The Future of Psychology: Connecting Mind to Brain
Click the links below to read the articles and resources related to each of psychology that seeks to understand how the brain affects behavior. Our brains aren't flying solo; our emotions also come into play when we're a dualistic view of the brain and its relationship to the physical body, and view that emotions are key to learning or behavior is Daniel Kahneman. The prime impetus behind this enthusiasm is a form of brain imaging called As a tool for exploring the biology of the mind, neuroimaging has given brain science a strong . than the study of human motives, thoughts, feelings and actions. .. relation or even so in contradiction to our immediate behaviour.
Those beautiful colour-dappled images are actually representations of particular areas in the brain that are working the hardest — as measured by increased oxygen consumption — when a subject performs a task such as reading a passage or reacting to stimuli, such as pictures of faces. The powerful computer located within the scanning machine transforms changes in oxygen levels into the familiar candy-coloured splotches indicating the brain regions that become especially active during the subject's performance.
Despite well-informed inferences, the greatest challenge of imaging is that it is very difficult for scientists to look at a fiery spot on a brain scan and conclude with accuracy what is going on in the mind of the person.
Barack Obama shortly after winning the US presidential election. Research undertaken by neuroscientists suggested that he would fail to engage with voters. They scanned the brains of swing voters as they reacted to photos and video footage of the candidates.
The researchers translated the resultant brain activity into the voters' unspoken attitudes and, together with three political consultants from a Washington DC-based firm called FKF Applied Researchpresented their findings in the New York Times in an op-ed titled, "This is Your Brain on Politics". Readers could view scans dotted with tangerine and neon-yellow hotspots indicating regions that "lit up" when the subjects were exposed to images of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, and other candidates.
Revealed in these activity patterns, the authors claimed, were "some voter impressions on which this election may well turn". Among those impressions was that two candidates had utterly failed to "engage" with swing voters. Who were these unpopular politicians? John McCain and Barack Obama, the two eventual nominees for president.
University press offices are notorious for touting sensational details in their media-friendly releases: Neuroscientists themselves sometimes refer disparagingly to these studies as "blobology", their tongue-in-cheek label for studies that show which brain areas become activated as subjects experience x or perform y task.
Skilled science journalists cringe when they read accounts claiming that scans can capture the mind itself in action. Serious science writers take pains to describe quality neuroscience research accurately. Indeed, an eddy of discontent is forming. Reading too much into brain scans can become truly consequential when real-world concerns hang in the balance. When a person commits a crime, who is at fault: Now, of course, this is a false choice. If biology has taught us anything, it is that "my brain" versus "me" is a false distinction.
Still, if biological roots can be identified — and better yet, captured on a brain scan as juicy blotches of colour — it is too easy for non-professionals to assume that the behaviour under scrutiny must be "biological" and therefore "hardwired", involuntary or uncontrollable. Criminal lawyers, no surprise, are increasingly drawing on brain images supposedly showing a biological defect that "made" their clients commit murder.
Looking to the future, some neuroscientists envisage a dramatic transformation of criminal law. Neuroscientist David Eaglemanfor one, welcomes a time when "we may some day find that many types of bad behaviour have a basic biological explanation [and] eventually think about bad decision-making in the same way we think about any physical process, such as diabetes or lung disease".
As this comes to pass, he predicts, "more juries will place defendants on the not-blameworthy side of the line". But is this the correct conclusion to draw from neuroscience data?
After all, if every behaviour is eventually traced to detectable correlates of brain activity, does this mean we can one day write off all unwanted behaviour on a don't-blame-me-blame-my-brain theory of crime? Scientists have made great strides in reducing the organisational complexity of the brain from the intact organ to its constituent neurons, the proteins they contain, genes, and so on. Using this template, we can see how human thought and action unfold at a number of explanatory levels, working upwards from the most basic elements.
At one of the lower tiers in this hierarchy is the neurobiological level, which comprises the brain and its constituent cells. Genes direct neuronal development, neurons assemble into brain circuits. Information processing, or computation, and neural network dynamics hover above. At the middle level are conscious mental states, such as thoughts, feelings, perceptions, knowledge and intentions.
Human behaviour: is it all in the brain – or the mind? | Science | The Guardian
Social and cultural contexts, which play a powerful role in shaping our mental contents and behaviour, occupy the highest landings of the hierarchy.
According to neuroscientist Sam Harrisinquiry into the brain will eventually and exhaustively explain the mind and, hence, human nature. This is not to say that emotions like anger exist only in the head of the perceiver. Rather, it is more correct to say that they cannot exist without a perceiver. Without a perceiver, there are only internal sensations and a stream of physical actions. As a result, psychologists have believed for some time that cognitions and emotions are separate and distinctive processes in the mind that interact like the bit and parts of a machine.
But the brain does not really respect these categories, and thus mental states cannot be said to be categorically one or the other. Nor can behavior be caused by their interaction. In this article, I am extending this reasoning even further by proposing that many—perhaps even the majority—of the categories with modern psychological currency are like money, marriage, nationality, or any of the observer-dependent categories that Searle writes about.
The complex psychological categories we refer to by the words thoughts, memories, emotions, and beliefs, or automatic processing, controlled processing, or the self, and so on, are observer dependent.
They are collections of mental states that are products of the brain, but they do not correspond to brain organization in a one-to-one fashion. These categories exist because a group of people agreed for phenomenological and social reasons that this is a functional way to parse the ongoing mental activity that is realized in the brain.
Some of the categories are cross-culturally stable because they function to address certain universal human concerns that stem from living in large, complex groupswhereas others are culturally relative.
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The distinction between categories like emotion and cognition, for example, is relative and can vary with cultural context e. Even the most basic categories in psychology appear to be observer dependent.
Take, for example, behaviors which are intentional, bounded events and actions which are descriptions of physical movements. We easily and effortlessly see behaviors in people and in nonhuman animals. We typically believe that behaviors exist and are there to be detected, but not created, by the human brain. But this is not quite true.
Behaviors are actions with a meaning that is inferred by an observer. Social psychology has accumulated a large and nuanced body of research on how people come to see the physical actions of others as meaningful behaviors by inferring the causes for those actions usually by imputing an intention to the actor; for a review, see Gilbert, People and animals are constantly moving and doing things—that is, they are constantly engaging in a flow of actions.
In emotion research, a rat that kicks up bedding at a threatening creature is said to be defensive treading or in a state of fear. Similarly, standing still in a small spare box in response to a tone that all of the sudden predicts an electric shock can be described as freezing or it can be called fear.
It can also be called a state of vigilance — an alert, behavioral stance that allows an organism to martial all its attentional and sensory resources to quickly learn more about a stimulus when its predictive value is uncertain cf. Barrett, Lindquist, et al. Depending on the category used, intention is inferred to different degrees as part of the categorization of the action into a behavior.
The same point can be made about situations. Physical surroundings exist separately from observers, but situations do not. A similar point can even be made about what are typically assumed to be the observer-independent phenomena measured during functional magnetic resonance functional imaging. Areas of the brain that show increased activity during memory, perception, or emotion or whatever the researcher is interested in measuring are assumed to reflect changes in blood flow caused by neuronal firing at those locations.
But just as behavioral scientists separate the variance in a measured behavior into effect i. This separation is guided by the neuropsychological assumption that psychological functions are localized to modules in particular brain areas, like islands on a topographical map, because lesions in particular areas appear to disrupt specific psychological functions.
In recent years, however, it has become clear using multivariate voxel pattern analysis procedures that noise carries meaningful psychological information e.
Let me be clear about what I am saying here—it is a brute fact that the brain contains neurons that fire to create mental states or cause behavior and this occurs independent of human experience and measurement.
We use categories to separate ongoing mental activity into discrete mental states such as, in this culture, anger, an attitude, a memory, or self-esteemto classify a stream of physical movements into behaviors such as lying, stealing, or jokingor to classify parts of the physical surroundings as situations.
These categories come from and constitute human experience.
The Future of Psychology: Connecting Mind to Brain
The category instances are real, but they derive their reality from the human mind in the context of other human minds.
Mental activity is classified this way for reasons having to do with collective intentionality, communication, and even self-regulation, but not because this is the best way to understand how the brain mechanistically creates the mind and behavior.
Emotion and cognition make up the Western psychological and social reality, and they must be explained by the brute fact of how the human brain works, but emotion and cognition are not mechanisms that are necessarily respected by the human brain or categories that are required by the human brain. Brain states are observer-independent facts. The existence of mental states is also an observer-independent fact.
Cognitions, emotions, memories, self-esteem, beliefs, and so on are not observer-dependent events, however. They are categories that have been formed and named by the human mind to represent and explain the human mind. Words are powerful in science.
When dealing with observer-independent categories, words set the ground rules for what to look for in the world. To the extent that scientists understand and use the word in a similar way, they agree on what to search for. They assume, for the moment, that genetic material really is segregated into genes and junk, and they then go about searching for the deep properties that ground these categories in the material world, with the hope either that they are right or that their observations will lead them to formulate better, more accurate categories.
When dealing with observer-dependent categories that populate psychology, words are ontologically powerful. They set the ground rules for what exists. Paul Broca showed that damage to the area subsequently named after him in the dominant cerebrum results in an inability to talk.
Subsequent studies showed several other areas within the cerebrum that govern other aspects of speech. Bilateral frontal lobotomy and subsequent more sophisticated variants such as stereotaxic amygdalotomies or cingulotomies reduce an aggressive, maniacal individual to docility Heller et al.
Wilder Penfield —Canadian neurosurgeon, was known for his groundbreaking work on epilepsy. He operated on patients with intractable epilepsy using local anaesthesia, ensuring that they remained awake throughout the operation. He stimulated areas of the brain surface in these patients in order to demarcate the part producing epilepsy.
In many patients, electrical stimulation of certain areas of the brain triggered vivid memories of past events. One patient, while on an operating table in Montreal, Canada, remembered laughing with cousins on a farm in South Africa. It brings psychical phenomena into the field of physiology. It should have profound significance also in the field of psychology provided we can interpret the facts properly.
We have to explain how it comes about that when an electrode producing, for example, 60 electrical impulses per second is applied steadily to the cortex it can cause a ganglionic complex to recreate a steadily unfolding phenomenon, a psychical phenomenon.
But the mechanism seems to have recorded much more than the simple event. When activated, it may reproduce the emotions which attended the original experience. On 1 SeptemberDr. William Beecher Scoville performed bilateral mesial temporal lobe resections on a patient known as H.
The inadvertent severe damage to the important limbic structures resulted in permanent loss of memory in this patient Scoville, But, he could remember almost nothing after that. Damage to discrete areas within the brain can thus produce a variety of disorders of the mind.
- Human behaviour: is it all in the brain – or the mind?
- Understanding Brain, Mind and Soul: Contributions from Neurology and Neurosurgery
In his Nobel Lecture, Sperry described the implications on concepts of the mind of the observations made after splitting the corpus callosum Sperry, Myers, showed that the cat with divided corpus callosum now had two minds either of which was capable of learning on its own, and of responding intelligently to changes in the world around it on its own.
Subsequent experiments with rats, monkeys and later with human epileptic patients gave similar results. Psychological tests showed that both John Does had remarkably similar personalities. Except for language ability, they were about as much alike as identical twins. Their attitudes and opinions seemed to be the same; their perceptions of the world were the same; and they woke up and went to sleep at almost the same times.
There were differences however. John Doe Left could express himself in language and was somewhat more logical and better at [planning…].
John Doe Right tended to be somewhat more aggressive, impulsive, emotional - and frequently expressed frustration with what was going on. Such experiments led Sperry, Ornstein and others to conclude that each of the separated hemispheres has its own private sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and memories, in short, that they constitute two separate minds, two separate spheres of consciousness Gross,