Deric Bownds


Lecture for Univ. of Texas OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) UT FORUM group on Oct. 21, 2022. 

 

New Perspectives on how our Minds Work

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This talk is a densely packed with information. Hopefully this web version will aid you in better understanding some of the points made, and help with letting some of the bottom line sentences sink in.

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Since the early 2000s, when I retired from the University of Wisconsin, I have maintained a blog, called Deric's MindBlog, describing what I am finding interesting in cognitive neuroscience and some other subjects. It is accessible through the URL in the previous slide.

From this reading I've learned about work that has shown, in just the past 10-15 years, that much of what we thought we knew about how our minds work isn't quite right, our commonsense notions, our folk psychology that has been around for thousands of years, gets a lot of stuff wrong.

I'm going to give you the story that I think is the most plausible one, but fair disclosure, there are many theories of how our consciousness works. This slide lists 22.

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Don't be frightened by this and the next slide or two, I am flicking through them just to give you a feel for the complexity of our subject.

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There are four main theories or models of consciousness, and current experiments I think are making one of these, predictive processing, the overwhelming favorite. It gives the best description of how consciousness rises from our biological bodies, our muscles, blood, and guts, to meet their needs. That's what our minds are for, to take care of our bodies.

This slide gives you the sources for much of what I'm going to say today,

 

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Some of the slides are derived from these references, and I use edited clips from their text to describe some ideas.

So...here is the story I want to tell in four parts.

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The first topic deals with what we are learning about how our brains actually work, the second with why much of what we have thought is wrong, the third topic builds a story of how we invent most of our emotional and social reality

The fourth topic describes how this modern description is in many ways confluent with the insights of ancient meditative traditions. Both show how we can examine, understand, and possibly change what is happening inside our heads, our behaviors. We can access a very rich mental toolkit to work our way through to a new understanding of what we are and how we work that can strengthen our resilience in surfing the challenging times we are in. This is the forward looking and optimistic side to what I'm going to be telling you.

There is also a potentially unsettling side to our new understanding, because it saying that much of what we thought to be our essential or genuine nature, our authenticity, is invented, specific to our culture, made up, an invention.

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So, I will begin with this first topic "We have predictive brains that construct themselves to face the world"

Part I of talk:

We will start with a simple experiment that demonstrates that when we look out at the world what we are actually experiencing is our prediction of what is there, not necessarily what is actually there.

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What do you see here? Take a second Lot of blobs.. Not clear? Well, have at look at this:

 

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...and now, do these blobs make any more sense to you?

 

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Or, another example, can you tell me what this is?

 

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Does this help?

 

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So, now, we go back to the blobs, it's hard to see anything but the photograph I just showed.

 

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One more example. What about this? More blobs.

 

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Does this help?

 

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And now,

 

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In each of these examples, I initially was unable to figure out the black and white blobs, but once I had seen the more complete pictures, I found myself stuck with recognizing the image now stored in my brain that best fit the black and white blob...a snake, a fly, and a woman kissing a horse. These illustrations are taken from books by Lisa Feldman Barrett and Anil Seth, listed in the references slide I showed earlier.

 

So, Ask yourself...What was going on here?

 

When we saw the complete images we stored them in our archive or library of images, which is vast.

 

They were now sitting there waiting, as candidates, as predictions, of possible things in the outside world. You next viewed some previously unintelligible blobs in a picture, and bingo there is a match between what you stored and what's out there in the world. You literally hallucinate the shape that isn't obvious from the ambiguous partial cues first provided.

 

In every waking moment, we are faced with ambiguous, noisy information from our eyes, ears, nose, and other sensory organs. Our brains uses our past experiences, and their associated library of images, to construct a hypothesis - the simulation - and compare it to the cacophony arriving from our senses.

 

This simulation lets our brains impose meaning on the noise, selecting what is relevant and ignoring the rest.

 

What we are now learning is that what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell are largely simulations of the world, .. Simulation is the default mode for all mental activity.

 

Evolution has wired our brains for efficient prediction.

 

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The central idea, proposed by Carl Friston and others starting just 15-20 years ago, is that the main thing at ALL biological systems, from humans down to the tiniest animals, do is to try to reduce prediction errors.

 

What the brain finds most useful to notice is surprise, something we are not expecting, it doesn't need to record all the information coming in, it only needs to flip into a higher gear if there is a deviation from its expectations.

 

This is an 'Inside Out' model, as shown in the top part of this slide, of how our world is generated, our brains are constantly predicting possible perceptions and possible actions (Left), the actual perception or action that occurs (Top) is compared with that prediction (Right)

 

If a current perception or action matches well enough with our prediction, it is our prediction that we experience, if it does not then the brain must arouse itself to resolve the error (Bottom), the mis-match between prediction and what is actually happening, this new resolution then is programmed back into the cycle, added to the library of hypotheses, of sensing and acting correlations that have worked in the past.

 

We don't actually go through the process our high school and college introductory biology texts usually describe, shown in the bottom half of the slide, that I taught for many years.

 

This standard 'Outside in' model has been that our brain passively waits for information from the outside world, when it receives information it proceeds to analyze it, and then sends the result forward to the perceiving, deciding and acting parts of the brain. But, what is this mysterious middle black box, this 'analyzer' where supposedly everything comes together...all we can see is the firing of nerve cells. There is no interpreter in the brain to assign meaning to these changes in neuronal firing patterns. Short of a magical homunculus watching the activities of all the neurons in the brain with the omniscience of the experimenter, the neurons that take this all in are unaware of the events that caused these changes in their firing patterns. Fluctuations in neuronal activity are meaningful only for the scientist who is in the privileged position of observing both events in the brain and events in the outside world and then comparing the two perspectives.

 

A crucial point is that an 'outside in' process that has to grind out a new solution or prediction for each new input takes much more energy than just assuming an existing prediction is correct unless an error is detected. Saving energy is the name of the game in terms of evolutionary survival.

 

To give some of the specifics, these next illustrations, taken from Barrett's books, show what is actually going on in your brain when you think you are perceiving a visual scene directly.

 

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90 percent of all connections coming into the primary visual part of our brain, V1, (right arrows) carry predictions about possible expected visual scenes stored in neurons in more forward parts of the cortex.

 

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Only a small fraction of primary visual cortex V1 activity involves getting current visual input from the world (arrows pointing from left to right.)

 

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Ten times more information goes in the other direction, (arrows right to left) carrying visual predictions from V1 to the thalamus on through to control centers that decide which prediction best matches the input data, and that is what we actually see, the stored prediction.

 

This is the operation your brains were carrying out in those ambiguous slides I started with, which began to make sense when you had stored a prediction that matched sufficiently their data. Without the top down prediction, understanding the blobs is like putting together a puzzle without the picture on the puzzle box cover.

 

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Everything we do and experience is in the service of reducing surprises by fulfilling fantasies, models, predictions.

 

Those fantasies are essentially a library of prior possibilities. If you hear thunder, the probability of lightning is high.

 

Our predicting brain is why we can't tickle ourselves, because we predict the effect of touching ourselves, only unpredictable touching by another person feels ticklish. It causes a much stronger sensation because we can't expect it.

 

Your eyes are darting about, moving all the time in small jerks called saccades, but your visual world doesn't move around, it appears to stay quite still. This is because a prediction of our eye movements, the technical term is efferent outgoing copy or corollary discharge, is getting subtracted from our perception. If you or someone else makes your eyeball move by touching and rotating it, the world bounces around because that prediction is absent.

 

Predictive processing is going on, cucumber, as you listen to me talking. If an unexpected word is inserted in the flow of words we are hearing, as it just was, cucumber, we can be slightly startled. Experiments studying this record small changes in brain voltages reflecting surprise.

 

Predictions our brains are making are important in our experience, our prediction of an upcoming movement, the efferent copy, is what intention feels like, how we distinguish a voluntary from an involuntary action. Our experience of agency, of willing and causing something to happen is actually our experience of the prediction of the results of an action already set in motion.

 

 

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Part II of talk:

 

Now, what I have just been saying is a different description from what many of us might have learned in our introductory high school or college biology courses, and this brings me to the second chunk of this talk. Much of what we thought we know about how our brains work is mistaken.

 

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Here is the list of what are going to be my bottom lines, and I'm going to cover these with extreme brevity, this being a part of the talk I had to condense to even think about getting the talk's time down to an hour.

 

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The first item in this list of mis-perceptions is the first part of the talk I just finished, we don't analyze and recreate our worlds with every new perception and action, analyzing what is coming in anew each time, from the outside in and then performing a mysterious analysis that generates a reaction. Rather, we take in just the smallest amount of information from the outside that is necessary to match with something in our library of previous perceptions and actions, and then generate a perception or action from the inside out.

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The second misperception is that our brains actually are composed of three sub-brains, from older to more recently evolved, the triune brain model, which some of you may have heard of.

 

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A reptilian brain regulating the basic four F's, fighting, fleeing, feeding, and fornicating, overlaid by primitive mammalian brain that generates emotions relevant to nurturing newborn animals to maturity, and a new or neocortex, vastly folded, the locus of our more advanced capabilities.

 

In fact our brains aren't built up like layers of geological sediments from different epochs. Reptiles and humans have the same kinds of nerve cells and the same common brain manufacturing plan but over time some parts have gotten larger and reorganized, segregating and then integrating.

 

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And everything connects...any thought, action, or emotion you experience alters, even if subtly, the activity of 90% of the brain's neurons. The brain is a vast continuous network of clusters and hubs, not a bunch of parts that work in isolation.

 

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The third point is that there are no unique brain or body fingerprints of emotions.

 

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This is a statement very much against the common assumption that we have specific evolved hard wired reflexive circuits in our brains for fear, rage, happiness, sadness, etc. that flip on and off like a light switch, ancient and universal basic emotions that are the result of evolutionary adaptations to conditions of our paleolithic past. They are meant to go with unique brain and body fingerprints like facial expressions and changes in heart rate, activation of specific brain areas.

 

The problem is that continuous effort over many years has not revealed a consistent, physical fingerprint for even a single emotion. When you attach electrodes to a person's face and measure how facial muscles actually move during the experience of an emotion, you find tremendous variety, not uniformity. You find the same variety - the same absence of fingerprints - when you study the rest of the body and the brain. You can experience anger with or without a spike in blood pressure. You can experience fear with or without an amygdala, the brain region historically tagged as the home of fear. All of the data showing this or that emotion correlates with a particular brain area becoming active has turned out to be a bit misleading. Careful studies have shown that during any thought, action, or emotion you can observe changes in the virtually all of the brain's neurons, as brain networks work together.

 

We observe what is called representational plasticity: We can observe a brain network that becomes active in say, a fear response. We look a month later, and can find a completely different web of nerve calls becoming active during exactly the same behavior. The network has migrated across the brain, doing the same behavioral job.

 

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The fourth point is that the idea that there are universal emotions, common to all humans, is mainly a myth. Many emotions that we have thought to be universal turn out to vary between different cultures.

 

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Brains can make more than one kind of mind. Much of the evidence for what we have taken to be universal human emotions is biased, because so many behavioral studies have used undergraduate college psychology students in psychology courses in Western universities as their experimental subjects. In contrast with much of the world's population, they are WEIRD - Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.

There might well be genetic instructions nudging the parts of our brains most important in social interactions, instructions that incline us to universal behaviors such as forming dominance and submission hierarchies, just as there are genetic instructions for where vision, hearing, speech, and movement are centered in our brains. We just don't know how much of our intuitive behavioral psychology might be hardwired and innate.

 

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So, the fifth and final point, our intuitive psychology can lead us astray on what is innate and what is learned.

Some abilities are clearly innate

 

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Newborn babies can distinguish and react to face icons.

 

So the question is: how many of our basic concepts and emotions are learned from experience, and how many are in fact innate?

 

This is a tricky question, because experiments show that our reasoning about innateness is biased by built in cognitive biases of the human mind.

 

In our intuitive psychology, concepts like 'object' and 'number' must be learned, but it has been demonstrated that in fact newborns possess these core concepts. On the other hand, people usually assume the expression and recognition of emotions is innate, while in fact it is mostly learned. This is a major topic in the next section of this talk

 

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So, I want to move on from this list of assertions I've moved through with extreme brevity, all of which continue to be subjects of debate, to the third chunk of today's talk.

Part III of talk:

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We invent much of our emotional and social reality.

A steady accumulation of evidence is now showing that that our emotions are not as built in as we had thought, present straight out of the box when we are born, but they are put together from more basic parts. They emerge as we create them from a combination of the physical properties of our bodies and our flexible brains that wire themselves to fit the physical and cultural environment we grow up in.

 

Building a new description of what our brains are about starts with an evolutionary story.

 

From the time when animals first appeared, they were competing for food, eating each other, getting increasingly complicated organ systems to regulate sensing, acting, digesting, nervous systems to run the whole show, regulate the body's energy budget.

 

Energy is used most efficiently, a key to survival, if an animal can automatically predict and prepare to meet the body's needs before they arise based on successful actions taken at other times in similar circumstances, for example managing the body's response to stresses. Humans and other animals store past experiences to prepare for future action. This was the message of the first part of this talk.

 

Fast forward to complicated bodies like ours, running hundreds of muscles in motion, balancing dozens of different hormones, pumping two thousand gallons of blood per day, regulating the energy of billions of brain cells, digesting food, excreting waste, fighting illness. Your brain's most important job is not thinking, it is running all this stuff. All of our mental thinking capacities are in the service of keeping us well by managing our bodies so that we can pass on our genes. Our very recent invention of human language and fretting about value, purpose, and meaning is just a thin veneer in the service of this massive background computation that keeps us alive to pass on our genes to the next generation.

 

The origins of our emotions, our affect, lie in this immense regulatory system always producing a storm of sense data inside and outside our bodies as we move and act in the world. A newborn baby faces a buzzing cacophony of information coming from inside and outside its body. It randomly generates movements. It finds that some combinations of sensing and then acting draw milk from a mother's breast. The baby's brain then repeats and learns those, storing them in its library of things that work, its library of predictions.

 

From the moment you and I were born, we were creating a world from the inside out, as I was describing in the first part of the talk, creating more and more sensing and action repertories that work and help us make sense of the world.

 

Our feelings, our affect, are the tags we put on things that work and things that don't work, and we describe and measure them along two axes, valence and arousal.

 

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Is it good or bad? That's the axis of valence positive to negative, do I go for it or scram. How good or bad is it? That's the axis of arousal. You can see from the figure, if you scroll around the rim of the circle and read the descriptions, how this two axis formulations lets us distinguish the variety of feelings we can have.

 

Affect is like a barometer telling us how things are going, it's the basement level from which we invent more rapid specific emotions for particular physical and social contexts. Infants initially develop valence based emotions categories like feeling good or feeling bad that gradually differentiate into categories of discrete emotions such as anger and sadness. It is from this basic biological substrate regulating our life functions that our emotions and thoughts about the world rise.

 

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So, how do we get from this relatively simple description to our more advanced capabilities, forming concepts, using language, distinguishing increasingly refined emotional states and labeling them with words?

 

Our predictive brains are constantly generating hypotheses and simulations of what we might be facing in the future. We build concepts when the brain groups together some things and separates others. Concepts are tools our brains use to guess the meaning of incoming sensory inputs. Concepts give meaning to changes in sound pressure against your eardrums so you hear them as words in a language or as music instead of random frequency noise. Babies parse sounds streaming in to gradually infer the boundaries between phonemes, syllables, and words. The artificial intelligence algorithms that can perform such spectacular tasks are mimicking this baby all babies have of detecting patterns in confusing input. Experiments on monkeys and humans show that the brains quest to detect patterns in the world can lead us to infer that a pattern exists in a completely random input.

 

The same process is used to make meaning of the sensations from inside our bodies. Just like there are parts of the brain that mainly specialize in vision, sound, touch, smell in the outside world, there are parts that make sense of the insides of our body. Depending on the context you are in, from an aching stomach your brain might construct an instance of hunger, nausea, mistrust, anxiety, longing, i.e. an instance of an emotion. In every waking moment, your brain uses simulations of past experience, organized as concepts, to guide your actions and give your sensations meaning. When the concepts involved are emotion concepts, your brain constructs instances of emotion.

 

This model suggests that the emotions you experience and perceive are not an inevitable consequence of your genes. What your genes have insured is that your brain has wiring for making sense of sensory input from the outside and inside of our bodies by forming concepts like 'Anger' and 'Disgust.' These emotion categories do not necessarily have a distinctive fingerprint, as I mentioned earlier, and are not genetically predetermined. One instance of anger need not look or feel like another, nor need it be caused by the same neurons. Your familiar emotion concepts are built-in only because you grew up in a particular social context where those emotion concepts were meaningful and useful, and your brain applies them outside your awareness to construct your experiences. Heart rate changes are inevitable; their emotional meaning is not.

 

If you talk to a chemist, reality is a molecule, an atom, a proton. To a physicist, reality is a quark or a Higgs boson. They are supposed to exist in the natural world whether or not humans are present - that is, they are thought to be perceiver-independent categories.

 

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Evolution provides our minds with the ability to create kind of real that is different from that of molecules or atoms, which we take to be observer independent categories, it allows us to create a reality that is completely dependent on human observers. Just get a couple of people to agree that something is real and give it a name, and they create reality. From wavelengths of light, we construct colors. Looking at a rainbow, we see discrete stripes of color, although in nature a rainbow is a continuous spectrum of light with wavelengths ranging from about 400 to 750 nanometers. We see stripes because we have mental concepts for Red, Orange, and Yellow, grouping together certain ranges of the spectrum and categorizing them as the same color.

 

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Concepts of color are influenced by culture and language. Russian has words for seven rather than six colors, blue is divided into light blue and dark blue.

 

Emotions become real to us through two human capabilities that are prerequisites for social reality. First, a group of people must agree that a concept exists, such as Happiness, Flower, or Cash. They are real in same sense that money is real - a product of human agreement. This called collective intentionality. It is a foundation of every society. Second, language has to be used to group mental concepts into categories. A hammer, chainsaw, and ice pick can be grouped under the concept of 'Tools.' Or we can use language to also group them under the category 'Murder Weapons.'

 

Many concepts are similar across cultures, groups have to solve common problems, but some concepts are not. The !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert do not have the emotion and concept of Fear.

 

So...Culture helps to wire individual brains, which then become carriers of the culture, helping to create and perpetuate it. An example of this would be the sophisticated navigation techniques that were slowly learned and improved as they passed from generation to generation over thousands of years in the South Pacific seas, allowing humans to venture out further and further and colonize remote and distant islands. Humans don't have culture because they are smart. They are smart because they have culture.

 

There is debate over whether some concepts are innate or learned, as I mentioned earlier, but it seems clear that we learned most of them as our brains wired themselves to our physical and social surroundings.

 

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A new view is that there are at least three universal aspects of the mind - affective realism, concepts, and social reality. They are inevitable and universal, barring illness, based on the anatomy and function of the brain.

 

Affective realism - is saying that you experience what you believe, When a soldier in a war zone perceives a gun in the hand of a kid playing with a stick of wood, when no gun is present, he is actually seeing his prediction or expectation.

 

Concepts- Our brains chunk even the smallest physical details into concepts, organizing fleeting bits of sound into music or language, or light to objects in the world, body changes in certain social situations into feelings and emotions. This chunking of our experiences into concepts is what can lead us to assume they are essences, have a particular genetic basis or place in the brain, when in fact no such things are present.

 

Social reality - you are born without being able to survive or regulate your body budgeting by yourself. A part of your brain is specialized to wire our brains to fit with the minds of others, to fit with the social world that others have constructed. Feral children raised by surrogate animal parents appear to remain locked in the more present centered mental space of animals - a space that gives no flicker of reflectivity. Being human requires the cultural context of human communication through gesture and language that is kept alive, altered, and transmitted by successive generations. We are tools of our tools.

 

We invent our own social reality, or the one we want to live in, and as long as enough people sync with us to invent a similar one we've got a thing going. We cherry pick which illusions we think to be true and think to be fake, which religion we believe is the true way. For those of us who believe the 2020 election was stolen and Trump is the true president, that is the case.

 

When the orthodoxy of one religious or political sect or tribe conflicts with that of another, the result is what we are seeing in the news media every day.

 

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Part 4 of talk

 

So...now, having traced a thread that has taken us from basic mechanisms that regulate our bodies up through those that regulate our social life, I want to take take a full stop, take a deep breath for a moment...and now... I'll move on in the fourth and last section of this talk to first give a brief description of what is going on in our brains during what I've been been talking about. And then second, to consider how these insights into what our brains are doing might prove useful to us.

 

The awesome library of predictions, memories, concepts I've been talking about are stored and continually renewed, refined, reshelved all the time. It never stops, even when we think we are sitting with a blank mind doing nothing, not paying attention to anything. Neuroscientists were a bit amazed when the first global measurement of brain activity showed that our brains are just as active when they are supposedly doing nothing, as they are when we are engaged and working hard on a specific task.

 

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Our background and ongoing modeling, predicting, and deciding machinery are managed by major networks in our brains that can be depicted as in these graphics, the details aren't important to us today.

 

These networks have names like the default mode system, the salience or attentional network, the executive control network, and others. These networks regulate concepts, predictions, and are constantly buzzing away, like the hubs in the international air travel network .

 

These networks, particularly the control network, are averaging out all the stories that are guessing, predicting, what is going on and letting a winner of the competition emerge. The illusion that is experienced as the correct one.

 

Deciding whether we see a B or a 13 here:

 

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Or seeing a triangle or a square in the centers of these figures

 

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They are not there, of course...we are hallucinating them, inventing them given cues from our brain stored from past experiences.

 

Our sense of having an 'I' or self is just like seeing this illusory square or triangle, a similar hallucination, and one that is essential and useful to us in constructing our selves and our societies. But that's material for several further lectures, not today.

 

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A piece of information on the brain that might be most useful for you to take away today is that we have two large scale brain networks mainly responsible for running our show.

 

Our attentional network shown on the right is engaged when we are focused on a task in the present, problem solving, doing just one thing

 

The other major network, called the default mode network, on the left, is active when we are tuning out of a present centered task, and rather ruminating, mind-wandering, thinking about past or future.

 

There appears to be a master switch between these two main brain systems located in a brain structure called the insula, which apparently tweaks the brain around between various networks, mixing and matching them.

 

The buzzing and the noise of constantly predicting and recalling brains, the activities in our default mode brain network are both a blessing and a curse.

 

Inappropriate predictions and models can cause chaos for us personally and in the world. The vast background of predictive processing I've been mentioning is really where it's all going on, where our strengths and weaknesses reside, where our predictive processing frequently inappropriately projects the past on to the present.

 

So, a next question is: how might our new understanding brain networks and predictive processing be useful in our daily lives.

 

I point out, as many others have, that the description of how our minds work that I have been giving you, based on the findings of modern neuroscience research, is consonant with insights derived from meditation techniques developed over a thousand years ago in several different Eastern religious lineages. They describe mind states that can sequentially access the same layers of predictive processing in our brains that are being visualized by modern brain imaging techniques.

 

So, I would like to take you through brief descriptions of these mind states derived from meditation techniques and their brain correlates.

 

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There is a general consensus that there are three major or core meditation techniques... which this slide lists in order of their accessibility and progression from beginning to more advanced. I'm taking this description from the article by Kaukkonen et al. whose reference is shown in the above slide.

 

These techniques form a continuum in which each strategy can influence predictive processing to gradually break down increasingly ingrained expectations. Each style can draw us closer and closer to the here and now and away from more abstract deep processing of our memories and expectations.

 

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Focused meditation enhances present-moment awareness of one source of sensory input such as the breath. It exercises the attentional brain network I have mentioned. A typical instruction for focused mindfulness meditation might be to pay attention to your breath, and when attention inevitably wanders, gently return it to the simple focus on breathing.

 

Brain imaging shows that during this exercise when we are following the instructions to focus on one thing, the attentional network of the brain predominates and the activity of the default mode network, where mind wandering and self-referential processing detached from the current environment is going on, are dialed down by the toggle switch in the anterior insula I mentioned.

 

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The more advanced technique of open awareness meditation withdraws selective attention in favor of non-judgmental, non-reactive, observational space in which thoughts and sensations appear and pass away.

 

Moving into this style of meditation shifts brain activity to another network in which Anterior cingulate cortex, posterior cingulate cortex and striatum are more active. This correlates with an increase in the activity of the calming or parasympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system in which our vagus nerve is central, a slowing of heart rate and an increase in heart rate variability.

 

This progressively disables clinging to expectations generated by predictive processing. Instead of being immersed in thoughts or emotions a more open inclusive seeing presence emerges that detaches from and observes them.

 

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Within this open awareness, the transient appearance of an emotion like anger can be seen, as if from a third person perspective, as a process of angry-ing, different from being highjacked by the emotion and immersed in experiencing yourself as an angry person. The open awareness of seeing the angry-ing versus being an angry person offers the option of choosing between those alternatives. Ditto with being able to distinguish being a fearful or desiring person from observing yourself fear-ing or desire-ing.

 

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A further deconstruction of predictive processing occurs in the non-dual meditative process in which the observer present in focused attention and open monitoring meditation, that can verbally report on the meditation experience, that observer vanishes. Subject and object disappear. Awareness means being aware that we are present without being something as such. While it seems like this must be a rarified state accessible only to advanced meditators, there are a few simple exercises that can give ordinary folks like ourselves a brief glimpse of what the experience is like.

 

This slide shows some summary bottom lines for this fourth section of the talk:

 

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Or, more briefly:

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Which cooks down to a nugget of self-help type advice that we all might be better served by paying more careful attention in the here and now than we usually do.

 

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