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Article in Aeon-How the body and mind talk to one another to understand the world--Sarah Garfinkel

Discussion in 'Health News and Research unrelated to ME/CFS' started by Snowdrop, Feb 21, 2019.

  1. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Thought this might interest some:
    https://aeon.co/ideas/how-the-body-and-mind-talk-to-one-another-to-understand-the-world

    A paragraph quote from text body:

    The shaping of emotional experience through the body’s internal physiology has long been recognised. The American philosopher William James argued in 1892 that the mental aspects of emotion, the ‘feeling states’, are a product of physiology. He reversed our intuitive causality, arguing that the physiological changes themselves give rise to the emotional state: our heart does not pound because we are afraid; fear arises from our pounding heart. Contemporary experiments demonstrate the neural and mental representation of internal bodily sensations as integral for the experience of emotions; those individuals with heightened interoception tend to experience emotions with greater intensity. The anterior insula is a key brain area, processing both emotions and internal visceral signals, supporting the idea that this area is key in processing internal bodily sensations as a means to inform emotional experience. Individuals with enhanced interoception also have greater activation of the insula during interoceptive processing and enhanced grey-matter density of this area.
     
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  2. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    This the idea De Masio has been plugging for the last twenty years. It does not make sense to me. Why should a pounding heart make us feel fear? In fact a pounding heart can also be associated with rapture or just running for a bus that you just about catch. So a pounding heart cannot be the case of feeling fear. And what on earth has the physiology of a bag squeezing fast have to do with a sense that something terrible is about to happen? Or just a sense of 'terrible'? Terrible is not a physiological thing, it is a value judgment that has no equivalent in physiology.

    I think this whole idea is backwards. In fact our sense of red has nothing to do with the redness of things directly. It is a sign our brains use because it helps survival moves. So why should the sense of fear have anything to do with hearts pumping or guts squelching?
     
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  3. Barry

    Barry Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    So if I were completely rested and sitting comfortably in an enclosed room, and someone then let a tiger loose into the room, my heart rate would then remain unchanged, being as it would be unaffected by my fear? I think not.
     
  4. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    The writer of this piece is a young cognitive neuroscientist in the UK.

    I think it speaks to the kind of training that is happening. One might ponder how she and her peers get away with this level of lack critical thinking. It's quite depressing.

    ETA: there are plenty out there who agree with her too (according to her twitter feed).
     
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  5. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    They get away with it because it is considered to be the right way to think by the grand masters of the field - people like Damasio (sorry spellcheck caught me last time). Cognitive neuroscience is run by people who do not understand the illusory nature of our percepts of the world. Damasio likes to put himself across as someone who understands philosophy, writing books like Descartes's error and Looking for Spinoza. Unfortunately he does not understand what people like these two and Leibniz understood in 1650-80. In recent times Bertrand Russell and Arthur Eddington got fairly close to the seventeenth century insight but very few people since. A naive belief in physical matter took over. Interestingly, a good understanding of the seventeenth century insights was fairly widespread in the late nineteenth century. Everything seems to have gone wrong when Rutherford thought he had 'split the atom'.
     
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  6. obeat

    obeat Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Surely we interpret a racing heart according to our circumstances? Fear when its a tiger and pleasure when a new love interest phones ( at least at the start!!!!)
     
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  7. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Indeed. It is an indication of what airheads run science these days.
     
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  8. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Aren't there experiments that show that if you inject people with adrenaline, they interpret things differently, for example, they find a research assistant more attractive or annoying. That suggests bodily sensations of excitement are interpreted as love or anger. I think it's likely that a pounding heart increases the chances of sensory information being interpreted as fear or anger etc.
     
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  9. Barry

    Barry Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Agreed. My point was simply objecting to the idea that fear would have no effect on my heart rate.
     
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  10. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    In view of the current reproducibility crisis in psychology I am not sure how reliable any of these reports are, but it seems likely that injecting adrenaline might alter interpretation. But then surely so might a couple of glasses of wine or a warm sunny afternoon or some nice music.

    And I think this is all beside the point to what is being proposed by Damasio and presumably this neuroscience lady. The argument seems to go like this:

    Our external senses are just tuned up to register red and yellow and loud and soft and salty and sweet so where does the sense of fear or delight come from? There is no fear or delight out there in the world for us to sense so how do we sense it? Our brains just pass electrical signals around, so apart from telling us about red and sweet, how can they tell us about sadness?

    The proposed answer is that what we call sadness is in fact a sensation borrowed from primitive interoceptive messages about heart or gut. Presumably this is supposed to be like nausea telling us about our stomach. Except that nausea does not actually tell us about our stomach and it is triggered by chemical signals in the hypothalamus, not in the stomach. And heart beat effects on interoceptors are unconscious. We only feel a pounding heart when the force starts stimulating the touch receptors in our chest wall - exteroceptors. It is all a muddle.

    But the key error in all of this is that our sense of red or sweet don't come from the outside world either. They are concocted in the brain from electrical interactions. So that means that electrical interactions in the brain are capable of producing all these strange feelings without any help from the interoceptors or exteroceptors. We know that because of forms of epilepsy where all sorts of sensations occur due to discharges in the brain that have nothing to do with sensory input.

    So the whole idea is based on a failure to recognise that all our sensations are brain generated illusions. What is worrying is that anyone with any practical experience of neuropsychology ought to realise this pretty quickly. Moreover, it has been understood since the time of Montaigne in the sixteenth century. Galileo writes about it. Most neuropsychologists of my generation are well aware of it but the current generation appear to be ignorant of the basics.
     
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  11. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Don't know how relevant this is. I thought the question was when and why does the brain creates which illusions. Would be suprised if interoception did not play an important role in this.
     
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  12. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I don't think that is the question that all the fuss is about. The brain creates an illusory redness when objects that reflect or transmit or emit low visible range wavelength light preferentially and it does that because it is useful for survival. Emotions are not really even illusions. They arise when the brain calculates that something of importance is going on. That could just be from visual input or auditory input. There is clearly no requirement for interoceptive input to get a feeling or fear or pleasure. The feeling may be embellished by a fast heartbeat but that seems to me to be a subsidiary and rather irrelevant fact.

    By and large interoception brings in information about position or movement within the body that is unlikely to be of any great emotional impact unless some other more specific signals have been interpreted as indicating a particular scenario.
     
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  13. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    My argument was that such statements can be said about just about anything, so I don't think that they are of much use in figuring out how we experience emotions.
    Our brain doesn't need the input of an actual bicycle to see one. Our dreams show that just about anything of our experience doesn't require sensory input to be experienced. There's no difference between a bicycle and an emotion in that regard. Also: in our dreams, we can experience strong emotions without anything of importance going on with regards to our survival. I don't think that is the clue.

    I suppose that all sorts of factors increase or decrease the likelihood of us experiencing an emotion and that the state of other parts of our body (such as heart rate, sweating etc.) influence how easily the brain will make the computation that we experience as an emotion.

    Don't know if this is possible medically, but if you were to increase the heart rate or breathing rate of a person, then I think it's much more likely that the person will experience fear or excitement mentally. I think it's even possible that some persons will experience fear/excitement without the sensory input that usually triggers such emotions and that bodily sensations can be sufficient to elicit an emotion. That doesn't mean it's a requirement to experience such emotions, but it could play an important role. I thought that this was, wat Damasio's theory is all about. I think he understands, that in the end, it's the brain that makes the calculation/connectivity that creates emotion.
     
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  14. voner

    voner Established Member (Voting Rights)

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    @Jonathan Edwards, I would like to know your interpretation of what’s going on in phantom limb pain in amputees and the use of mirror therapy to fool the brain into interpreting the non-painful movement of their other limb as the actual movement of the phantom limb and thus achieving pain reduction or elimination. What’s going on in the brain in this case?
     
  15. Barry

    Barry Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Quite so. Our brains do not have some magical direct connection to the outside world; I see it as interacting with a model we somehow construct of the world. "Colour" is not colour anyway in the real world, just varying electromagnetic frequencies. The notion of colour seems part of the way our brains abstract away nasty real world details for us, and allows us to interact with our own comfortable model of what we think of as "reality". And in the same way that our brains can provide us with highly abstracted interpretations of external inputs, I suspect it also can do something similar with internal stimuli, such that fear could be an aggregation of all sorts of things the brain feeds into its mix, in order to generate internally its "fear" signal.
     
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  16. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I am not convinced and don't really see why this is likely. If I go on an exercise bike and get a tachycardia and short of breath I am no more likely to feel any emotions as far as I am aware. I thin I would be more likely not to have a sudden emotional response to some other stimulus because i would be so distracted. Equally if I get unpleasantly out of breath after ski-ing off piste I sometimes get quite frightened by the sensation, but that is purely because I worry I might not be able to get enough air.

    I think it may well be true that when we realise we are panicking we get an additional layer of fear because we know that panicking must mean things are out of control. But these neuropsychologists seem to be confusing this extra layer with the basic mechanism of feeling fear.

    I have to say that I have read a couple of Damasio's books at least twice trying to figure out exactly what he is trying to say. A lot of the time he seems to assume that the meaning of broad gestural statements will be clear to the reader but I am never quite sure exactly what he is trying to explain. However, the invocation of primitive interoceptive signals needs some sort of motivation and he likes to give the impression that his theory is somehow radically new. The only interpretation I can work out is that he thinks that the senses of emotion ARE carried over interoceptive senses and that somehow explains why they feel the way they do, or feel anything at all. I cannot find any content in that.

    Another thing that has bugged me is that he writes a book about 'Descartes's error and then never tells us what the error is or why it is an error. Everyone in neuroscience thinks it is fashionable to dig at Descartes but mostly because they never actually read what Descartes said.
     
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  17. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I don't think I have any particular take on that. Sorry.
     
  18. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I read a book some years ago called Phantoms in the Brain (by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee) that discussed phantom limbs and many other neurological issues.

    It was published in 1999 so some info may be out of date by now. With my bad memory I have forgotten most of the book but I found it quite interesting at the time.

    https://www.powells.com/book/-9780688172176
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
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  19. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It's probably not out of date. I say this because Ramachandran is everywhere in science articles on the subject. The man has been rehashing his understanding of phantom limb for the past 25 years. \you can barely pick up a science magazine without seeing another brief retelling.

    I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about it. It's like a self created industry on a single idea. How does he manage at cocktail parties? They must have heard of everything he's ever had to say by now.
     
  20. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Since Jonathan didn't have a go, I will try.

    Phantom limb phenomena relates to the fact that the mind (as a result of development of a young organism) builds up a model of the limb and this is used as a comparative basis for proprioception (including effort perception) in general. This is one of the proposed functions of the supplementary motor area (and related areas) for example. Effort perception of movement is primarily based on the signals in the brain and not peripheral signals, though peripheral signals in turn can still feed back into that model over time so the model remains somewhat accurate as our bodies change.

    When a limb is severed, the nerves are severed, but the model in the brain remains and as the ends of the nerves try to regenerate, they can become sensitive to signals that they aren't supposed to be sensitive to, hence pain being a problem in some cases.

    Our sense of position can also be modified with visual input, which is why the mirror can help, though I speculate that the benefits are overstated.
     
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