Brain Myth #2: Look to the Brain to Understand it

I argue this is half right. The physical characteristics of the brain are essential to understand. And much valuable data and knowledge about the brain is accumulating.

Studying the brain exclusively however neglects the other half of the problem — the mind. How does the brain represent it? This is unknown. There’s no clear conceptual framework of what the mind is, or how it’s manifest in the brain. How does the brain create or express a person’s perception, recognition, meaning, emotion, goals, plans, intentions, attention and the rest of his or her mind?

If the mind is not understood, neither can the brain be. If you don’t know what the mind is you can’t map it to the brain. This I argue is a simple truth. How could a group design an experiment for mapping the neural networks of say “reach for a coffee cup” without a clear definition of the mind components involved: “coffee,” “coffee cup,” “coffee smell and taste,” “hot,” “liquid,” and “take a sip”?

Even though much is known about how the brain expresses the mind, a general understanding remains elusive. This becomes clear if you ask a cognitive neuroscientist to model a specific aspect of mind – for example, “how does the brain function when grasping a cup of coffee, in an office.” In response you will receive a vague and somewhat inaccurate description of roughly 30% of the process.

The inability to map mind phenomena to brain phenomena is totally understandable given the lack of a theoretical framework. Cognitive scientists are smart, talented, hardworking people. If they had a correct paradigm they wouldn’t be confused. But the lack of mind/brain understanding on a theoretical level inevitably leads to sub-par analysis.

This confusion I believe is unnecessary. The mind can in fact be defined, accurately, and mapped to the brain.

The MA (Memory Activation) Framework is a mind-first conceptual framework. The human mind mirrors experience as it occurs in everyday awareness. It features the events which occur in our visual field, with our body at its center. This includes perception, recognition, meaning, thought, emotion, arousal, goals, plans, attention, intention and the rest of (conscious and unconscious) awareness.

More specifically, The MA Framework defines the mind as a set of (active) general memories, built from past experience. The neural correlate of these, I argue, is a set of (active) functional neural network ranges. Once listed, a memory/FNN set can be connected, weighted, and labeled excitatory/inhibitory.

A lot of great work is being done in the brain sciences. The missing piece of the puzzle right now, IMO, is an accurate conception of the mind. This would enable a more accurate mind-to-brain mapping. Right now the focus is 98% brain study, then extrapolating from the brain back to the mind. IMO this is backwards… I suggest we look to the mind; THEN the brain. Many fields in applied neuroscience – CNS medicine, AGI, and neuroprosthetics to name a few – would benefit greatly!

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