The scientific status of cognitive neuroscience (CNS)

Cognitive neuroscience and
the “hyperverse”
Gabriel Vacariu
(Bucharest Univ.)
• The main problem: the mind-body (brain) problem
• Philosophy of mind: Descartes’ dualism, identity
theory (Place and Smart), eliminativism
(Churchlands), non-reductive physicalism, property
dualism, brain produces mind (Searle ‘92, Frith ‘07),
supervenience, etc. + notions: mind-brain, qualia,
mental causation…
• Cognitive science in ’50s
• Usually, identity theory or property dualism or brain
produces mind (Searle ‘92, Frith ‘07, Libet ‘80s)
• Approaches: Computationalism, connectionism,
dynamical system (embodied/situated cognition)
• Main problems: Representation (existence, content,
format), levels, emergence, etc.
CNS: Neuroscience + Psychology
• Gazzaniga + Miller (cognitive psychologist) coined
CNS in taxi (New York, late ‘70s) : “How the brain
enables the mind.” [allow, permit, assist]
• CNS: “Correlations” mental and neuronal states =
= Mind-brain (body) problem
• Difference neuronal patterns-mental states:
ontological, epistemological (depend on
observer??), linguistic?
I. The binding problem
• Binding: widely distributed neural areas correlated
with features of representation of object (color, size,
motion, orientation) – perceptual image of object
• Forms of binding: spatial or temporal, conscious or
unconscious, visual, auditory, cognitive, cross-modal
binding, sensory-motor binding, memory binding
• Binding - “almost everywhere in the brain and in all
processing levels”. (Velik 2010)
Approaches for the binding problem
(1) Treisman’s feature-integration theory
• Old-fashion approach
• Attention (difficult for CNS)
• Many critics → Treisman “improved” FIT
(Ptolemaic epicycles)
(2) Synchronized oscillations (EEG)
• Von der Malsburg, Engel, Gray, Singer, Fries, TallonBaudry, etc.
• Synchronized oscillations: binding, unity of
• Frequency bands → Cognitive functions
• Delta - sleep, theta - memory, alpha - vigilance
fluctuations, beta and gamma ranges - awake
stages + feature binding, attention, and memory.
(Tallon-Baudry 2010)
• From 0.1 to 120-200 Hz then 0.01-1000 Hz!
• Multiplex between fast and slow waves
No strict correspondence between a frequency band
and a cognitive process! (Tallon-Baudry ‘10, ‘09)
II. Localization and fMRI
• fMRI and localization
• 2 extreme theories (grand cell vs. holistic theories)
• Today, in the middle: A mental state correlated with
widely distributed neuronal areas.
• “Widely”? How much? It depends on our tools of
observation (their structure + performance).
• Localization (neuronal) of features (color, size, space,
edges, motion, direction) → Unification of perceptual
features = Binding problem
• Banich & Compton (‘10)- Expression: about the area V4
“has been posited to play a special role in color
perception, although that claim has been controversial”
(or V5 for motion) (Many such expressions in CNS!)
III. “Perceptual filling”
• Relationship between sensorial inputs and
perceptual states like “constructive perception” or
“perceptual filling in” view: brain “fills in perception
of blind spot”
• Brain fills color, patterns and motion
• Fovea “subtends about 4 degree of visual arc”
regarding color.
“Outside of the fovea, which covers only 2 to 4 degrees of arc, the retina loses
resolution and is sensitive only to light and dark edges. (It follows that our
normal sense of a rich and colorful visual world is a construction of the
visual brain, not a literal record of the input into the retina.)” (Baars and
Gage 2010, p. 272)
IV. Cross modal interactions/multimodal integration
• Someone perceives an object that has a color +
shape + in motion within spatiotemporal frame.
• If these properties - processed independently (not
completely) what mechanism furnishes unity of a
coherent conscious experience of a visual + auditory
+ motion scene?
• Traditional: modular system (Fodor)
• Sensory modalities --- different pathways in brain,
but how they communicate → A unified mental
V. Raichle’s default network (2006, 2011)
• The brain apparently uses most of its energy for
functions unaccounted for – dark energy…
• Brain: demands of environment - less than 1%;
energy consumption necessary for changes in brain
activity is less than 5%!
• Cost of intrinsic functional activity which far
exceeds that of evoked activity and dominates the
overall cost of brain function. (Raichle 2009)
• Task-specific decreases from a resting state occur in
many areas of the brain
• “Intrinsic activity”: spontaneous cognition, intrinsic
functional activity facilitates responses to stimuli,
interpreting, responding to and predicting
environmental demands
• fMRI and PET do not furnish information about
this intrinsic energy of the brain
VI. Types of knowledge
• Conscious-unconscious
• Implicit-explicit
• Procedural-declarative
• Automatic-controlled
• Accessible-inaccessible
These kinds of knowledge overlap, but they are not
Conscious and unconscious states
• Vimal (2009): “a list of 40 different meanings of
consciousness, not exhaustive.” (in Uttal 2011)
• Baars (1988, 2006): Consciousness = Results of
unconsciousness processes (accepted by many)
= “Global workspace theory” (Baars 1988, 2002)
• Edelman (1989), Damasio (1989), Freeman (1991),
Llinás et al. (1998), Edelman, Tononi (2000),
Kanwisher (2001), Dehaene, Naccache (2001), Rees
(2001), John (2001), Varela et al. (2001), etc.
• Relations between conscious-unconscious states?
Relations between correlated brain states?
Other problems
• All other problems (notions) from CS/CNS: levels,
emergence, whole-parts, holism vs. atomism, selforganization, threshold, variability-stability, etc.
• 2D to 3D-space, mental imagery (Kosslyn-Pylyshyn
eternal debate), “endurance” problem (continuity)
of mental representation of an object, role of
neurotransmitters or glia, self and meaning, etc.
• Spatial cognition
VII. Van Wedeen (2012): new image for anatomical
structure of brain
[Movie 1: Van Wedeen (2012), 3 min]
• Diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI)
• Brain = Geometric structure of cerebral fiber
• Rhesus monkey superior longitudinal fasciculus-3
(SLF3): “entirely consists of a single curved twodimensional (2D) sheet of paths, all mutually
parallel, transversely oriented, and all crossing SLF3
at nearly right angles” (p. 1630)
• This grid structure: continuous with those of limbic
system and basal ganglia + at all scales (“single
voxel, to the lobe, to the hemisphere”) + all species!
• Completely new image for anatomical structure of
the brain:
“Far from being just a tangle of wires, the brain’s
white-matter connections turn out to be more like
ribbon cables — folding 2D sheets of parallel neuronal
fibers that cross paths at right angles, like the warp
and weft of a fabric”.
VIII. Optimism vs. skepticism in CNS
Optimism: Many researchers working in CNS
Gallant’s laboratory and “mind-reading “
(1) Nishimoto et al. (2011)
[Movie 2: Gallant + Nishimoto (2011), 3 min]
• Mind-reading: brain activity measurements Reconstruct natural movies (V1, V2, V3)
• “Dictionaries” for shape, edge and motion
• Each voxel has a dictionary
• Against Gallant, Uttal (‘11): “Not ‘reconstruction’
per se; selecting from a predetermined “deck of
cards” (Uttal 2011)
(2) Huth et al. (2012)
[Movie 3: Huth et al. (2012), 5 min]
• Identify semantic space of 1705 categories (objects/
categories) onto cortical surface using voxelwise
• Categories - located in brain in a continuous space:
semantically similar categories - located nearby
points (voxels 30,000) in cortex
• A color is assigned to each category
• Using principal component analysis (PCA): 4
dimensions (semantic space in brain, many dimens.)
• 4 dims: animacy, social interactions-nature,
civilization, biological-nonbiological/animalnonanimal
• Semantic space - represented in large parts of brain
and “mapped smoothly onto the cortical sheet”
• Category representation - “broadly distributed
across the cortex”
• The model does not clearly reflect visual and
conceptual features
• Voxels from occipital and temporal lobes - visual
features of categories, voxels from medial parietal +
frontal cortex - conceptual features
• Bechtel (philosopher, San Diego) optimism but
2 years ago moved to skepticism!
Uttal (CNS, not philosopher) (’01, ‘11)
• fMRI and PET “localize” mental functions at
“macro-level” (large neural patterns) = Wrong
• Mind – at “micro-level”
• “Neural network approach is computationally
intractable” → Mind-body problem - not solved
• Each mental state associated widely distributed
neuronal areas (whole brain)
IX. Correlations + status of CNS
• Today: Some people use both fMRI + EEG
• However, mental states have to be correlated with
firing neurons/oscillations + neuromodulators and
neurotransmitters, white and grey matter, glia cells,
etc. = Whole brain
• But, due to evolution, we cannot isolate brain from
body! Sporns (2006)
• “Correlations?” → Can we construct a science?
• Any mental state correlated with whole brain!
• Different apparatus (EEG, fMRI, MEG, DTI, etc.)→
Different “aspects” of brain’s activity?
• Mind and brain are complementary aspects of
thing-in-itself (Spinoza)?
• Waves and particles are complementary aspects of
noumena (Bohr) (ontological status? “aspects”)
• “Correlations” - no ontological status = No entities
→ No relationships = No laws →
CNS is not science, but new engineering or
• Mind-brain problem (+ all sub-problems) – no
acceptable solution after more than 300 years!
• Maybe mind-brain problem is a pseudo-problem? If
yes, framework has to be wrong! Which one?
Epistemologically Different Worlds (EDWs)
Within world/universe: 4 scientific 4 problems =
1. Mind-body (brain)
(Cognitive Science)
2. Cell/organism-life
3. Particle-wave (quantum mech.)
4. Micro-macro (Einstein-quantum mec.)
→ All great problems in foundations of “special
My goal: The world/universe does not exist! But
something else exist. What?
(a) “Non-living” entities that exist will be called it².
(Singular -“it”) (Ex: it = a stone or a planet)
(b) “Living” entities that exist = It². (It = organism of
a bee or human)
(c) The entity that corresponds to an It will be
called “being”. Correct: “Being is.”; Incorrect:
“Being exists.”. (“Being” = the “I”, mind, life,
human subjectivity)
(d) “Correspondence” refers to the conceptual
/abstract (not real) relationships between entities
that belong to EDWs.
(e) “Interaction” (for all entities) equivalents with
human “observation/perception”
( f) “Determinate” refers to certain
“Indeterminate” - determinations in possible
states; “Non-determinate” - no determinations
(g) “Human being” = the “I” or the self = Being
“Human organism” = brain + body = It
(h) What really exist 5 billions years ago in
universe/world? (No human being/living entity)
Propositions for it:
(1) Epistemologically different interactions constitute
epistemologically different it², and epistemologically
different it² determine epistemologically different
(2) Any it exists only at "the surface" because of the
interactions that constitute it.
(3) Any it exists in a single EW and interacts only with the
it² from the same EW.
(4) Any EW (a set of it² – and eventually It² – and their
interactions) appears from and disappears in the
hyper-nothing. (Hume’s skepticism: “No causality” vs.
Kant’s optimism: a priori pure intuitions + categories)
(5) Any EW is, therefore all EDWs have the same
objective reality.
World/universe = “Unicorn-world” = All
entities/object that exist are placed within the
same spatio-temporal framework.
EDWs: Unicorn-world does not exist ↔ Not all
objects/entities exist in the same “world”.
EDWs ≠ Parallel worlds/universes
Strong distinction epistemology–ontology (Plato)
is wrong.
(P1) - “To interact = to exist”
Bohr’s complementarity (an epistemological, not
ontological, notion) is a wrong notion.
“Exist ” used for entity with determinations
→ In general, spatio-temporal framework
“Existence” and “interaction” interrelated
Interactions constitute “surface” of an it →
→ Ontological reality in one EW = An it exist only in
one EW
Constitutions ↔ Determinations
Parts-whole → Organizational + epistemologicalontological thresholds
Mind-brain problem, “quantum gravity” = illicit
extensions: Impossible to use → Impossible to
Propositions for being and It:
(6) Being corresponds to an It.
(7) Being is an EW. Therefore, being is.
(8) Having certain determinations, from our
viewpoint an It is composed of an amalgam of It
and their relationships.
(9) Certain states and processes form knowledge
(that is being).
(10) As an entity, being has unity as indeterminate
It: Without any correspondence → It does not
survive in any environment.
Coordination of biological functions needs an
unity impossible to be used/exist within
mechanisms of an It → Such unity = the “I”!
This unity corresponds to development of an It
and evolution of species.
Any mental state/process is the “I”.
CNS: “Correlations”? = No ontological status!
Unity of consciousness/self within brain = Error
(Analogy: Unity of table among microparticles)
Each mental function = the “I”
The unity of the “I” represents indeterminate
individuality of being.
Indeterminate individuality = Entity with potential
The notion of “being” has no plural.
“Knowledge (perceptions, thoughts, actions) is
Representations of space or color is mind.
However, no color in mind/brain→ No space!
Without space, being is an indeterminate
individuality with its (implicit) unity.
This unity cannot be identified using external
tools of observation (fMRI, EEG). (Bohr: Definition
of any entity includes tools of measurement!)
Any knowledge is being (subjectivity).
Different modalities (vision, auditory, etc.) →
Different kinds of mental perception = the “I”!
“Internal feeling”/“external space”/“internal
eyes” (regression ad infinitum) = Wrong notions!
Hyperverse = ∑ EDWs → Abstract notion
For ontological status, hyperverse needs
interaction/ observation with/of an hyperentity
Hyperentity that interacts with all ED entities
cannot exist! (Hyperontological contradiction)
From a human’s viewpoint - not too many EDWs
Extending conditions of (observation) interaction
to all entities, number of EDWs increases a lot.
→ Rejection of: “levels”, “emergence”, “supervenience”, “composition”, “entanglement”, “ nonlocality”, “complexity”, some “causalities”
(11) Being is, therefore EDWs are.
If being isn't, any It would not survive in its
Another 2 propositions = 13 propositions (about
our knowledge: Bohr’s definition of entity + serial
Mind and body (brain), waves and particles,
micro-macro, etc. are or belong to EDWs.
Within the unicorn-world, pseudo-causalities
dominated “our world” (vs. Hume’s against
causality + Kant: “Hume awaked me up from my
dogmatic sleep!”)
After Copernicus (Earth), Darwin (living species),
Freud (reason) = Revolutions against myths in
human thinking, I reject yet another myth:
“world”, “Universe”
From man: “Center of Universe” →“Alone in
world” → Not even “alone”, but EDWs + the “I” =
EW and an entity (unity)
Once again to mount a Copernican revolution for
discarding our “special” status (observers of
World/Universe does not exist!
Science - dualities:
Those 4 problems are pseudo-relationships in
unicorn-world = Pseudo-problems!
Other sub-problems = Pseudo-problems also
EDWs perspective changes the largest
“Weltanschauung” trashing the most “tangible”
(but the most dangerous) notion, the
EDWs (what really exist), a very strange image of
However, Boltzmann: “Matters of elegance ought
to be left to the tailor [clothes] and to the cobbler
[shoes].” (Einstein 1916)

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