A general memory is a range of similar experience. It contains a range of perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and other aspects of experience (and the mind). The experience type would have to be common and powerful enough to have formed a general memory.
For example, the memory “apple” contains a range of color/size/shape combinations, tactile feelings (on hand and mouth), tastes, thoughts (fruit, snack, grows on trees), etc. built from past experience.
The basics of general memory formation are: experience → mind → episodic memory → general memory. The neural correlate of a general memory is a functional neural network (FNN range). General memory activation (first person subjective) = FNN range activation (third person objective). Thus general memories and FNN ranges are built from experience. Their information content is that of experience.
I argue a person’s going state of mind throughout the day = (mostly) a set of (active) general memories. Or, from a neural perspective, sparce code FNN activity (the ongoing brain signal) = (mostly) the activity of a set of general memories.
Consider the mind during the activity of reaching for one’s phone. The memories “my arm,” “reach,” “my hand,” “grasp,” and “phone” all activate. So might “my phone,” “my favorites list,” “my finger movements,” “the internet,” and “my favorites.” Each of these memories have specific — and definable — perceptual, cognitive, and emotional content.
With an assist from the sensory signal and low-level perception, general memories run both mind and brain. These memories are built from copies of past experience.
A central idea of the MA (Memory Activation) cognitive neuroscience framework is that human memories are built from life experience. Memories are essentially copies of experience. The information a memory contains is the same as the events that play out within our visual field – including our body at its center. Visual and auditory perception occurs outside the body. Somatosensation and emotion are experienced within it. Thoughts and mental operations play out within one’s head.
For example, the memory “the round of golf I played yesterday” would feature perception (white round thing, grass beneath, gripping a club…) objects (golf ball, my feet, my hands…) and actions (backswing, ball strike, ball flight…). A memory of a thought (“what a terrible swing”) or an emotion (“That was really embarrassing”) is also a copy of the original.
As I sit in my office, I see, read, feel, and think. My conscious experience changes continually. Yet, much remains the same. Emotions, breathing, and other bodily sensations rise and fall. Thoughts occur. Life happens. This ongoing experience = the ongoing contents of the mind.
The brain records this activity. It records experience as it occurs, via the (conscious and unconscious) mind which mirrors it. Not all of it, but its most salient and attended-to parts. While I read a paper, I might comprehend an interesting idea. That concept will be recorded, and later remembered when needed. A sudden noise from the street – its tone, volume, and meaning — is immediately converted to memory. A dog’s bark is quickly forgotten; the sound of a car crash or cry for help attended to and sustained in memory for much longer.
The point is any aspect of experience – visual, auditory, somatosensory, emotional, cognitive, etc. — can be copied to memory. Any healthy person can do this, and later recall it at will.
Human memory is built from experience, and its contents are definable. To understand what the contents of memory are, do not look to the brain and its “processing” of experience. Look to experience itself. Therein lies the basis for the content of memory.
To most brain scientists, a viable brain theory is seen as a long term goal, to be reached (hopefully) in the distant future. The reason for this pessimism I argue is not a lack of brain knowledge, but a lack of mind understanding. No one knows what the mind is. Therefore, how can it be connected to the brain? But, what if these two problems could be solved?
Understanding the basics of the mind – conscious & unconscious awareness – isn’t a difficult problem. I argue its contents and their function can be easily defined. However a thick smokescreen is (unintentionally) cast over the mind by the brain sciences. In the conventional view, the brain “processes” or “computes” ongoing experience. Once inside the brain, experience disappears. It’s all about neurons, synapses 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?!
Because experience is seen as external to the brain, it remains unimportant. What is important is how it is “processed.” Experience, so the reasoning goes, has nothing to do with the brain, in any direct way.
I argue the opposite: that experience is central to the brain. The brain is full of experience, because it is full of memory. Memory contents are of experience. Memory is stored in its structure, and memory activity is expressed by its function.
The contents of the human mind are not a mystery. They are what we experience every moment of the day. 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 blog post.” Or whatever perceptions, thoughts, feelings etc. you had while reading. THIS experience 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 basic facts. The contents of the mind mirror 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 its contents, and activity.
Why would it take years to understand the mind, and corresponding brain? The good news is it can be done right now!
As a life event is experienced — seen, heard, recognized, understood, etc. — what happens next? However the event might be “processed,” it is first and foremost stored as a memory.
For example, lift an object and drop it on a surface. Maybe it’s a pen you drop onto a desk, for instance. Do you remember the feel of the pen? How fast it fell? The sound it made upon striking the surface? This little experiment proves that tactile, visual, and auditory experience is stored instantly as memory.
To be clear, the memory of experience is not a vague or shadowy representation of the original. Nor is it an abstract processing of that event. The memory of it – what it felt, looked, and sounded like – is the same as the original. Granted its contents may not be as vivid — but they are of the same kind. The information of that experience is stored. An episodic memory is essentially a copy of the mind, which in turn mirrors experience.
Emotional feelings, thoughts, states of attention, goals, intentions, etc. are also copied to memory. Our experience of life is converted to memory, continually and automatically. This is how we can understand words such as “I felt tired and irritable, I paid close attention to learning the argument, I decided to think of a counter-argument,” etc.
Can you think of an experience that is not converted to memory? I would argue ANY experience can be stored as a memory – and for a long time if that is one’s intention.
The brain continually copies experience to memory. This occurs both automatically, and selectively. The experience copied is based on degree of salience and attention. The brain continually converts the contents of the mind — experience — to memory.
Does the human mind exist inside the brain? Of course — where else would it reside? One’s state of mind — what one perceives, thinks, feels, intends, etc. — is correlated by ongoing brain activity.
What if the mind, as it is expressed inside the brain, could be defined, accurately and precisely? Wouldn’t this allow corresponding brain activity to be defined as well?
Of course you’d also need a neural correlate of the mind. But given one, brain function could finally be understood — using the mind as a roadmap.
So, what is the mind?” I define it as perception, recognition, meaning, thought, emotion, arousal, the self, goals, attention, intention, language, and the rest of human experience and awareness.
A state of mind is comprised of the most salient and attended-to events which occur within one’s audio-visual field. This includes the events which occur within one’s body, at the center of this field. The contents of the mind = that of one’s “field of experience.”
The mind can be conscious or unconscious. Either way, its contents are the same. For example, when tying a pair of sneakers one can (via attention) be keenly aware of each finger movement – in relation to the shoelace, other fingers, and the hand. Each movement, moment by moment, can be seen, felt, and attended to.
Or, one can accomplish the same task with little to no awareness of those same movements.
The mind’s contents can be weighted — in terms of their power and influence. For example, one might take a sip of coffee while reading a fascinating paper or absorbing book. The perception of word sequences, and their meaning, would be the primary feature of the mind. The coffee — its smell, touch, and taste — a secondary feature of it. The desire for coffee might be a weak feature.
A person’s state of mind mirrors that of his or her experience, every moment of the day. This is human mind 101. If accurate, it not only allows the mind to be defined, but the brain as well!