rewiring the brain

Clint O'Dell (
Tue, 14 Sep 1999 14:40:31 MDT

Sorry for the late reply. I hope this topic is still being discussed and I'm not being off topic here by replying this late.

Robert Bradbury wrote:
>I disagree with the term "rewire", that implies that you remove the
>old connections an replace them with new connections. I don't think
>that happens *if* you can remember that you once had the old connections.
>You can alter the weights that the conscious mind gives to the
>proposed behavior patterns. "... I used to think driving recklessly
>was fun, but now as I've gotten older and value my life more, I
>almost always drive very safely..."

Very true. What I meant by rewire was reroute. I think that's what I mean to say. If you exercise memory then new connections are to those memories you exercise. If from there these memories are aligned with different memories new associations are made. If more links are made to these new associations then they will have priority over the original associations. Memories that deal with emotion will be harder to re-associate to the point that the new connections have priority because of all the parts of memory that went into those associations. To have been a memory that affects someone emotionally there must have been a situation that alerted the rest of the body. This higher body awareness is able to have a higher probably of being remembered. To override that you would have to create a situation of equal or greater emotional effect, or at least somehow awaken the senses involved. Some chemicals may help with this instead of recreating such a traumatic environment, which could cause problems with other parts of memory that weren't originally involved.

>I would argue that any significant event with any high level of
>emotional content, especially fear, drama, etc. *will* be stored
>in your memories whether you like it or not. I argue this based
>on the fact that the brains *must* be wired to retain memories that
>have the potential for survival value. Those memories don't undergo
>a process of "Gee... should I remember this or not remember this?".
>Now, later, consciously, may you go back and "categorize" a memory
>as insignificant (lets say, because you saw it in a movie). But
>I'm not so sure that that doesn't keep other less sophisticated
>parts of your mind from accessing those memories *with* the
>frame of reference -- "its only a movie". I had a girlfriend once
>who categorically refused to see violent films because she did *not*
>want to have those pictures in her mind, in part because she did
>not want those images to occupy her dreams.

Agreed, as stated above, those memories are still there. Though as new associations are made and developed then they will eventually have priority.

>Given the amount of processing power that the brain has, it seems
>to me that a *huge* amount of stuff is thought about that we are
>never aware of. Some tiny fraction of it gets brought to our
>attention. I agree that we have the power in almost all cases
>to focus our attention and actions on specific things. I would
>maintain my position that the underlying experiences and drives
>affect and influence us in very subtle ways. As Anders pointed
>out, the more we know about what these drives and influences are
>the greater should be our skill in managing them.

I completely agree.

Another topic:
The Society of Mind is very interesting reading. A lot of what Minsky discusses is very closely related with my own ideas. However I disagree with his use of metaphor to describe Agents and Agencies. It suggest that a programmed software controls the hardware, when actually I believe the software is a result of the hardware and the software can act as a feedback to the hardware. Actually a little more complicated than that. But so far a very good book. When he discusses splitting the brain to analyze itself I said, "Wow! I thought I was the only one who does that." :-)

There is another way though that he doesn't discuss. At least not up to chapter 6. I also meditate on the 'now'. I don't think of the past or future or present. Instead I allow sensations to be felt and my mind to wonder. I don't think or focus on but observe and record random thoughts flowing through my head. Later I retrieve these thoughts, through self hypnoses, and analyze what I observed. No circularity there.

Also I disagree with his suggestion on how we walk. A series of falling and catching ourselves. I don't do that, and neither do the people I observe walking. I balance on one foot while I place my other foot down. Then I shift the weight. Only during running and jogging do I control a fall. But then to be absolutely sure I would have to measure muscle strain on my legs as I walk wouldn't I?

His analyses of Builder could also use some refining. I'm working on that now.

In writing the book and carrying out the robotic experiments he discusses, I would have taken the bottom up approach instead of the top down approach. In understanding consciousness I believe bottom up is the best way to go, even though its more complicated.

Thanks for recommending this book. Its a lot of fun to read and gives me a lot to think about. I haven't started on Calvin yet but he's next. I still have about 24 chapters to go on SoM.


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