Author Topic: Mapping the psyche  (Read 4551 times)


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Mapping the psyche
« on: July 26, 2007, 03:13:01 PM »
I've had an aha moment that I want to write down in case this is ground that others are familiar with or could elaborate on, etc...

In looking at how the phenomenology of consciousness relates to the neurobiology of the brain, especially the cortical region--where the most abstract mental functioning is likely to take place--I may have come to an important realization, one that has been right under my nose so to speak.  The cerebral cortex has two large scale organizational features: 1. it is split into two hemispheres separated by a connecting corpus callosum and 2. the cortex is mainly divided up into functional regions that reflect the brain's ability to discriminate certain sensory or motor events in an ordered way such that what results can be seen as a map of the bodies' experience of some sensory or motor quality.  There are cortical regions that contain maps of the musculature of the body, the visual field (separate maps exist for depth, color, edge detection, etc...), audio qualities, etc...

In Jungian psychology we are aware of the phenomenology of intense inner conflict as a problem composed of two competing truths such that there is a kind of war of perspective.  The resolution is some third thing which comes from the unconscious and manifests in the mind of one who consciously is "expecting" (let me skip explaining what I mean by this) a resolution to come.  Without choosing or being able to choose a side, the conflict builds causing a regression of libido and activation of unconscious contents until the sufficient third thing is developed.  This third thing mediates the two warring factions in a dynamic and final way such that that particular conflict will not be experienced again.

I keep thinking about my intuition that when one dreams of multitudes that one is peering into a lower level of the psyche such that one has approached something of the myriad neurons that underlie mental-psychic brain activity.  Dreams of wars are not uncommon and I have had one recently that also included another type of experience of a large number of individuals, namely, the encounter with a variety of groups.  What I suspect that the variety of groups will indicate is a variety of cortical maps as local organizations with a focused descrminitive function.

Then the question came to me: is there a qualitative difference when the brain attempts to coordinate cortical maps across the corpus callosum and when it tries to coordinate within the same hemisphere?  Many of the sensory maps are closely grouped together within the cortical hemisphere such that there may be a distance factor involved.  With distance there comes a time lag and a signal strength diminishment.  However, neural structure and function and higher level mutual influences may be able to easily offset this difference making the interaction of neural maps across the corpus callosum qualitatively indistinguishable.   

However, there may be a difference...this is more than I know and as a wikipeida article on the corpus callosum suggests, this is more than the scientific community knows at present.  But being an armchair philosopher I can hold up the possibility and consider what dreams metaphorically indicate may be going on.  Many dreams take place in a whole space or a partial space composed of two rooms or two regions separated by relatively constricted channel (bridge, tunnel, etc).  Whether this is indicative of a cross hemispherical situation or not, this could represent a difficulty at correlating two maps in the cortex together.

Now in order for this to be the case, we have to propose that the brain is capable, in some way, of evaluating the quality of a bi-cortical mapping.  What does this mean?  From what set of standards could the biomechanical brain possibly determine what is a good or not good map?  I suspect that the older parts of the brain, which may require an "answer" in response to a "situation" within a finite period of time may provide this source of evaluation.  The instincts are central in this regard. 

By having an inbuilt, instinctual need we are starting a timer on how long our brain can take to come to a specific chosen response to a given opportunity to satisfy that instinctual need.  The older part of the brain is basically asking the cortex to "come up with something I can do specifically" in response to any given instinctual motivation.  The brain has to respond to the instincts, to regulate and satisfy them, or it will suffer the consequences of those instincts nerve impulses out-powering the usual channels of neural signalling.  This scenario of the over-powering of normal neural operation due to increased instinctual influences must be a basic neural function that allows a cortex to be relevant to the physical world it is to reproduce internally for the purpose of an individual's or species survival (the presence of mirror neurons suggest that we are hardwired to respond on the behalf of our species as a whole).

From the perspective of "the blind watchmaker", starting a timer clock forces the cortex to find a way to counter a given instinctual need in a timely way without "needing to know anything more".  That this can occur in the "biomechanical" brain is exhibited by the many reflex actions in response to sensory input which cause the body to move in response to localized pain or other sensory experiences.  The familiar knee jerk response that a physician may administer in the course of a regular examination is but one example.

There may be two higher-level ways to understand how a response to an instinctual need has a delayed effectiveness: 1. ignorance of how to response to the inner need and 2. a more-or-less balanced conflict of neural processing which prevents a timely response. 

An example of 1...infants may be unable to sufficiently control their bodies' musculature to reach out and grab a small cup of water and successfully pour it into his or her mouth. 

An example of 2...I pick up a $100 bill from the ground after I see it fall from someone's pocket and I do not know whether to call out to this stranger or keep the money.

Jung's description of inner conflicts, of course, are less clear cut than my example but still the idea is the same, a conflict in personal truths leads to a delayed response.

What if a given personal truth can be correlated to a given map or set of well connected maps?  Then it is an easy further speculation to suppose that a conflict between personal truths is a conflict between two inner cortical maps (or set of such maps).  Also, we can understand how the urgency arises because we can imagine that the older part of the brain will provide input neural signalling on behalf of the instincts in such a way as to introduce a "timer" making the need to respond a finite proposition. 

Failure to respond in a regular way is indicative of the Wound.   

The third thing that Jung talks about could then be a third map or set of maps that becomes capable of bridging the two other maps or sets of maps and allows a timely response to the instinctual timer.  This then would also explain how the number 3 is associated with consciousness in motion as a cyclic process related to Hegel's thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  Also the need to respond in a timely way for an instinct is always a recurring proposition; that is, instincts are never satisfied only once, they are satisfied for a period of time and then need to be satisfied again.  This may explain the archetype of the cycles of consciousness where consciousness has to deal with cycles of instinctual influence that won't allow it to simply fall into a static method.

Additionally, sufficient self-awareness will result in a realization that the most stable basis for resolving any potential conflict makes use of a four-fold (or higher) mapping.  Perhaps a four-fold mapping allows for enough stability to virtually guarantee a sustained adaptive response to a cyclical instinctual need that approaches an "eternal strategy".  Here then is the association of the 4 with the whole of the psyche.  The Self then is the goal of a stable ego strategy which is truly an abstracted pattern of cortical behavior.

So I offer this armchair proposition for you all to comment on, elaborate on, refute or connect to existing scholarship/speculation (so I don't go too long thinking I made this up myself).

I also suspect that there is a qualitative difference in coordinating maps across the two cortical hemispheres which gives rise to a variety of archetypal patterns (pairs of opposites).  One thing that is most obvious about the brain body connection is the great extent to which the body is split in half all the way up through the cerebral cortex.  Many of our patterned behaviors require a coordinated oppositional response between the left and right halves of the body.  Physical balance and movement are almost always about this.  So the brain should have a clear sense of left and right so to speak or at least of a need to put the two body halves on different, yet coordinated programs of response.

Let me also offer the idea I have long had that the psychology of "favoritism"--as I define it, the pervasive behavior of an individual to choose among qualitatively similar things something that is personally preferred--underlies a basic brain-psyche method to facilitate the need to respond to instincts in a timely way.  Perhaps I could add a third condition for a delayed response to an instinctual need...3. a learned ambivalence where there is a variety of options none of which have any real qualitative difference or advantage.

As an example of 3...I go to the car dealer to buy a new car and have found two that meet my needs precisely equally and are identical in all features except one: color.  Which car do I choose?  If I have an irrational preference for a given color or set of colors then my choice will be quicker...I would choose the car closest to my favorite color. 

Also, if certain cognitive functions become localized to one hemisphere or another does this help to address the pervasive instinct-timer problem?