Monday, April 23, 2012

You Are Not Your Brain

When I have been thinking about the root of my problems, unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any Grand Theory of Me.  I do think some of these things relates to a larger question of consciousness and cognition.  Obviously, with my problems, my perceptions, awareness and consciousness is a bit different than other peoples.   Some of this has meant that I don't see or hear what is obvious to others and some of it has meant that I think about the world in different ways.  Witness This Blog!!!

Also, it has meant that I have my own set of strengths that have either been innate or have been honed by the way I get inputs from the sensory world.  Witness This Blog!!!

And this thought of  what is innate within me and what has been formed leads to some interesting questions.  As I have fixed a number of deficits, my awareness and consciousness has changed.  I have written a lot about the new sights I have seen as a result of vision therapy and the new sounds that I have heard in music as a result of auditory therapy, etc.

 However, what is interesting is that I have had a visual world and a certain amount of visual cognition, despite a diagnosis of non-verbal learning disorder (living in text world) and convergence insufficiency/intermittant divergent strabismus, long before my vision improved.  Same for auditory, despite a diagnosis of auditory processing disorder.  For many years, I had been unusually sensitive to music.

On the other hand, how much do I suffer from a disordered cognition that a globalized condition such as non-verbal learning disorder indicates?  It doesn't help that NLD is a spectrum disorder and that it manifests itself differently in different ways for each individual.

So the following article on the origins of consciousness really speaks to me.  How much of my consciousness is as a result of certain hardwired aspects of my brain and how much are intuitions that structure my experience.

Contemporary research on consciousness in neuroscience rests on unquestioned but highly questionable foundations. Human nature is no less mysterious now than it was a hundred years ago," writes philosopher Alva Noë in his book Out of Our Heads.

It's a bold assertion in an age when fMRI has enabled us to see images of the brain functioning in real time, and when a majority of prominent public intellectuals (Stephen Hawking, Eric Kandel) have argued either implicitly or vociferously in favor of reductionism. The "brain-as-calculating machine" analogy assumes that human thought, personality, memory, and emotion are located somewhere in the gray matter protected by the skull. In other words, you -- at least, the waking you who gets out of bed in the morning -- are your brain.

What Noë is advocating is an entirely new approach -- what if we were to try expand our conception of consciousness by crossing that boundary out of the skull, to encompass "not just our bodies and our movements over time, but also the dynamic interactions that we have with the larger world around us, including the social world?"

Begin by looking at our connections, he says, and we'll find the tools for gaining insight into the nature of consciousness. In fact, lots of information that stimulates our nervous system doesn't get experienced by us. For example: "I might spend an hour talking to you and not notice what color your shirt is. In some sense I saw your shirt. It was there before me and it activated my nervous system and yet I might be unable in any way to make use of that information." It's an interesting puzzle: intuition structures our experience in a way that can't be traced back to the nervous system.