I think I may be my cerebral cortex

The “Are you your thalamus?” contemplation was fun. Since then I have put together similar exercises for many candidate locations in the brain. I’ve read and I’ve pondered and I’ve pondered and I’ve read.

Just for now I’m going to run with the idea that my consciousness is formed in the neocortex. That makes every other specialised region of my brain a trusted consultant and every part of the sensorimotor system a skilled and willing worker.

I’m not quite ready to commit to some of my reasoning, but I have been focusing a lot on the significance of gamma activity and I’m toying with its place in the CPU/Brain analogy. I’ve pretty much decided that it is the rate at which “moments” can be clocked – sets of processed sense-data present on the cortex moved into working memory. That would make the cortex the CPU core, with everything else being a specialised co-processor or I/O processor (bridge). I’ve already commented elsewhere that gamma doesn’t actually seem to have anything to do with anything in particular, but can enhance response to almost any session.

One thing that is evident about gamma is that you can’t count on finding it. It’s weak, it’s localised and it’s only ever briefly in any one place. I have no idea how the pattern is established, but I liken it to a progressive scan or refresh. I’m thinking that the benefits of gamma in enhancing cognition is that it may induce higher capture rates, providing more information from which detail can be extracted, and more references, resulting in stronger recall.

But that’s just me.


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  • Robert Austin  On March 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Hi, Craig–

    Rodolfo Llinas has published a number of papers in which he’s measured gamma activity via magnetoencephalography (MEG) – magnetic fields emitted by the cortex as measured by arrays of superconducting magnets. Based upon his research he proposed (in his book, “I of the vortex”) that there is a traveling wave on the surface of the thalamus, essentially rotating around its surface at the gamma frequency, and which briefly ‘binds’ localized cortical gamma oscillations. That is, this traveling wave acts as a ‘switchboard’ for the cortex.

    Gamma synchrony in cat visual cortex was first measured by Gray and Singer, who showed that the synchrony occurred spontaneously and nearly instantaneously between the two halves of a cat’s visual cortex (via its corpus striatum). Gamma synchrony is often considered in this context essentially to be a briefly opened ‘communications channel’ between local cortical oscillations (and information exchange). Gamma coherence is associated with long term meditation (Lutz, et. al., 2004). Gamma coherence is associated with an increase, probabilistically, of interconnection between local ‘bursting’ neuronal ensembles (see Abeles, Synfire Chains).

    The Brain > CPU analogies can be a bit tricky–the field of cognitive neuroscience is largely based upon computer models of the brain, which are largely ‘cartoon’ models of what is thought to be happening in our brains, and unfortunately that line of inquiry didn’t turn out so well… and then the ‘neural networkers’ moved in…



    • CraigT  On March 27, 2010 at 7:50 am

      I want a MEG!
      Thanks for these useful snippets – much better descriptions! New detail to feed into my “modelling”.
      Yes, computer analogies need to be taken in the full context of the person creating the analogy – for me the analogy is only a very thin veneer on yet other layers of analogy that seem to result in useful stimus/response mapping.

  • 7sigma  On March 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Interesting speculation, Craig. Personally, I’m not sure that the personality/consciousness/individual resides in the brain at all, as I have had experiences that suggest otherwise (though not necessarily while using AVE).

    It would appear that I am not alone in thinking this. You’ve probably found this site before, but have a look at the section about two-thirds of the way down entitled “Brain Waves and Consciousness”:


    • CraigT  On March 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

      At the time of posting I had a particular set of experiences at hand and was thinking along a particular train. Foolishly, I forgot that this touches a point of much debate.
      If there are relevant mechanisms extending beyond our physical vehicle then they are not apparent to me, nor does there appear to be any “standard access points” to make them useful to me. I begin to have control and influence over my mental processes at the cortical level.
      “Certainty” is not currently an option in these matters.
      Thanks for keeping the bigger picture in view.

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