The MA Method: A Brief Summary

The current lack of a brain theory, and lack of mind understanding, are closely intertwined. The (conscious and unconscious) mind is poorly-understood. And its connection to the brain is only vaguely understood. Since the brain’s main purpose is to create, represent, compute, or express the mind, the brain cannot be understood without understanding the mind.

As implausible as it may sound, Mind Brain Insights claims the solution to both problems already exists — in the form of the MA Method. The core idea is mind = a set of active general memories = a set of active functional neural network ranges.

The method is based on a more expansive view of the human mind. Cognitive neuroscience funnels and compresses the mind into a brain-based view. The brain is said to “compute” or “process” (external and internal) events, to create the mind. The MA Method broadens this view to include an obvious, yet mostly ignored, phenomenon — external experience. The conscious mind, as it is expressed within the brain, encompasses all of experience.

A person clearly understands their own state of mind includes the most salient, and attended-to, events in conscious experience. These occur within one’s visual field, including one’s body at its center. We experience our own bodies and all that surrounds it. This is how everyone throughout the world (who are not brain scientists) view the conscious mind.

The brain continually makes copies of this field (ex: that apple), which form and then shape general memories (ex: “an apple,” “apple taste,” “fruit” etc.). That general memories are built from copies of our “field of experience” is also common knowledge.

Throughout the day a person’s mind continually records their experience. This mental content shapes their general memory storehouse. Memories can be defined quite accurately. For example, whenever an apple is seen, a particular set of memories is triggered: “apple, apple taste, apple smell, food, grasp an apple, take a bite” etc. These memories can not only be listed, but connected, weighted, and labeled excitatory/inhibitory. At the same time the apple’s recognition, meaning, related thoughts, emotions, goals, attention, intention, etc. can also be defined — again as a general memory set. The mind during common, daily activity is filled with general memory (with an assist from the afferent signal & low-level perception).

The MA Method extends beyond the cognitive neuroscience conception of the mind. The mind during everyday tasks is not limited to cognitive neuroscience categories such as executive control, reward system, working memory etc. In fact the mind encompasses ALL human experience: all aspects of perception, recognition, meaning, thought, emotion, executive function, goals, intention, language, motor control, etc. and combinations thereof.

An obvious candidate for the neural correlate of an (active) general memory is a functional neural network. A FNN is a local or global, population-level neural firing event. Groups of neurons in distributed regions of the brain act in concert, via neural synchrony, to produce coordinated firing activity. Active state general memories and FNNs share the same basic characteristics. Both are highly associative. As a memory activates, component and associated memories spring to mind. As a FNN is activated it supports associated FNN activity (Bressler, 2007). Also, both memories and FNNs act, simultaneously, as a receiver of similar signals and as a transmitter of its own signal. And each is arguably the dominant feature of their respective (mind/brain) systems.

Similar FNN activity (ex: “the taste of an apple”), repeated over time, will form a range of expression. As a FNN range forms, so does a corresponding structural neural network (SNN). The latter stores the former when dormant, and works (along with a matching FNN) to recall & support it when active.

In short, once mental processes are defined as a set of general memories, they can be mapped to the brain’s functional and structural neural networks. This is mind/brain mapping based on the MIND first, as it really exists during daily living, inside and outside the lab.

References

Bressler, S.L. (2007). The formation of global neurocognitive state. Neurodynamics of Cognition and Consciousness. Understanding Complex Systems, 61. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-73267-9_4

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