Friday, April 26, 2013

Brain Representations Are Reflections of Past Environmental Input

I think that brain cells create a theatre of the mind because they have “taken on” specific external properties. I assume that they take on experiential qualities because they have become highly correlated with the actual experience. For example, I believe that activity in visual cortex allows the creation of vibrant and captivating internal imagery simply because activity here has become correlated with the appearance of this imagery in the environment. Like the neurons responsible for the sensations in a phantom limb, early visual neurons “hold” the experiential properties of experiences that they have been correlated with in the past. But imagery is held throughout the cortex, in association areas as well as sensory areas, because each part of the brain has become correlated with some type of environmentally induced experience. Surely anterior association areas have been similarly correlated with experiences, albeit more highly abstract ones. The firing of neurons is not just correlated with sensory experience, it practically IS sensory experience. When you imagine something, you experience it again, you fire the same neurons that fire when it is experienced in the environment. At first it is hard to appreciate that what feels like a novel thought is actually a de novo conglomeration of many memory fragments from the past. Our brains do a fantastic job of mixing preexisting microrepresentations from a variety of different previous experiences into fantastic composites of never-before-seen imagery and sensations.

Read the full article that I wrote on this topic here:

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