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Medical What is thinking?

  1. Sep 7, 2009 #1
    Does anyone know a mechanistic, physical theory of the process of thinking? It seems to involve observation - emotion and so much more, that I have no handle on it.

    The only theories I have heard are not physical but involve some spiritual or quantum tunneling out of spacetime and into a nether world of Hilbert possibility. These are usually (and probably rightfully) decried as pseudoscience.

    Also, besides the process of thinking, which I'm "thinking" of as analogious to the envelope, what can be said about the thought itself, i.e. the content of the letter?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2009 #2
  4. Sep 7, 2009 #3
    Yes, good info from a philosophical standpoint, but I was asking more from a physical standpoint. Wondering if new techniques in imaging etc. have revealed the mechanics of thought?
  5. Sep 7, 2009 #4
    The brain is collecting alot of data such from reading, observing, interacting, listening etc, and then is shuffling these data sets to form new ones. Then it checks it against reality and stores whatever works, and discards whatever doesn't work or is useless. Then it tries to combine the new data sets again with whatever worked before to form even newer data sets. Then repeat.
  6. Sep 7, 2009 #5
    Yeah,that would be a good answer, IF the brain had executive power. What you ascribe to the brain is more like the will, but nobody knows what that is.
  7. Sep 7, 2009 #6


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    A theory of elementary "stream segregation", a form of auditory object recognition:

    Micheyl C., Tian B., Carlyon R.P., Rauschecker J.P. (2005) Perceptual organization of sound sequences in the auditory cortex of awake macaques. Neuron 6, 139-148
    Paper at http://www.tc.umn.edu/~cmicheyl/publis.html [Broken]
    Cool demos at http://www.tc.umn.edu/~cmicheyl/demos.html [Broken]

    A review of theories of "decision making":

    Wang X-J (2008)
    Decision making in recurrent neuronal circuits
    Neuron 60: 215-234
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Sep 9, 2009 #7
    look up 'logical programming' or 'prolog'. that should give you some idea of what the brain is doing.

    as for the question of 'will', it would be better to think in terms of 'drives'. the first drive is curiosity. it would be nice if we had a 'work' drive. then we could get up in the moring and say 'yay, I get to go to work today' but we dont. work seems to be an afterthought. something that we just do so we can then afford to do the things we really enjoy.
  9. Sep 9, 2009 #8
    Thanks everyone for your responses. I am still reviewing them, but I'm confident that I will know more soon than when I first asked the questions.

    BTW granpa, I think we work for recognition.. a stroke of the old ego, yeah and also to keep the rats from our food..and the rain and cold from soaking our cardboard beds.
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