Mind and Brain

  1. Excerpt from Frontiers of Knowledge using inputs from two books: McTaggart’s The Field and Edward Kelly’s Irreducible Mind. [Immediately below]
  2. Quantum Mechanics, Consciousness, the Mind–Brain Relationship and Survival of Consciousness. This material is primarily based on excerpts from a Journal of Scientific Exploration book review of Exploring Frontiers of the Mind by James Matlock of Atlantic University. This book includes chapters by some of the “big names” in non-materialistic conscientiousness by scientists. Matlock writes in his  introduction to his review [for more go to write-up below].
  3. Also see blog posts: here on consciousness and quantum mechanics and here for highlights from a talk by Larry Dossey on many usual brain related consciousness phenomenon
1.Excerpt from Frontiers of Knowledge  (Covers up through 2012)

In include in Frontiers of Knowledge, a section on mind and brain processing functions a transition between the more general biological materials under evolutionary biology and human consciousness, which is featured next. Using inputs from McTaggart’s book and Edward Kelly’s Irreducible Mind (see bibliography below) I have identified seven major puzzles (anomalous observations and discoveries) of the mind, the brain and its functions that cannot be accommodated into the existing brain paradigm and theories of mainstream science. Three of these are listed below.

  1. Brain functions seem to have specific locations, but experiments have shown that the functional processing of information (for example, vision) is much more distributed. It is hypothesized that these processes could be supported by brainwide “excitations” without regard to particular brain nerve cells.
  2. Memory for a given experience is distributed throughout the brain (and maybe outside of it) and not in a specific brain location. Experiments on animals show that the animal can maintain the essence of a memory even when most of the brain is removed. In this and other processes, the brain appears to be exhibiting holographic properties.
  3. Humans with multiple personalities provide evidence for the psychological reality of secondary centers of consciousness—more than one personality existing within a single human mind.

For mind puzzle 1, McTaggart cites leading brain researcher Karl Pribram’s work that shows cognitive processes have very precise locations within the brain (both for humans and animals), but that the actual processing of information relative to a given function is carried out by something more basic than particular brain neurons or a group of brain cells.

Pribram also found that memory is distributed throughout the brain in a holographic manner (puzzle 2). Experiments on animals have shown that the animal can maintain the essence of a memory even when most of the brain is removed. In this and other processes, the brain appears to be exhibiting holographic properties. A characteristic of holograms is that any part of a holographic recording of a picture contains the full image of the picture, though at reduced resolution (clarity). The mind’s capacity for memory storage via frequency wave interference patterns could be immense because large quantities of information can be stored in these formats.

Adam Crabtree, one of the chapter authors in Irreducible Mind, writes about neurobiological investigation—primarily of multiple personality disorders (MPD)—that provide evidence for the psychological reality of secondary centers of human consciousness; that is multiple personalities (puzzle 3). In some of the cases there are striking physiological differences present in the different personalities: changes in the dominate hand, different rate of healing response to medication, and different allergic responses. For example, one personality might be allergic to tobacco smoke while another’s allergy would be citrus fruit.

Key Scientific References Used for the Mind and Brain in Frontiers

Karl H. Pribram, Giuseppe Vitieollo (eds.), Brain and Being: at the Boundary between Science, Philosophy, Language and Arts (John Benjamins Publishing, 2004), 215–38.

Edward F. Kelly, Emily W. Kelly et. al, Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010; Hardback edition in 2007)

Lynne McTaggart, The Field: the Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe (Harper Perennial, 2002) — 4 chapters in Part2: The Extended Mind


2. Quantum Mechanics, Consciousness and the Mind–Brain Relationship

James Matlock of Atlantic University writes in his introduction to a Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE) book review* of Exploring Frontiers of the Mind** (the collection is the written papers from an international a symposium of the same title held at the University of São Paulo, Brazil in 2010). Matlock in his JSE Journal review article writes first about the implications of quantum theory for our understanding consciousness and the mind-brain relationship. Following are excerpts of his two paragraph perspective.

  • The paradigm shift in physics that came with the establishment of quantum mechanics in the last century has implications for all the sciences, but that fact has been remarkably slow to sink in, perhaps in part because physicists themselves have not been able to agree on what it means. The one thing that seems incontrovertible is that quantum reality is qualitatively different from the everyday, observable macro-reality in which we commonly operate. At the level of the latter, Newtonian mechanics works well and supports a materialistic perspective, but underlying our quotidian world is a strange probabilistic sub-atomic world in which particles are waves and waves are particles and nothing is definite until it is viewed by an observer (or so some claim).
  • Perhaps it is not an observer, but something is causing wave functions to collapse and convert probabilities into actualities. Could that something be consciousness? That is the $64,000,000 question. If the answer is yes, does that imply a kind of substance dualism, consciousness and matter as coequal constituents of the universe, neither reducible to the other? Or could consciousness be primary and ultimate reality non-dual in the Indian sense? Physicist Henry Stapp (2009)*** considers these questions and concludes not only that the orthodox von Neumann interpretation of quantum mechanics points toward consciousness as primary (and ultimate reality as non-dual) but also that there is nothing in modern physics that rules out the possibility that our personal consciousness survives bodily death. That, he says, is an empirical question which cannot be settled by appeal to “a presumed incompatibility of such phenomena [i.e. phenomena which suggest survival] with our contemporary understanding of the workings of nature.”

I am starting Matlock review review of the book with his highlights of the two chapters of Part II that present different perspective by authors on the role of quantum mechanics in consciousness. His summary of these two chapters is:

  • In “No-Collapse Physics and Consciousness,” British physicist Chris Clarke presents an interpretation of quantum mechanics diametrically opposed to the standard one Stapp endorses. Building on the heterodox speculations of Sir Roger Penrose, he suggests essentially that the wave function collapses on its own [emphasis added], without the involvement of consciousness.
  • In “The ‘Quantum Soul’: A Scientific Hypothesis,” U.S. physicians Stuart Hameroff (who has collaborated with Penrose on several papers) and Deepak Chopra suggest that consciousness originates at the point at which quantum activity scales up to the level of classical mechanics and biological systems. The “soul” in this conception is reduced to “quantum information” (p. 90). The authors believe that their model can explain out-of-body and near-death experiences “and conceivably an after-life” (p. 86). “A dualist perspective,” they write, “may not be necessary” (p. 90).

Later Matlock reviews Part IV–which consists of case studies that assume a separation of mind and body and suggestions that some aspect of the human being may survive bodily death. Matlock writes that “none of the four chapters explicitly address Hameroff and Chopra’s quantum-soul model, but readers who have come through the book from the beginning will reach them with it in mind and it seems appropriate to assess them in relation to it.”

Matlock next considers British physician and well-known near-death experience (NDE) researcher Peter Fenwick’s chapter titled “Can Near-Death Experiences Contribute to the Debate on Consciousness?” Matlock notes that the NDE literature is so large and varied that Fenwick had to narrow his focus such that Matlock found this chapter be superficial in its coverage and he writes, “specialists will find it more irritating than illuminating.” Fenwick concludes that NDEs provide less support for mind/body dualism than for a field theory consciousness [emphasis added] within a “transcendent reality” (pp. 160–161). Matlock writes that” although the two positions are not entirely incompatible (it is all in how one looks at the problem, a Hindu would say).”

* James Matlock “Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship edited by  Alexander Moreira-Almeida and Franklin Santana Santos.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 26, No. 3, 687-90.

** Alexander Moreira-Almeida and Franklin Santana Santos (eds), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind–Brain Relationship (Springer, 2012)

*** Henry P. Stapp (2009). Compatibility of contemporary physical theory with personality survival.



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