★ An Overview ★ A Model for the Mind ★ Directive Cognitive Expansion ★
A High Level Overview of the Mind
Data and metadata about functions and language in particular is likely found all over the brain. And information related to other faculties of the mind is likely similarly sharded all over the brain. This would help achieve dynamic behavior, as it would allow multiple regions of the brain to sort of map functionality together. But doing so would also contribute to efficiency and redundancy. That’s all complete speculation on the brain.
Regardless of how it’s implemented in hardware, I do know that the mind can dynamically coordinate it’s functionality. I know I’m not using 100% correct vocabulary for psychological and neurological terms here. Additionally, a lot of what I’m writing about is personal speculation based on my own thoughts and experiences, combined with concrete science where I can. However, I’m not pulling these conclusions from studies. Yeh, I know, not scientific. But, I do what I want. That’s what I love about writing in my blog. I don’t have to answer to anyone in regard to my choice of content, proposition or how I’m going to structure my argument. 90% of the work in crafting a well-structured, well-justified argument is in identifying and verifying respected sources. That is exactly what I love not doing, but I’m not exactly writing my thesis here. IMO, existing scientific methodologies aren’t yet capable of quickly iterating in these fields – we’re improving by leaps and bounds, but there are many ideas we just can’t prove.
However, I have spent a lot of time studying and meditating on psychology, sociology and neurology. I’ve taken Coursera classes on Machine Learning, Neuropharmacology, Neuro-Marketing, Bioinformatics I/II/III and Epigenetics to name a few. While I haven’t retained the most specific details as well as I would like, these courses have been invaluable in contributing to my ability to reason in these fields.
Sensory Data and Immediate Preprocessing
The brain receives data from its 5+ senses – yes, as things are actually wired together in hardware there are more than 5 senses and I’m not talking about psychic stuff here. Balance is a good example of a sense that is not usually considered as one. I’ve found it interesting to think of memory exposed to the mind as a kind of temporal sense.
As it enters the brain, this sensory data is processed at a hardware level to immediately provide some simple aggregate data to pass along with the sensory data. For example, passing along contrast maps for each cone color would greatly simplify the process of visual object recognition. This data is passed along with the original data, so it can be used as features in neural networks as soon as possible.
Phonological & Visual Loop
Early on, sensory data is stored in the phonological and visual loop, where your conscious and subconscious can quickly retrieve very accurately replay sounds and images for a very short period of time. This can be very useful if you have ADD =] but this memory fades very fast, on the order of seconds.
Sometimes referred to as Mind-Body Awareness. This is the mind’s awareness of how the body is positioned, in relation to its limbs, other objects and other people. Spatial awareness is built on top of and interdependent with visual processing, tactile sensation, balance, object recognition, object function and short-memory. There are many algorithmic shortcuts available to the brain when processing data to construct both spatial awareness and faculties interdependent on spatial awareness. This is why it’s very useful to have all but the most basic functions interdependent: it makes tasks for the brain orders of magnitude more efficent.
Bruce Lee Striking Matches With Nunchuku
Muscle memory is very close to your hardware, probably mostly contained within the cerebellum, exposed via the cerebral cortex and orchestrated by various areas of the basal ganglia. In Huntington’s, one loses the ability to coordinate movements because of gradually degrading networks in the basal ganglia. This is probably the most visible symptom of neural decay, in addition to a host of others that affect your ability to funciton in life. The cerebellum uniquely contains Purkinje neurons, which are tree shaped and form probably plays an extensive role in their functions.
Muscle memory is learned through repetition of particular movements. It is interdependent with spatial awareness and other senses, vision in particular. The cerebellum is located close to the occipital cortex, possibly necessitated by a functional relationship, though I’m not sure that the networks overlap. Object recognition could also be interdependent because understanding how objects behave and can be manipulated is crucial to executing routines specific to those objects. Sword fighting or skateboarding for example.
Muscle memory needs, at a very fundamental level, be capable of dynamically altering execution of its learned routines based on sensory feedback. By “at a very fundamental level,” I mean that muscle memory and coordination needs to dynamically respond to very few interdependencies, so that it can do so very fast and very efficiently. Examples of this are “Spotting the Landing” in tricking and skateboarding, which is a muscle memory response based on visuospatial information which is functionally decoupled from the muscle memory movement required for initiating a backflip or kickflip.
Short-term memory is usually associated with the hippocampus. You need it. With a severe deficit in short-term memory, you will be completely unable to function. You may even get slapped with a diagnosis of schizophrenia if it’s bad enough. If you can’t retain information that higher-order processes depend on, then you’re going to have a hard time keeping it real and you won’t seem coherent to other people. However, schizophrenic symptoms resulting from a severe deficit to short-term memory are significantly different from those experienced in more traditional progressions of schizhophrenia, but lead towards a very similar prognosis.
Short-term memory stores pieces of information for use by higher-order mental processes. Complex tasks like doing your taxes, actively participating in conversation or emotionally reading people depend on short-term memory, which tends to retain information on the order of up to a minute.
Extensive short-term memory contributes greatly to a high IQ. Many tasks on IQ tests depend on the ability to quickly process large amounts of information. Anagrams are a great example. If you want to solve them quickly, you either need to be used to doing it or capable of dynamically processing large amounts of lexical permutations, which proficient short-term memory allows you to do. There are many mental processes associated with intelligence that do not require high short-term memory and rather require introspection and reflection. Additionally, there are various means of solving problems that don’t require as much short-term memory. Some of these are actually more efficient algorithms. Usually, you can solve the same problem with less dependency on short-term memory if you have access to a broader spectrum of information. Ironically, if you have plenty of short-term memory, you might not need to resort to identifying these alternative methods.
More closely associated with the frontal & prefrontal cortex(PFC) than short term memory. It typically describes how processes in your PFC will coordinate information in short-term memory towards the execution of complex mental tasks.
Short-term and working memory contributes greatly towards being able to methodically structure the information consciously stored in long-term memory. That is, poor short-term or working-memory can make it very difficult to learn quickly. Attention, focus, short-term and working-memory are all interdependent. And long-term memory, to a lesser extent. Interdependent because your focus determines what ends up in your short-term memory and your working-memory can determine how you shift your focus. How you coordinate these processes determines the information that ends up in your long term memory.
These are facts and sensory experiences, stored along with dimensional information. You have long term memory of words you’ve learned, which is separate from the semantic meanings of those words. There are many neurological disorders that affect regions of the brain and, by studying their progression and response to treatment, you can infer how long-term memories are differentiated and stored.
Ideally, you should mindfully discern what information you choose to store in long-term memory – all that we become is a result of what we have thought. If you stress too hard over trauma, you’ll strengthen these memories and then you’ll be consumed by them. Unlearning is hard and the greater the extent to which you allow negativity to direct your development, the harder it will become to change direction.
“To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”
Many savants have unbelieveable proficiency in certain kinds of long-term memory. The Rainman could retrieve knowledge of almost any fact his mind had considered, regardless of how conscious that consideration was. For some savants, particular sensory or cognitive dimensions of information the mind processes seems to be stored in complete, uncompressed form. Some savants seem to have virtuoso-level profiency for working with data of specific dimension and for introspecting on the nature of processing that data. Mozart, for example, understood music completely as a child. Something in his mind enabled him to completely extrapolate all the processes that one would need for working with music, basically just by looking at a piano. With as little input as possible from outside his mind.
Even if you consciously choose to forget something, it leaves an inprint. This is because there is subconscious aspect to long-term memory, memory of things not consciously considered. You have long-term memory of images and sounds, of people that you’ve met, of experiences you’ve had. Even if you remove all the conscious links to these memories, they still exist in your brain and can be triggered years later. The more powerful the impact on your subconscious at the time, the more likely these images and memories could be retrieved later, though they will be presented differently to your mind.
As you introspect your existing long-term memories, you create aggregate memories based on them. This is partially what is responsible for the phenomenon where people’s description of a crime or other intense event becomes more altered the more they think about it. As you create more memories based on other memories, you create a particular worldview and outlook on life. If you recover repressed memories or find some of your beliefs to be false, then you have a rift between these newfound beliefs and those aggregate memories and explanations you created – as well as a rift in your overall outlook on life, if those repressed memories were substantial in some way.
This is one reason repressed memories in and of themselves can cause serious problems – you remember things both as you thought they were and as you’ve discovered them to actually be. You still have all those possibly-inaccurate aggregate memories that affect how you perceive the world and those memories are more strongly linked than the newly discovered repressed memories. As time goes on, you create aggregate memories based on the repressed ones and the rift dissapates over time. This phenomenon could be incredibly confusing, quite possibly enough to cause mental disorder if one is not firmly grounded. Additionally, your conscious mind can’t really access that which you’ve repressed, leading to the occasional, vague sensation of something that’s missing that you can’t define.
Long-term memory of processes are created and strengthened as you use them. Procedures differ, yet overlap for various kinds of activities. Your brain likely generalizes these procedures in a manner similar to the description of generalizing social behavior in part one. This is so that what you learn from one activity can be applied to others as well.
Both are very similar and refer to how information is exposed to our conscious mind, though our focus and attenion are definitely conditioned over time to determine which information in the subconscious is identified as relevent enough to bubble up to the conscious. Your conscious mind seems to be able to discern between the information passed up, but also seems to be limited to what the subconscious is capable of presenting to it. That is, unless you are prompted for some reason to become consciously aware of some information.
The Conscious and Subconscious
Over time, your conscious mind conditions the behavior of your subconscious mind. You might not be in control of your subconscious mind, but you have some level of control over its development by directing your focus. Again, all that we become is a result of what we have thought. In order to extend your subconscious ability to preprocess and present the conscious mind with useful possibilities, you have to direct the kind of experiences you want to have. The best computer analogy I have for the subconscious is a GPU. After being conditioned to run specific procedures, the subconscious is able to make these happen to a mind-blowing degree of efficiency.
People with Asperger’s seem to lack the subconscious ability to preprocess information about social relationships and interactions. IMO, it just seems like that information isn’t readily available to my conscious mind because my subconscious doesn’t really pay attention to it. That was especially the case when I was young. So I have to intellectually reason about it, which is markedly less efficient.
Choreography of Mental Faculties
The subconscious and conscious seem to be able to dynamically reuse and coordinate various mental processes. Some people seem to be much better at learning to reuse information and processes than others. Understanding category theory can greatly help us in improving the ability to coordinate disparate functions of our brain.
Cognition is our ability to abstract and reason about various information, which happens at various levels, conscious and subconscious. However, when I think about cognition, I’m mostly considering the thought processes when I am consciously directing, which may be supported by subconscious processes as well. Cognition and abstract reasoning greatly contribute to our intelligence and differentiate humans from most animal species on the planet. It’s our ability to generalize and process disparate types of information.
Metacognition is by far one of the most important attributes for intelligence, moreso than short-term memory IMO. Metacognition is cognition about cognition. People with strong metacognition are able to abstract and reason about their own thought process, which can lead to mind blowing insights.
Part Three: Directive Cognitive Expansion
I’ll cover how you can improve specific cognitive faculties by learning new things. I’ll also discuss the importants of assessing a new activity for its particular benifits. Finally, I’ll offer examples of what parts of the mind is utilized for several activities such as chess, music, acting, programming, dancing and skateboarding.