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78 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neural Darwinism reaching out to the mind.
This new volume provides a biologically-based perspective on consciousness. Although Edelman & Tononi may often appear to lead the reader into believing that a `selector' is needed in order for one to choose between the many alternative possible behaviours that one might act out, there is no room for a Humunculus (the little man inside the man `seeing' solutions)...
Published on September 5, 2000 by Anthony R. Dickinson

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122 of 137 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting data, dubious conclusions
This book is worthwhile mostly for the wealth of experimental data provided. Unfortunately, I think the authors often jump to conclusions that their evidence neither precludes nor proves. The most pervasive example of faulty logic is the central theme of the book. The authors provide evidence that consciousness is *associated* with vast, interconnected regions of...
Published on June 20, 2000 by Ryan Malloy


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122 of 137 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting data, dubious conclusions, June 20, 2000
This book is worthwhile mostly for the wealth of experimental data provided. Unfortunately, I think the authors often jump to conclusions that their evidence neither precludes nor proves. The most pervasive example of faulty logic is the central theme of the book. The authors provide evidence that consciousness is *associated* with vast, interconnected regions of the brain. When a person is aware of a stimulus, more neural areas are active than when he/she is not. From this, they conclude that consciousness *arises* from diverse neural areas in the brain. This is the key fault of the book--the authors do not differentiate between *association* and *origin*. Perhaps conscious activity that occurs in a small area of the brain promotes extracurricular activities elsewhere. Just because two events occur simultaneously does not mean one caused the other!
The authors describe their work as a "theory of consciousness"--completely misleading in another sense. Even if we were able to precisely understand what neural processes lead to consciousness, which neurons were involved, etc., the consciousness mystery still would not be solved. The most fascinating and mysterious question is "HOW do the neural processes lead to consciousness?" Uncovering the neural processes associated with consciousness is a great way to begin, perhaps the only way. However, to call the authors' work a "theory of consciousness" is absurd. Imagine a 18th century person able to view the modern automobile through timetravel. Suppose here were able to deduce that turning a key started the automobile, pushing the right pedal made it accelerate, etc. before he was forced to return to his time. Would his knowledge be a "theory of the automobile"? Only in an extremely superficial sense. He would know how the automobile worked, but would have no idea as to the physical mechanisms (e.g. electromagnetism) at play.
I DO recommend this book but I strongly suggest that you pay close attention to the *data* and consider it yourself.
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78 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neural Darwinism reaching out to the mind., September 5, 2000
By 
Anthony R. Dickinson (WashU Med School, USA) - See all my reviews
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This new volume provides a biologically-based perspective on consciousness. Although Edelman & Tononi may often appear to lead the reader into believing that a `selector' is needed in order for one to choose between the many alternative possible behaviours that one might act out, there is no room for a Humunculus (the little man inside the man `seeing' solutions) of any sort here. For those unfamiliar with Edelman's previous writings (all of which I would recommend) there are plenty quotes from his earlier self, the principle idea here being a logical extension of his thesis developed over the last 20 yrs. Coming clean right from the start, the data acquired from introspection is rejected as a technique to be subjected to any robust empirical analysis, but consciousness is here identified not solely with brain states/activity (there is a clear need for interactions with others and the world `out there') - the authors putting forward a model of consciousness as being a `particular kind of brain process'; unified/integrated, yet complex/differentiated.
The early parts of the book discuss the `impasse' reached by many philosophers in their attempts to explain the `mind-body' problem whilst rejecting both strong dualist and reductionist positions: "..consciousness requires the activity of specific neuronal substrates .......... but is itself a process, not an object". There is a clear appeal to holistic thinking here (`the whole is greater than the sum of its parts') - but the message is more subtle. What Edelman & Tononi are pointing out is that, still in need of explanation is the fact that although the contents of consciousness change continually, its possessor remains continuous. The problem of how one discriminates between our vast repertoire of conscious states (and how one is `selected' for experience in real time from this pool) is the main evolutionary question being addressed. Assumptions are not ignored (reflexes are allowed to operate in certain circumstances), but emphasis is placed upon the integration function of the human brain, rather than the clearly identified anatomical segregations long known to exist. For example, there have been at least 36 different visual areas reported in primate brain, each linked by more than 300 connection/projection pathways, 80% of which have recurrent-colateral or re-entrant connections. These latter findings are the focus of Edelman's developing theory of consciousness. For a long time now, many researchers have come to believe that distinct, distributed patterns of neuronal firing give rise to the integration of perceptual and motor processes - but how such patterns are strengthened to provide routinised behaviour and expertise remains unclear. The data presented with respect to the detailed nerve receptor-level changes re growth and the known pharmacological effects of certain natural transmitter substances and drugs are welcome and well written for the lay person to follow (often lacking in the specialist journals of the field!). However this debate may resolve, Edelman & Tononi are here suggesting that in like process, co-ordinated behaviour (including consciousness) derive from the detailed brain connectivities together with their variability and plasticity over time - especially in relation to the (highly flexible?) dynamics of reentrant connections. How such distributed neuronal firing patterns are `selected' for as `the brain interacts with the body' requires better evidence, but with our current state of knowledge, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
From an evolutionary perspective, this is Neural Darwinism writ large, proposing a research agenda entirely consistent with that thesis. For those in the know, there are also (uncited) tributes to Waddington (as in `Epigenetic Landscapes') and support for those working on behavioural robotics and the emergent properties of dynamic systems. The details of the text I will leave to the reader to enjoy - clinical data, normal and abnormal brain architecture, even systems theory - all accessible and clearly phrased for the non-expert reader. As with his previous writings in evolutionary neuroscience his work `feels right' and if successful (and hope that they are) Edelman could follow in the footsteps of Marie Curie in claiming a second Nobel Prize.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A scientific explanation of consciousness and its properties, May 12, 2003
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Paperback)
This is a very important book. Although the authors recognize that there is still awfully much tot do, their analyses and hypotheses are a big step forward in our understanding of consciousness.
It is certainly not an easy book. One should have a basic knowledge of the constitution and the working of the brain.
I, personally, would have liked more concrete examples, like those for instance in the book of C.J. Lumsden and E.O. Wilson 'Promethean Fire'.
This book doesn't explain how consciousness arises, but what it is (properties) and how it works.
Consciousness is not a thing or a property, but a process (of neural interactions).
One of the reviewers here compares consciousness to a car. But a car is a thing, not a process.
Consciousness is a private, integrated, coherent, differentiated, informative, continually changing process.
The authors make also the opportune distinction between primary (animal, unconscious) and higher-order consciousness (the ability to be conscious of being conscious).
Crucial for the authors are re-entrant interactions, degeneracy (recategorical memory), and a part of the brain 'the dynamic core' (a subset of neuronal groups responsible for consciousness).
The dynamic core provides then a rationale for distinguishing conscious processes from unconscious ones (e.g. the circuits that regulate blood pressure).
This book shows clearly that the brain is not a computer and that it doesn't work as a computer program or algorithm.
It has also very important philisophical consequences, which the authors summarize as follows: being is prior to describing, selection is prior to logic and doing is prior to understanding.
I also fully agree with the authors that Darwin's theory is the most ideologically significant scientific theory ever written.
Although this book is rather technical, it should not be missed by those interested in the real nature of the conscious process.
I should also recommend the work of V. Ramachandran 'Ghosts in the Brain', for its multiple examples of (un)conscious behaviour and its philosphical implications (the body/mind problem).
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, intelligent work that aims a bit too high, September 9, 2003
This review is from: A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Paperback)
There is no doubt in my mind, after reading this book, that the authors have done excellent scientific work and made very interesting discoveries. On the other hand, it has certain problems.
To start with, it seems clear that they do not have a full grasp of the philosophical problems they are attempting to resolve - or if they do, they avoid going into the stickier points. This is not necessarily a reason to condemn the book; there are huge volumes of philosophy on this subject, and it would be futile to try and fit a quick resolution into one small volume already full of other facts. Nonetheless, they probably should have avoided the philosophical aspect entirely if all they were going to do is attack the mind/body problem in a way that arguably does nothing but shift the terms around a bit to produce the appearance of a resolution. There is essentially nothing new here, philosophically, and they certainly had more than enough interesting material for a book without attempting this.
A second thing that disappointed me is the lack of contrasting points of view. It seems unfair to ask an author to present a summary of theories which argue against his own, but in fact it's in the best interest of an author/scientist. What are the points of contention between theories, and what are the alternate explanations? This gives the author an ideal chance to explain why their theory is superior, what it has that the others lack... and in turn it gives the reader the chance to be convinced (or not) by the force of the argument, which is always more intellectually satisfying than being led by the nose.
Stylistically, also, it could have used a bit of revision. Long, complex sentences are fine (great, even) for something like Proust. When you populate those sentences - even if they're perfect grammatically - with large and generally unfamiliar scientific terms, it can be quite awkward. This happened just frequently enough to be a nuisance, as far as I was concerned.
So, apart from these criticisms, the subject material is still interesting. I would be inclined, however, to look for a more recent title by these authors (or others) on the subject. A lot can be discovered in a few years, and hopefully the experience they gained in writing this book will help them produce a work with a bit more polish.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST Book on Consciousness -- By Far, August 6, 2005
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This review is from: A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Paperback)
This is a most exciting and most challenging read on consciousness. Finally, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and neurochemistry return as the hallmarks of the theory, bolstered by a high amount of "Neural Darwinism," in order, "to formulate a specific hypothesis about the kinds of neural processes that can account for the fundamental integrative and informative properties of conscious experience." The theory, known as "neuronal group selection" is a completely naturalist, wholly scientific, empirically-sated theory of consciousness. (Some knowledge of statistics will help, but is not necessary, for some middle chapters.)

Rejected is Pinker's computational model of the brain ("How the Mind Words"). Gone are Damasio's dysfunctional subjects as counter-illustrations of the normative ("Descartes' Error" et alia). Gone too is Johnston's entirely solipsistic theory of mind ("Why We Feel"). Also ignored are the philosophical speculation and armchair conjectures one encounters in Chalmer's "The Conscious Mind," Dennett's "Consciousness Explained," and Penrose's "Shadows of the Mind."

Instead, Edleman and Tononi in "The Universe of Consciousness" respond to philosopher John Searle's demand for a strictly functional and biological account of consciousness (see, Searle's "Rediscovery of Mind" and "Mystery of Consciousness"). Among the some of the enigmas rejected is the representational theory of memory; in its stead is an associative and creative replicational theory of memory, which is dynamic and reacting to its environment always anew. If one learns anything from this book, it is that consciousness is not a state(s) of mind, but a complex, dynamic, and integrative neural process.

This fascinating, detective-like examination of consciousness is not for the casual reader; this is a demanding and rigorous read: Concepts like perceptual categorization, memory reactivation, concepts, values, etc. that depend on a wholly Darwinian sense of developmental selection, experimental selection, and "reentry" ("the process of ongoing and recursive signaling between separate brain maps along massively parallel anatomical connections"), all combine with detailed neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and neurochemistry in order to substantiate the theory. The theory requires one's complete, but undivided, attention. It's a difficult subject, but masterful job.

While the book is both exciting and a challenge, I admire the authors' ability to tackle a difficult task without complicating it with arcane, elliptic, or meandering conversation (cf., Pinker). This is an exciting, engaging, but very serious, book on a theory of consciousness. Where difficult concepts and biologies require, analogies are provided. Indubitably, "Universe of Consciousness" is the best written, empirical, biological, and conceptual account of consciousness I've read, and I've read more than a few. My only criticism, since it's warranted, is stylistic: The dense content could be helped by less-dense sentential structures. Otherwise, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Plausible Account of Brains and Minds, April 17, 2009
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This review is from: A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Paperback)
Densely written and packed with technical terms, the book is not an easy read. It also does not excel in making difficult ideas clear and easy to grasp. That said, the book offers an interesting take on how brains work to produce consciousness while reserving the more philosophic issues (which happen to hold more interest for me) to the end. The philosophic questions hinge on how we should think about consciousness (the most accurate way of conceiving of it) and the implications of this for actual scientific research.

The bulk of the book is taken up with laying out a theory of how the various parts of the brain work together to produce the features we recognize as consciousness and this may well be the most difficult part for those not familiar with the terminology or some of the underlying science. Only at the end do the authors make explicit the conceptual underpinnings of their research program and basic thesis about how the brain makes the mind.

For those unfamiliar with the philosophical disputes, there have been ongoing debates over whether mind is ontologically prior to matter or is co-equal with it or is merely a function of matter. Edelman and Tononi come down firmly on the side of matter being primary and in so doing take their stand firmly in the modern scientific realist camp (though they explain their position later in the book as being one of "qualified realism" because they do not accept that we have direct access to the world as it is). In this they share a view of consciousness with other scientifically minded philosophers including Daniel Dennett (Consciousness Explained) and John Searle of "Chinese Room Argument" fame (Minds, Brains and Science (1984 Reith Lectures); Mind, Language, and Society : Philosophy in the Real World; The The Mystery of Consciousness, etc.)

Edelmen and Tononi go further to conclude that minds must be "embodied" (not only in brains but in the physical linkages that tie brains to the world around them, which is to say they require full bodies or equivalents a la a philosopher like Jerry Fodor); more, like both Dennett and Searle they recognize that brains are the sole seat of consciousness (contra some in the philosophical camp like the so-called panpsychists who theorize that consciousness may be ubiquitous in the universe having a presence at all levels and in all corners of the physical world).

Like Dennett, too, but not apparently like Searle (though Searle is very often unclear on this), the authors here see consciousness as an amalgam or array of very distinct processes grading up the scale, from lower levels to higher, and recognize what they call a primary consciousness (one set of processes/functionalities found in lower level animals) and higher order consciousness (recognizable in us and riding on the primary consciousness). They spend a good deal of this book theorizing on which parts of the brain support which functions and by showing how some functions are composites of others (explaining why they say consciousness is not seated in any particular part of the brain but across the broad area of the brain in its entirety).

However unlike Dennett, but like Searle, they hold that computers are NOT good candidates for replicating what brains do vis a vis producing consciousness. This is an important distinction because it puts them at odds with computationalists who see in Artificial Intelligence research the key to understanding how brains work. In a nutshell, the authors' argument appears to hinge on a distinction they draw between the organizing principle they term "selection" and logic. It goes something like this:

1) Everything at bottom is physical (in the broad, not the 19th century, sense) and, though we may not know (and may never know) all the laws of physics, whatever those laws are control and drive all things that happen in the universe.

2) Within the physical universe various self-contained, self-sustaining and self-propagating systems take form (i.e., life) and these systems persist through a process of selection (as in "natural selection") which is to say that, by trial and error, what works survives and what doesn't fades.

3) The key factor in selection is the capacity to retain, that is, memory. By "memory" they don't mean our kind, of course, but just a retention capability that takes many forms and is fairly mechanical at its most basic level (as in the way antibodies in the blood "learn" and retain the capacity to affix themselves to invading entities and thereby neutralize them).

4) As systems evolve through the selection process, their capacities and their parts (including brains in higher form systems like us) become increasingly more capable of responding to the surrounding environment thanks to the ongoing selection in which they are constantly engaged.

5) At a certain point some of these systems develop things like brains and some of the brains develop primary consciousness and some with primary consciousness become increasingly more sophisticated, developing the capacity for self-awareness, intentionality, reasoning, etc., i.e., higher consciousness. All these developments are refinements of the core memory capacity which makes selection work as a driving principle throughout the range of all self-sustaining, self-propagating systems. Thus consciousness is just increasingly refined memory (because the entity with this capacity, or capacities, can do more with what is retained and can retain more, to boot).

6) Higher level consciousness in brains yields an array of new features and capacities including language, mathematics, art, logic and, as the authors add, things like the madness of crowds (think Charles MacKay here Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds). These added capacities operate in a kind of feedback mode with the consciousnesses that create and use them to further amplify the capacities of the relevant consciousnesses.

7) Since computers are just instantiated logic, logic in action, they are functions of higher order consciousness (because logic comes from consciousness and does not pre-exist, or co-exist with, it).

8) Insofar as computers are logic-driven rather than selection-driven, they are totally different from brains.

9) Therefore it makes no sense to suppose they can do what brains can do vis a vis things like producing consciousness.

Why not? Because brains, say the authors, don't contain programmed instructions and therefore don't operate computationally. They do run processes which look superficially similar to what computers do (both include electrical firings in various patterns, produced by the physical platform), but their underlying mechanism, their underlying modus operandi, is selectional not logical. The reason this is important is that selection is indeterminate while logic is determinate.

Selection happens when some physical system, or aspect of such a system, picks up and retains a change that improves its performance in its environment. There is no pre-determined plan or instruction at work in selection while logic is about order according to set rules and computation is logic driven.

Yet, their conclusion concerning the noncandidacy of computers as synthetic brains based on this is open to some serious doubt:

1) Whatever it is, logic seems to be as firmly grounded in the physical facts of the world as selection and, indeed, one can describe what happens at the rawest physical level as informational transfer, with a logic component, too. (That is, the distinction between selection and logic they are trying to draw may be more arbitrary than real.) Another way of seeing this: A logical rule like Identity, "A=A", is not just a prescriptive (when THIS is the case, then THIS is the case). It is also expressive of a fundamental physical fact in the universe, i.e., that it is inconceivable that a thing is ever other than itself. Thus one could say "A=A" just expresses the fact "A". As an expression of the physical universe it is no different than selection, itself an aspect of the physical universe.

But let's assume that there is a real distinction to be made here:

2) It hinges, the authors tell us, on the notion that selection is indeterminate whereas logic is determinate. Now this partly reflects the conflation of logic as a system of explanation (the study of the rules for accomplishing certain verbal or other kinds of tasks) with logic as a system of instructions in a computer program. Certainly a program IS logically based but what makes it determinate is not that fact but that it is designed to be, i.e., the logic is used to achieve a determined purpose. But massively parallel computation (as proposed by Dennett in his model for replicating consciousness) introduces indeterminacy by adding the possibility of real time interaction between parallel processors. The more processors, the more real time interactions. So if brains are structured on an indeterminacy model a la the organizing principle of selection, it is conceivable that sufficient indeterminacy is achievable on computers, too.

3) Which leads to the most important point. If, as Edelman and Tononi maintain, consciousness (the array of disparate features we recognize as that) is (as Dennett would have it) a process-based system at bottom, then the issue does not hinge on the platform, necessarily, but on the processes, i.e., on whether they can perform the requisite functions in the requisite way. That is, there is nothing in this view of consciousness that necessarily even requires a particular method of generating the needed processes at all. What matters is whether the features we recognize as constituting what we mean by "consciousness" can be replicated in the system in question, not what the system is made of.

On balance this is a good and useful book but its philosophical conclusion, at least with regard to the viability of the computational model is at least suspect. On the other hand the science looks to be pretty good vis a vis the way brains might actually work.

SWM
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37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WORLD KNOT UNTIED & RETIED, June 22, 2000
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The Authors ambitious attempt to carve their niche in the universe of consciousness was blighted by too much new jargon: dynamic core hypothesis, functional cluster, reentry, degeneracy and non representational memory. They seemed to be saying that the firing of neurons paints reality in the brain like an artist paints on a canvas. However, half of reality still lies hidden beneath the brain's view. One can't define their way to new discovery. This new terminology shows their impatience with what past neuroscientists have written (which I share), but it in no way moves us up the mountain.
Most of the book was mentally stimulating but the jargon in Part V, Untangling the Knot, became a hair ball that wouldn't cough up. By their own admission the knot would not come untied. It quickly gets tiresome to hear how brain image resolution has not advanced to the point of solving the neuron's place in unraveling consciousness. The book was thick with tautological niceties such as "consciousness is the ability of being conscious of being conscious." Their attempt to divide the subject into primary consciousness and higher order consciousness was equally arbitrary. For me, re-tieing the mind-body knot in a "less tangled form," didn't pull the little red wagon forward very much. Still the authors paved the way for genetic, sub-neuron investigations that may well untie the knot. There is a mountain to scale here and it does little good to pretend you are near the top. But yes, the hardcover was well worth its reasonable price.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good step foward., October 19, 2001
This review is from: A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Paperback)
Edelmans new theory of consciousness is, as I expected,impresive and quite apealing. Reentry is again in the spotlight, but this time in support of the Dynamic Core hypothesis. This hypothesis is a step foward from other less specific neuronal assembly theories of consciousness, and overall, I found it convincing. I did not give this book 5 stars because at the end of the book, Edelman moves frome concrete science to speculation, and because qualia as neural dimension space discriminations is far from being a convincing model for qualia. It is grounded on neurology though, and for that it is much better than many others. It also is able to diferenciate between conscious and unconscious proceses, among many other advantages. At the end, I believe the strongest aspect of the dynamic core is the way Edelman and Tononi use it to directly explain the phenomenology of consciousness. The introduction is also excellent, and the whole attempt is an adequately built bridge between the neurology and phenomenology of consciousness.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imagine a complex subject ..., November 17, 2004
By 
John Fabian (Hanover, New Hampshire, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (Paperback)
How does matter become imagination? That's the compelling subtitle of this work. The answer is not easy to follow but Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi make the effort worthwhile. I had to work to keep up with the subject. It felt like a difficult but positive workout.

The subject matter is dense. The authors have created a writing style which in no way dumbs down the subject for its audience - if the audience is someone like me, a knowledgeable lay-person. I appreciated the chapter prefaces and came back to them often as I made my way into the billions of possible mind states.

Edelman and Tononi put forward an in depth theory of the brain's machinations to achieve consciousness. With effort the reader will get a wonderful perspective on how the world out there becomes the inner world of imagination. I applaud the authors for their research and communication skills on such a difficult subject. I recommend this book to everyone interested in the subject of consciousness and who are willing to expend some gray matter to follow the discourse.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawn of a new era, February 8, 2001
This book marks the end of many thousand years of theological, philosophical, and psychological speculations about man's soul. In three previous books Edelman has laid the foundation of his own theory of the human mind. Now, together with his colleague at the Neurosciences Institute in California, Giulio Tononi, he offers a neat and very readable survey of his ideas. Edelman has laid the foundation of a scientific, biological approach to the study of consciousness, the mind. And we might add, the soul. What used to be looked upon as a complete mystery is now becoming amenable to purely scientific inquiry. In other words, the mental can, at long last, be be treated in biological, concretely material and quantitative terms. The authors' presentation of their complex subject is admirably clear. Each of the six main parts is introduced by an overview which places it in a wider perspective. Also, each of the seventeen fairly short chapters is introduced by a brief summary. The reader can thus start by getting a broad idea of what the authors are aiming at, and is placed in a position to read the individual chapters with full attention to the often intricate details. Edelman's first lauched his basic ideas in his1987 book Neural Darwinism, where he applied Darwin's revolutionary theory of Natural Selection, not only to the formation and evolution of species, but also to the individual cells in the brain. The development of the brain cells are of course under general genetic control. The genes themselves, naturally, have developed as a result of the natural selection of the organism which has carried them through thousands or millions of generations. Darwin's Natural selection replaced former mentalistic or theological ideas, involving a purposeful Mind, by a thoroughly scientific explanation in terms of a random variation subjected to selection by means of the survival and continued reproduction of those best fitted to the environment in which the organism happened to live. Neural Darwinism extends this idea to the population of billions of neurons, and their billions of billions of connections with other cells. The brain adapts to the kinds of operations it sets going And just as Darwin's theory dispensed with the philosophically unacceptable idea of a Purposeful Mind giving rise to the successive evolutionary variations of species, Edelman's idea dispenses with the equally unacceptable idea of a kind of General Director inside the brain. The British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in 1947, somewhat flippantly named this entity "The Ghost in the Machine". Behaviorist psychologists, realizing that the Ghost could not be observed, decided to use only objectively observable behavior in order to find out the secrets of what they, in turn, called "The Black Box". Without much success. Edelman goes much further than just outlining his theory. He and Tononi subject it to experimental tests. First, they utilise recent techniques for registering in detail the spatial and temporal distribution of neural activity as it executes various tasks, both conscious and unconscious. At the same time, they stress that the brain is n o t like a computer. Its connections are chemical, and are modified by chemical (hormonal and other) impulses. Further, memories are not located in individual cells, or even groups of cells. Instead, they consist of processes in groups of interconnected neurons. It is of course not only the sheer number of possible interconnections between the neurons of the brain, but also its structure, that makes the brain so unique: n o two brains, even of identical twins, are exactly alike. In regard to consciousness, the authors especially stress the phenomenon of "re-entry", implying that the interconnections between areas of the brain are typically reciprocal, so that they can be effectively correlated. Consciousness occurs when a sufficient number of re-entrant connections are active, engaging different parts of the brain for a sufficient period of time. This book marks the dawn of a new era in the study of the mind.
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A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination
A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination by Gerald M. Edelman (Paperback - February 28, 2001)
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