conscious mind are not a mystery. They are everything we are aware of, moment by moment. Everyone knows this! Close your eyes and try to recall the last 5 seconds of your experience. Maybe it was “me sitting at my desk, reading this strange but mildly interesting essay.” Add whatever perceptions, thoughts, feelings etc. you had while reading. THIS was your mind during the last 5 seconds. And now, it’s inside your brain! It got there because your mind — inside your brain — mirrors your experience.
Whatever “processing” the brain does, does not change the facts. The contents of the mind = that of experience. Memory is also made of experience. And where are mind and memory located? Inside the brain. Therefore experience is also inside the brain. Or, at least, the INFORMATION of experience is inside the brain.
Once one understands the mind, it becomes easy to see what its neural correlate would be — something that mirrors the mind’s contents and activity through time.
Why would it take years to understand the mind, and corresponding brain? The good news is it can be done, right now!