Re: sci:Understanding Neuroscience: (O'Dell & Bradbury Revised)

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 3 Sep 1999 14:17:51 -0700 (PDT)

On Fri, 3 Sep 1999, Clint O'Dell wrote:

> Robert Bradbury wrote:
> >It would seem to require an isolated part of the mind that can produce
> >random interrupts.
> I wrote:
> >You're right it would
> I take that back! I had only 2 hours sleep that night and wasn't thinking
> as straight as I should have been when replying to your post.
> It would not require interrupts. Especially an "isolated" one. I don't
> know where the Hell you came up with that conclusion.

I was thinking of the "stop" exercise and the paradox of stoping oneself. In the standard exercise, an external interrupt, namely another person notices you are doing something "automatically" without any self-awareness. They then execute the instruction to "stop" and "notice" the thought state that you are in.

Why I qualified my statement, was particularly, as you say that one thought leads to another and another -- the continual selection of the "focus of attention" for the conscious mind. If the conscious mind executes the "stop" instruction, which I suppose in theory it must, then it doesn't have the same quality that a random external interrupt has. However, since the mind is a multiplicity of co-processors, I can imagine you could train yourself so that consciousness is primarily occuring in one part of your brain (say the right or left half) and a "non-active" part (such as the other side) watches and interrupts you. It is probably similar to what happens when an alternate personality "takes control" in individuals with a multiple personality disorder. Some of the personalities may be more aware of the others and be able to actively observe them. They might also issue "interrupts" if one of the personalities threatens to cause self-harm. Most of us have a much more "integrated" conscious where we "actively" (when we are self-aware) or "passively" (when we aren't self-aware) select the focus of attention and so in these individuals the "stop" instruction would have to be in some way non-randomly "selected".

At one point in time I had a fairly highly developed sense of self-observation, that I would have considered fairly capable of a "random" interrupt. I don't exercise it much anymore so I could believe that now the process would be closer to what you feel is the more likely process.

If you have any doubt that your brain can have multiple simultaneous "thoughts", then you *really* need to read Calvin or perhaps Minsky's Society of Mind.