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Why emotions cannot be assigned numbers?

by Avichal
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Pythagorean
#19
Aug29-13, 11:56 AM
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"When you say that two different neural systems can result in the same function, I suspect there's actually a difference between the two functions produced by two different neural systems, however subtle."

Subtle differences would be swamped by noise and variation from specimen to specimen, so they would effectively be the same even if the degeneracy weren't perfect.

However, they're quite literally the same output signal. You can setup a system where the output neuron looks exactly the same for several different underlying networks. If that one neuron is the only point of interface, than any neuron downstream from it won't be able to tell what the underlying network was that produced the output of that neuron. That's where degeneracy lies in neural signaling.

Of course, you can come up with an emotion system that avoids degeneracy, but it would be speculative. Functionality in neurons is, indeed, degenerate, so if you wanted to base emotions on function (measurable observables) you'd have to justify why emotions aren't degenerate and I'm fairly sure our understanding of the neural correlates of emotions is still quite primitive in this regard.
zoobyshoe
#20
Aug29-13, 07:49 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
Of course, you can come up with an emotion system that avoids degeneracy, but it would be speculative. Functionality in neurons is, indeed, degenerate, so if you wanted to base emotions on function (measurable observables) you'd have to justify why emotions aren't degenerate and I'm fairly sure our understanding of the neural correlates of emotions is still quite primitive in this regard.
I'm not sure what goal you would set for the quantification of emotion, but my idea was simply that the intensity of emotions could be quantified based on the premise that the intensity of the experience is directly proportional to the intensity of the neuronal activity generating the experience. I don't think degeneracy, as you explain it, needs to be addressed at all for that. It seems to me a simple matter of being able to measure amplitude and frequency of, for example, a specific nucleus in the amygdala that's correlated with a specific emotional experience.
Pythagorean
#21
Aug29-13, 08:31 PM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe
It seems to me a simple matter of being able to measure amplitude and frequency of, for example, a specific nucleus in the amygdala that's correlated with a specific emotional experience.
To a certain extent you can, but degeneracies are even still a problem. Functions are distributed across many nuclei and there's overlap in functionality between different nuclei, so local measurements will almost always suffer from degeneracy problems. There's additional qualitative ambiguities too:

Different pain experiences are characterized by different patterns of supraspinal activation.
For example, noxious chemical stimuli infrequently evoke activation of the parietal operculum whereas noxious thermal stimuli produce robust activation of this structure (20). Similarly, some forms of chronic pain evoke a paradoxical asymmetric decrease in thalamic blood flow whereas the majority of acute pain states are characterized by contralateral or bilateral increases in the activation of this region (20, 26, 27). Thus,
generalizations between different pain states may be misleading. Pain is defined by the first-person experiential perspective and must be diagnosed and treated with significant consideration of the subjective report. Thus, even if unique patterns of brain activity have been characterized in large numbers of patients for a given chronic pain state, the subjective report will likely remain the single most reliable index of the magnitude of pain.
Importantly, the present findings validate the subjective report and provide insight into the utility of introspection as a means of assessing a conscious experience. First-person introspection is a necessary component of the process of generating a subjective report for communication to a third-person observer. Therefore,
the finding that individuals with similar patterns of activation of SI, ACC, and PFC provided similar subjective reports of pain magnitude suggests that they can accurately capture their conscious experience via introspection
http://www.pnas.org/content/100/14/8538.full.pdf+html
Evo
#22
Aug29-13, 11:40 PM
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I really don't see the point.

Let's say I'm asked to rate an event from 1 - 10, with 10 being the worst, I say it's a 10. Another person is asked to rate the "same" event on a scale of 1 - 10 and they say it's a 5. A third person rates it a 3, another person rates it a 6. Is there actually any point to this? How do we know that the same event is felt the same? How do we rate the answers? Even if you are looking at real time brain scans, which person's rating is real? If one is a psychopath, how would their ratings appear? Different people will respond differently to the same experience. Their brains will respond differently, there is no way of comparing.

You can't say, "oh we'll look at the brain scans", that's meaningless since different brains respond differently to the same stimulus.
Pythagorean
#23
Aug29-13, 11:54 PM
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The point is usually to reduce pain or use pain to diagnose symptoms in health settings. The absolute scores aren't compared, but if a group of people consistently lower their scores beyond placebo in response to a drug, then your painkiller has passed one more test.
Evo
#24
Aug30-13, 12:24 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
The point is usually to reduce pain or use pain to diagnose symptoms in health settings. The absolute scores aren't compared, but if a group of people consistently lower their scores beyond placebo in response to a drug, then your painkiller has passed one more test.
Yes, I'd agree on rating responses to drugs such as pain killers, but I was thinking more along the lines of rating responses to varied emotional situations, such as a break up, the person being dumped.
zoobyshoe
#25
Aug30-13, 11:21 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
To a certain extent you can, but degeneracies are even still a problem. Functions are distributed across many nuclei and there's overlap in functionality between different nuclei, so local measurements will almost always suffer from degeneracy problems. There's additional qualitative ambiguities too:

http://www.pnas.org/content/100/14/8538.full.pdf+html
I'm a bit confused about your point. I didn't read the whole paper scrupulously, but it seems to support my position. Once the subjects were trained to be introspective enough to characterize their pain articulately, their reports turned out to correlate well with the scans:

"Therefore, the finding that individuals with similar patterns of activation of SI, ACC, and PFC provided similar subjective reports of pain magnitude suggests that they can accurately capture their conscious experience via introspection."

The point of the paper seems to be to prove we can gather objective data that verifies the reliability of subjective reports of pain. Therefore, subjective reports of pain can be trusted.

Having done that, the experimenters ought to be able to proceed to take a scan, look at it, and now predict what the subjects will say about their pain. (This wasn't their goal, but it follows from the results they obtained.)

That being the case, the same thing should be able to be done with emotion. A scan would reveal what activates to what degree when a subject says he is feeling, say, anger of level 6 on a 1-10 scale. It would be found, as you say, that different nuclei would be involved to different degrees, depending on the specific 'shade and flavor' of anger, because, like pain, anger's not a monocoque, one dimensional experience. But, having thus calibrated the measurement, they should be able to proceed to take the scan first, then accurately predict what the subject will report about the intensity and quality of their anger.
Pythagorean
#26
Aug30-13, 11:52 AM
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no, what it says is the brain scans aren't robust and that the subjective report takes precedence. You only need to read what I quoted (more carefully).
Aero51
#27
Aug31-13, 03:58 AM
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Numbers define quantities, emotions quantify priorities in the natural sense.
zoobyshoe
#28
Aug31-13, 06:56 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
no, what it says is the brain scans aren't robust and that the subjective report takes precedence. You only need to read what I quoted (more carefully).
I've reread it 5 times and get the same meaning out of it. They were able to see marked differences in the scans of individuals who reported that the pain was more intense. This is summed up in the section titled "Discussion".

This study is absolutely saying that the scans are good, and objectively prove the mentioned areas are more active in subjects who give the pain a higher rating. In other words, it objectively validates the self-reporting of patients with regard to pain intensity.
Pythagorean
#29
Aug31-13, 09:07 AM
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You're possibly conflating forward inference with backward inference. This is an important consideration, especially in brain imaging. It has been explicitly research and published about:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science...64661305003360
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3240863/

In general, anytime you have a conditional, you shouldn't automatically assume the converse of the conditional is true, forward/reverse inference is the statistical analog of this. A simple example is that when you kick a ball, it's likely the ball moves, but every time the ball moves doesn't imply that it's equally likely it was kicked.

Specifically, I agree that A --> B (the study implies, through brain states, that subjective states are reliable) but they very explicitly mention that B -/-> A (subjective state reports do not imply a particular brain state). And this is exactly what degeneracy is. Degeneracy is an accepted fact of biological systems in general, and is especially applicable to the problem of forward vs. reverse inference in brain imaging.

I'll narrow down the previous quote for you so you can see where respect to the above is paid in the paper:

"Thus, generalizations between different pain states may be misleading. Pain is defined by the first-person experiential perspective and must be diagnosed and treated with significant consideration of the subjective report. Thus, even if unique patterns of brain activity have been characterized in large numbers of patients for a given chronic pain state, the subjective report will likely remain the single most reliable index of the magnitude of pain."

(other than that the whole tone of the paper is that subjective reports are more reliable than brain imaging when you read it in full)

More on degeneracy in general in biological systems:
http://www.pnas.org/content/96/6/3257.short
http://www.pnas.org/content/98/24/13763.short

if you want to play with forward inference vs. backward inference, here's a meta-analysis tool for imaging studies. In imaging, you don't trust just one study in the first place, statistical confidence is generally weak, and that is the motivation behind this tool, but you also get to explicitly see how direction of inference affects the answer to your questions:
http://neurosynth.org/explore

You can read their FAQ about the specific difference of their particular instance of forward vs. reverse inference (and even posterior) here too:
http://old.neurosynth.org/faqs#faq8

It's not the general case of forward/reverse inference, but it's related.
Pythagorean
#30
Aug31-13, 09:10 AM
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also, let's not forget that this report was for pain, which is much easier to characterize (both subjectively and objectively) than emotions.
zoobyshoe
#31
Sep1-13, 09:21 PM
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Upon continued re-reading I keep coming to the conclusion this paper is asserting patient reports are reliable because they verified it with brain scans!

It does not say brain scans are unreliable. Brain scans are what they used to verify the reliability of patient reports.

The part you quoted in bold warns about generalizing over kinds of pain, while remaining confident about pain magnitude.

The title of the paper is, "Neural correlates of interindividual differences in the subjective experience of pain." They found those titular neural correlates. With brain scans. They got different brain scans for people reporting different levels of pain in response to the same stimulus. Certain brain areas were much more active in the individuals reporting more intense pain in response to the same stimulus.

If we're not in agreement about this basic point, that they confirmed the reliability of patient reports with brain scans, and by no other means, then there's no point in branching off into the other topics you introduced.
Evo
#32
Sep1-13, 09:45 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
also, let's not forget that this report was for pain, which is much easier to characterize (both subjectively and objectively) than emotions.
But the OP is about emotions, not pain.

So we need to get back on topic please.


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