Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What do we know about the mind?

  1. Jan 28, 2016 #1
    We all talk about other matters, before that lets talk about ourselves.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 28, 2016 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    We already have a "Random thoughts' thread. What subject, specifically, did you want to discuss, and why, and if it has to do with science, we will need appropriate sources, you should read the forum rules first if you are not sure what those are.
  4. Jan 29, 2016 #3
    I just need to know about human mind. From a physicist's point of view, that's all
  5. Jan 29, 2016 #4
    If I crossed any sort of forum rule, I apologize.
  6. Jan 29, 2016 #5
    You might read something by Fritjof Capra. But other people here may not like him. It may be against the rules to talk about physics - consciousness relationship here. I'd love to hear what other members think but I'm afraid it may be banned.
  7. Jan 29, 2016 #6
    I agree here with Evo, who is being sympathetic to your cause, but you need to be more specific and phrase your question in a manner that can be addressed more scientifically.
  8. Jan 29, 2016 #7
    A starting place could be Francis Crick's The Astonishing Hypothesis. I found it a worth while read but not astonishing. The emergent theory of consciousness is also worth looking at. I am skeptical but not dismissive. I would appreciate a book recommendation on that.
  9. Jan 29, 2016 #8
    I might not go so far as "dissuade" someone from reading "The Astonishing Hypothesis," but I'll give you my opinion. Francis Crick knows (knew) next to nothing about how the brain works, and Christof Koch doesn't know much either. I never met Crick, but I had dinner with Koch and his sycophant girlfriend at the time and it was a nauseating experience. This guy (Koch) has a tattoo of the apple computer logo on his shoulder, which exemplifies what a moron he is. As far a Crick, I'm not impressed with him either. I think the evidence is clear that it was James Watson that cracked the code of DNA, Crick just happened to be along for the ride.
  10. Jan 29, 2016 #9
    In truth it's the only book I've read on the mechanistic view. Care to recommend a better one?
  11. Jan 29, 2016 #10
    Yeah, I can recommend a great book, for what it is you want to know...It's called the King James version of the holy bible! Just kidding. It's called "Going inside: a tour round a single moment of consciousness," by John McCrone. This is a great book. Even though it was published in 2000, the concepts in this book transcend decades. It still holds up. The most important part of it is that it gives you a history of of the nightmare of errors that it took us cognitive neuroscientists to arrive at where we are. And for me, this is the most important thing about science, it's being able to identify with the history of thought and the social contect of the characters/players that advanced the state of the art (of the science) over the decades. It's not just about shutting up and calculating.

  12. Jan 29, 2016 #11
    And, even if he did, how the brain works is only indirectly connected to how the mind works. The brain, as hardware, can accommodate such a huge variety of what we conceive of as mind that a physics understanding of mind is a pointless thing to shoot for. Getting traction on mind is generally tackled at the level of psychology; very far away from physics.
  13. Jan 29, 2016 #12
  14. Jan 29, 2016 #13
    Added to my wishlist
  15. Jan 29, 2016 #14
    Thanks, it's on order. But its a bit creepy that you can divine "what I want to know" from that post. :wideeyed:

    "... It's not just about shutting up and calculating..." And why is that? Unreality in the global in the zeitgeist, self deception, tacit assumptions/axioms? Or do I miss the point?
  16. Jan 29, 2016 #15
    As only a distant observer I get the impression that philosophy, neurology and empirical psychology seem to be coming together in constructive ways. It makes me hopeful.
  17. Jan 29, 2016 #16
    There is a growing number of researcher that think physics can significantly contribute to the understanding of brain and other complex biological structures.

    see http://www.gatsby.ucl.ac.uk/~zhaoping/prints/PWAPR04news-brain.pdf

    And most recently a Commentary in Physics Today "New mathematical physics needed for the life sciences" calls for the education of physicists in the intricacies of the life sciences including neuroscience.

    See http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/article/69/1/10.1063/PT.3.3036 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  18. Jan 29, 2016 #17


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Today's SMBC. Hee hee.

  19. Jan 29, 2016 #18
    But you're missing my point. Brain and mind are two different things. How the brain works, might, indeed, be traced lower and lower to the underlying physics. That which we call mind happens at a completely different level. It's the difference between computer hardware and what gets programmed into the computer. You look at the program at the level of programming. I have a Mac, but I can install Windows on it if I want. Mind is about the difference between OS X and Windows. The physics of the hardware doesn't give you much insight into the differences between those two operating systems.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  20. Jan 29, 2016 #19
    i know very little about neuroscience but I don't think your analogy is that good . From the moment of birth we are accumulating data and organizing it. The brain must come with a sort of BIOS It must come with some sort of "firmware" which must be intrinsic to the physical nature of the brain. So I am saying that the mind is in part a reflection of the biophysical structure of the brain and you cannot definitively separate them. We see that drug for example can create psychosis and well as treat (ameliorate) it. Changing the biochemical environment can affect the mind. Hormone affect the mind. We all have unique personalities It seems more and more we find structure and function intertwined.
  21. Jan 29, 2016 #20
    Yes, I agree that a computer to brain analogy is not that good, and, yes, mind arises from the activity of the brain, but the things we speak of as properties of the mind have much less to do with the physics underlying it all than with a particular mind's history and training. Why is a particular person afraid of spiders but not of heights? Why does he like red but not yellow? Why is one person chronically late while another is chronically early?

    Neuroscience can study, as an example, the neuronal train of events when someone experiences anxiety, but psychology studies the emotional train of events whereby something (like a spider) might evoke anxiety. "Mind" is a psychological concept and 'the workings of the mind' are psychological considerations. Asking what we know about the mind is a different question than asking what we know about the brain. The emphasis is totally different.
  22. Jan 29, 2016 #21
    How do we "know", as a fact, that a fear of spiders does not have a neurological component?
  23. Jan 29, 2016 #22
    My guess is that there is a neural network, probably in the midbrain tegmentum somewhere, that is specifically sensitive to arachnids, and probably another that is sensitive to insects in general. I have little doubt about this. I had a physiological psychology professor in college who discussed this one day in class. He said he would physically injure himself or get in a car wreck as an instinctual response to withdrawal from an insect. We all laughed, but secretly shared his unconscious terror :nb)
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2016
  24. Jan 29, 2016 #23
    I agree with this, and with your sentiment that we can't eschew the school of psychological science. The fact, though, is that the mind and brain are not different, they are one in the same in same way that electricity and magnetism are. It's just that we haven't bridged that gap yet, but we're working on that, and when I say we I mean me, specifically. This is what I do. But we are a ways off. And contrary to the beliefs of many of my colleagues, we DO need the psychologists, the sociologists, and the philosophers to help us to achieve this goal. Their tenure is secure for now. My hardcore neuroscience colleagues do not think there is much value in researching the psychology journals. I think that's absurd. Bad for them, good for me, I guess.
  25. Jan 29, 2016 #24
    Electricity and magnetism are two separate things, two separate foci, as it were. The fact they are inextricable from each other does not make them the same thing. Electricity has it's own laws and units of measurement and magnetism has separate ones. It's like mass and volume. You can't have a mass without it having some volume, but mass and volume aren't the same thing.

    The mind arises from the brain, yes, but "mind" is a separate concept from "brain". When you say "mind" you're focusing on something different (or should be) than when you say "brain." What's the difference? The difference is that you can speak pretty accurately in purely psychological terms about the mind of an orphan, or the mind of a Viet Nam Vet, with no recourse to talk of action potentials or inhibitory neurotransmitters. If, on the other hand, you do a bunch of brain scans on them and find they exhibit hippocampal sclerosis from stress, then you're talking about the brains of orphans or Viet Nam Vets. It's two vastly different approaches, two different foci.

    Here's an example of a purely psychological phenomenon, a phenomenon of mind, that you couldn't get traction on with neuroscientific means:
    What percentage of the population is gay? It turns out this is very hard to even approximate. For completely psychological reasons, people don't like to give out this kind of information. And by completely psychological means, they can be tricked into revealing more than they think they are revealing. This has to do with the human mind as distinct from the human brain.
  26. Jan 29, 2016 #25
    It's possible that there is a network that is "sensitive to" insects, or can be once it has experienced them, but being sensitive to something and afraid of it are two different things. The fusiform gyrus is "sensitive to" the human face, but there are faces that we like, faces that are neutral, and faces that are scary.

    When I mentioned someone who is afraid of spiders, I meant someone with a real phobia, specifically of spiders, as opposed to other dangerous situations and animals. I used to know a girl who would walk boldly around alone late at night in dark neighborhoods, but she was deathly afraid of earwigs.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook