A Universe of Consciousness How Matter Becomes Imagination: How Matter Becomes Imagination

A Universe of Consciousness How Matter Becomes Imagination: How Matter Becomes Imagination

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by Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0465013775

ISBN-13: 9780465013777

Pub. Date: 02/28/2001

Publisher: Basic Books


In A Universe of Consciousness, Gerald Edelman builds on the radical ideas he introduced in his monumental trilogy-Neural Darwinism, Topobiology, and The Remembered Present-to present for the first time an empirically supported full-scale theory of consciousness. He and the neurobiolgist Giulio Tononi show how they use ingenious technology to detect the most

Overview


In A Universe of Consciousness, Gerald Edelman builds on the radical ideas he introduced in his monumental trilogy-Neural Darwinism, Topobiology, and The Remembered Present-to present for the first time an empirically supported full-scale theory of consciousness. He and the neurobiolgist Giulio Tononi show how they use ingenious technology to detect the most minute brain currents and to identify the specific brain waves that correlate with particular conscious experiences. The results of this pioneering work challenge the conventional wisdom about consciousness.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465013777
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
02/28/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
550,545
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.77(d)

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A Universe of Consciousness How Matter Becomes Imagination: How Matter Becomes Imagination 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 - clin