Monday, October 19, 2009

The Mouse Trap migrates to a new host

The Mouse Trap blog will henceforth move to self-hosted wordpress and can be accessed at the-mouse-trap.com . Please note the change in domain name . The existing RSS feed subscribers should not need to do anything and should be able to access the feed of the new blog automatically without unsubscribing and resubscribing...so please, please do not unsubscribe. Give me a few days to migrate everything properly.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

BAD09: the Psychology of trading carbon emissions and why it is misguided.

It is blog action day and the topic is climate change. today I want to focus on why carbon emissions trading is not the right approach. This is a small post inspired by something I read/watched recently, but cant place the source right now.

The argument goes like this. There is a moral domain of deliberation and reasoning and then there is an economical. Both place different constraints on thinking and lead to different results. while the moral deliberation would be guided by feelings of guilt and responsibility; the economical would be guided by self-interest and 'greatest good for greatest people' utilitarian concerns. All hell breaks loose if we mix the two domains.

Climate change is a moral and not an economic problem facing us. It is psychologically hard (due to affective forecasting) to envision what would be best for our future selves, so how hard it is to envision and care for what might be apparent only after a few generations. If we purely go by the well-meaning economic approach of carbon emissions trading, we'll perhaps ease the guilt/discomfort that individuals and nations feel today on wasteful and needless emissions. If rationalized from an economic perspective, the emission trading may actually backfire. It is akin to levying minor fines on littering; rich people then become prone to littering thinking they can get away easily by paying the fines: instead of a punishment , the small fine becomes a convenience fees to be paid for not bothering to look up proper waste disposal mechanism.

All of the above is based on solid psychological studies and concepts and hopefully would enlighten those who are hell bent on thinking that carbon emission trading is a step in the right direction.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dont Worry, Be Happy

Today launches a new web portal called happier.com, that purports to be a personal trainer for your happiness. I have been beta-testing the site for some time (full disclosure : I got a free 30 day account to beta test it) and though I haven't really tested it exhaustively , the site looks promising. you can choose what goals you set for yourself (like finding and using your signature strengths in daily life) and there are exercises, journals, tests and questionnaire to keep track of your progress. I had taken the VIA signature strength test earlier too( its freely available elsewhere too) and the results were more or less the same. Seems the strengths do not change much. My top strength is courage and valor and I never knew how to usefully apply that in daily life. At hapier.com there are suggestions on how to use every strength in daily life. what I didn't like was the speed of videos and the length of videos (they are very short length videos).

Below the fold is press information about the happier.com release and more information can be gleaned from here:

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Entrepreneurial rollercoaster- am happy, have vision; am sad, will focus on task

ResearchBlogging.org
There is a recent article by foo et al, that shows , using Experience Sampling method, that entrepreneurs, when in a negative mood (not necessarily sad, but including anger, irritability etc...sorry for misleading headline:-) are more likely to be focusing on the task at hand; while those same entrepreneurs , when they were in a happy or positive mood would be more likely to be spending efforts on tasks that are more future directed. They interpret their finding in terms of the affect-as-information theory, whereby a positive affect signals that everything is hunky-dory in the present and one can take chances and focus on the future instead; while a negative affect is an indication that things are not going well and one needs to focus on the tasks at hand.  To quote:

Our findings suggest that affect serves as a source of information for entrepreneurs. As argued in the affect-as-information theory, negative affect signals that things are not going well in the venture and may lead entrepreneurs to expend more effort on venture tasks requiring immediate attention. An unexpected finding was that negative affect also increased venture efforts beyond what is immediately required. Because negative affect signals that something is wrong in the venture situation, it could lead entrepreneurs to engage in precautionary behaviors to prevent future damage to the venture.

Positive affect signals that things are going well in the venture, and, using affect-as-information theory, one might expect the entrepreneur to reduce effort because all is well at the moment. In the present study of entrepreneurs, we argued that positive affect should increase venture efforts. It is precisely because positive affect signals that things are going well at the moment that the entrepreneur’s focus can shift to the future, and such focus motivates the entrepreneur to work harder because it promotes behaviors to achieve desired future outcomes (Karniol & Ross 1996). This argument was supported, because our findings showed that future temporal focus mediated the link between positive affect and venture efforts beyond what is immediately required (next-day lagged outcome). Although not hypothesized, positive affect was also found to increase effort on tasks immediately required, and a future temporal focus also mediated the link between positive affect and venture tasks immediately required (with a next-day lag). Striving toward desired future states involves bridging the present and the future (Karniol & Ross, 1996). When entrepreneurs focus on the future, they may not neglect the present, as knowledge of the present may be required to determine how one can reach the desired outcome. To become successful in their venture pursuits, entrepreneurs should be able to integrate the present and future time horizons (Bird & West, 1997). They must be able to make sense of the here and now and the what will be and establish a coherent link between them.

I , would , of course , not restrict myself to what the authors conclude but , as is my ilk, would like to extend the findings and relate to other stuff. For example, I have written earlier about the Promotion and Prevention focus and how promotion focus is related to happiness/mania; while preventive focus may be more related to sadness/depression. Although, not mutually exclusive, a new hypothesis could be that the affect was due to promotion and preventive focus, which itself was due to either the environment was risky or risk-free. The same risky or risk-free environment which led to the negative or positive mood also lead to focusing on the here-and-now or on the future. I'm also tempted to correlate this with some other articles I came across recently-namely one that found that future orientation leads to creativity, while if there is not enough psychological distance we tend to be not -so creative; Could it also be that that is why entrepreneurs long-term strategies and visions are creative; while their short term tactics and day to day handling of affairs is mundane; while we are on the subject of creativity and vagueness (either in distance or space or time or abstractness) another study found that being primed about or thinking about Love leads to creativity while being primed with Lust leads to better analytical ability; is analytical ability much different from focusing on here-and-now; while creativity more future oriented? All these have important implications on how you can use your affect to either focus on hand in an analytical manner or solve problems in future creatively and with vision. As a last afterthought, is that why Manics, who are extremely happy, have such grand visions of future and are so future directed and entrepreneurial in spirit?
Foo MD, Uy MA, & Baron RA (2009). How do feelings influence effort? An empirical study of entrepreneurs' affect and venture effort. The Journal of applied psychology, 94 (4), 1086-94 PMID: 19594247

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Living on the edge of chaos; implications for autism and psychosis

SMI32-stained pyramidal neurons in cerebral co...Image via Wikipedia
I serendipitously came cross this article today about how our brains are self-organized criticality or systems living on the edge of chaos. There are many interesting ideas and gold nuggets in that article, and I'll briefly quote from it.

In reality, your brain operates on the edge of chaos. Though much of the time it runs in an orderly and stable way, every now and again it suddenly and unpredictably lurches into a blizzard of noise.

Neuroscientists have long suspected as much. Only recently, however, have they come up with proof that brains work this way. Now they are trying to work out why. Some believe that near-chaotic states may be crucial to memory, and could explain why some people are smarter than others.

In technical terms, systems on the edge of chaos are said to be in a state of "self-organised criticality". These systems are right on the boundary between stable, orderly behaviour - such as a swinging pendulum - and the unpredictable world of chaos, as exemplified by turbulence.

The quintessential example of self-organised criticality is a growing sand pile. As grains build up, the pile grows in a predictable way until, suddenly and without warning, it hits a critical point and collapses. These "sand avalanches" occur spontaneously and are almost impossible to predict, so the system is said to be both critical and self-organising. Earthquakes, avalanches and wildfires are also thought to behave like this, with periods of stability followed by catastrophic periods of instability that rearrange the system into a new, temporarily stable state.

Self-organised criticality has another defining feature: even though individual sand avalanches are impossible to predict, their overall distribution is regular. The avalanches are "scale invariant", which means that avalanches of all possible sizes occur. They also follow a "power law" distribution, which means bigger avalanches happen less often than smaller avalanches, according to a strict mathematical ratio. Earthquakes offer the best real-world example. Quakes of magnitude 5.0 on the Richter scale happen 10 times as often as quakes of magnitude 6.0, and 100 times as often as quakes of magnitude 7.0.

These are purely physical systems, but the brain has much in common with them. Networks of brain cells alternate between periods of calm and periods of instability - "avalanches" of electrical activity that cascade through the neurons. Like real avalanches, exactly how these cascades occur and the resulting state of the brain are unpredictable.

Two of the power laws that are found in human brains relate to the phase shift and phase lock periods of EEG/fMRI or human brain systems etc. As per this PLOS comp biology paper:

Self-organized criticality is an attractive model for human brain dynamics, but there has been little direct evidence for its existence in large-scale systems measured by neuroimaging. In general, critical systems are associated with fractal or power law scaling, long-range correlations in space and time, and rapid reconfiguration in response to external inputs. Here, we consider two measures of phase synchronization: the phase-lock interval, or duration of coupling between a pair of (neurophysiological) processes, and the lability of global synchronization of a (brain functional) network. Using computational simulations of two mechanistically distinct systems displaying complex dynamics, the Ising model and the Kuramoto model, we show that both synchronization metrics have power law probability distributions specifically when these systems are in a critical state. We then demonstrate power law scaling of both pairwise and global synchronization metrics in functional MRI and magnetoencephalographic data recorded from normal volunteers under resting conditions. These results strongly suggest that human brain functional systems exist in an endogenous state of dynamical criticality, characterized by a greater than random probability of both prolonged periods of phase-locking and occurrence of large rapid changes in the state of global synchronization, analogous to the neuronal “avalanches” previously described in cellular systems. Moreover, evidence for critical dynamics was identified consistently in neurophysiological systems operating at frequency intervals ranging from 0.05–0.11 to 62.5–125 Hz, confirming that criticality is a property of human brain functional network organization at all frequency intervals in the brain's physiological bandwidth.

Further, as per research by Thatcher et al, the EEG phase shift is larger in people with high IQ, while phase lock is smaller in the people with high IQ.

Phase shift duration (40–90 ms) was positively related to intelligence (P < .00001) and the phase lock duration (100–800 ms) was negatively related to intelligence (P < .00001). Phase reset in short interelectrode distances (6 cm) was more highly correlated to I.Q. (P < .0001) than in long distances (> 12 cm).

Further, in this paper , thatcher eta look at autistics and conclude that the people with autism show some deficits in phase shift and phase lock.

Results: In both short (6 cm) and long (21 – 24 cm) inter-electrode distances phase shift duration in ASD subjects was significantly shorter in all frequency bands but especially in the alpha-1 frequency band (8 – 10 Hz) (P < .0001). Phase lock duration was significantly longer in the alpha-2 frequencyband (10 – 12 Hz) in ASD subjects (P < .0001). An anatomical gradient was present with the occipitalparietal regions the most significant.
Conclusions: The findings in this study support the hypothesis that neural resource recruitment occurs in the lower frequency bands and especially the alpha-1 frequency band while neural resource allocation occurs in the alpha-2 frequency band. The results are consistent with a general GABA inhibitory neurotransmitter deficiency resulting in reduced number and/or strength of thalamo-cortical connections in autistic subjects 

It is interesting that in the original new scientist article , thatcher speculates that the pattern in schizophrenia may be reverse of what is seen in autism (exactly my thoughts, though the confounding of low IQ with autism may explain his autism results to an extent):

He found that the length of time the children's brains spent in both the stable phase-locked states and the unstable phase-shifting states correlated with their IQ scores. For example, phase shifts typically last 55 milliseconds, but an additional 1 millisecond seemed to add as many as 20 points to the child's IQ. A shorter time in the stable phase-locked state also corresponded with greater intelligence - with a difference of 1 millisecond adding 4.6 IQ points to a child's score (NeuroImage, vol 42, p 1639). Thatcher says this is because a longer phase shift allows the brain to recruit many more neurons for the problem at hand. "It's like casting a net and capturing as many neurons as possible at any one time," he says. The result is a greater overall processing power that contributes to higher intelligence. Hovering on the edge of chaos provides brains with their amazing capacity to process information and rapidly adapt to our ever-changing environment, but what happens if we stray either side of the boundary? The most obvious assumption would be that all of us are a short step away from mental illness. Meyer-Lindenberg suggests that schizophrenia may be caused by parts of the brain straying away from the critical point. However, for now that is purely speculative. Thatcher, meanwhile, has found that certain regions in the brains of people with autism spend less time than average in the unstable, phase-shifting states. These abnormalities reduce the capacity to process information and, suggestively, are found only in the regions associated with social behaviour. "These regions have shifted from chaos to more stable activity," he says. The work might also help us understand epilepsy better: in an epileptic fit, the brain has a tendency to suddenly fire synchronously, and deviation from the critical point could explain this. "They say it's a fine line between genius and madness," says Liley. "Maybe we're finally beginning to understand the wisdom of this statement."
Thus, it seems Autism and Psychosis are just two ways in which self-organized criticality can cease to do what it was designed to do- live on the edge , without falling on either side of order or chaos.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bozo Sapiens: a book review

Bozo Sapiens :why to err is human, is a book that tries to document the frailties of our decision making process and the underlying psychological mechanisms behind them.

Written with a lay audience in mind,it is written in an easy to read manner and is fun to read. As per the site, it is in the tradition of books like Blink and Stumbling on happiness and plans to cater to the same market segment of people who are interested in psychology and how it affects day-to-day lives. while most of the psychology studies were already familiar to me, they would be novel for a lay audience and would definitely interest and entertain and also inform and guide. I,myself, cam across a few new and worthwhile studies and feel enriched having been made aware of them. As is prone to writing for a popular audience, the Kaplans often gloss over or do not highlight all the subtleties involved, but it must go to their credit that they are able to explain the studies lucidly and clearly,without significantly diluting on the scientese involved. the only peeve I have is that the sections and studies covered in them somehow felt unconnected and not flowing in a smooth manner from one to the other.

The organization of the chapters is decent- one chapter focusing on perceptual errors, another on action-based errors while yet another on errors based on group mentality. The section on perception seemed to me better and the section on groups perhaps the weakest. Despite its title it is not a bleak view of humanity and knowing our heuristics, biases and design features/bugs will only help us act better. It is an easy read and perhaps would be savored by those who do have a general interest in psychology; for the experts there are some nuggets spread here-and-there and that may make it worthwhile skimming through the book.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book for review.

PS: would my readers like to see more book reviews featured on the mouse trap ? some books that I would love to review and highlight include books by Nettle : happiness, personality; gazzaniga: mind's past riddley: genome, nature via nurture etc etc. Do let me kno wvia commnets/ skribit suggestions using left sidebar.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

If it’s abstract you gel in, if it’s concrete you stand out..Or Why I compare myself to a man but not to men.

ResearchBlogging.org

Readers of this blog will be familiar with research by Bargh et al that showed that priming with stereotypes led to assimilation of those traits by the primed subjects. To recall, when asked to wait, those primed with rudeness interrupted the experimenter more than those primed with patience/nicety primes. Also those primed with elderly stereotype walked more slowly, away from the experimenter after the end of the alleged experiment, than those in neutral condition. These are all very well known findings and more so as they have been included in numerous pop-sci books.

Sceepar et al provide a very sober qualification for the above findings, contrasting how stereotype traits priming (abstract concept priming) do indeed lead to assimilation of stereotype in behavior/self-schema; but exposing to concrete, extreme exemplars belonging to stereotyped category has an opposite and paradoxical effect of leading to social comparison with the exemplar and thus leading to contrast behavior or behavior where the subject tries to distance oneself from the stereotype. Thus, if primed with the stereotype of professors, and thus the trait intelligence, and then subjected to an intelligence/knowledge test, then the subjects would perform better than baseline condition; but if primed with Einstein (a concrete exemplar of professor/intelligence), then one may lead to compare with Einstein, deduce that one is not so great, but indeed stupid or a bozo in comparison, and thus perform badly in the subsequent test based on this self-comparison. This is what they theorized and this is what they found.

In the second study they reused the Bargh paradigm of priming with elderly stereotype and replicated the results; the twist they added was adding a condition in which after priming with the elderly stereotype, an elderly exemplar was presented; this condition led to comparison and thus to contrast behavior whereby the subjects walked faster after the experimental manipulation in this exemplar condition.

Their third study was essentially a study to nail down the mechanism (social comparison) behind the contrast behavior observed. After priming with Einstein and professor in two separate conditions, the subjects were exposed to a lexical task, that was designed to discover if concepts like intelligence , stupidity had been primed and if so , was any of them also bound to the self schema. They found that indeed in the Einstein condition the concept of stupidity was bound to the concept of self, thus only exemplars, like Claudia Schiffer or Einstein led to social comparison, but not abstract notions like supermodels or professors. They end with an advice to Mick Jagger which has to be read in original to be savored.

We close with perhaps one of the more trivial of these implications. This concerns advice we might offer celebrities such as Mick Jagger and other stars known for their predilection for supermodels. If these people share the popular stereotype of supermodels found among our participants, they would be wise to restrict themselves to a single such partner (i.e., an exemplar) on intellectual as well as moral grounds.
I now also post some snippets form the excellent article, freely available on the web, which you should read in its entirety.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Common mechanisms for learning (past), navigation(present) and dreams (future?)

Sorry for the brief(?) hiatus. I have left my day job to start a venture and so am a bit preoccupied. Hopefully, the mouse trap should benefit from the new arrangements.
Today I would like to highlight a recent study from MIT that once again highlighted the fact that the same brain mechanisms are used for envisaging the future as are used for reminiscing about the past.  The study was performed on rats and found that the rats sort of replayed their day-time navigational memories while they were dreaming. This in itself is not a new news and has been known for a long time; what they found additionally is that the rats also , sort of replayed the navigational memories/ alternatives in their head at a faster rate, to sort of think and plan ahead. This use of replaying the traces to think ahead to me is very important and cements the role of default netwrok in remebering the poast and envisaging the future.

When a rat moves through a maze, certain neurons called "place cells," which respond to the animal's physical environment, fire in patterns and sequences unique to different locations. By looking at the patterns of firing cells, researchers can tell which part of the maze the animal is running.

While the rat is awake but standing still in the maze, its neurons fire in the same pattern of activity that occurred while it was running. The mental replay of sequences of the animals' experience occurs in both forward and reverse time order.

"This may be the rat equivalent of 'thinking,'" Wilson said. "This thinking process looks very much like the reactivation of memory that we see during non-REM dream states, consisting of bursts of time-compressed memory sequences lasting a fraction of a second.

"So, thinking and dreaming may share the same memory reactivation mechanisms," he said.
"This study brings together concepts related to thought, memory and dreams that all potentially arise from a unified mechanism rooted in the hippocampus," said co-author Fabian Kloosterman, senior postdoctoral associate.

The team's results show that long experiences, which in reality could have taken tens of seconds or minutes, are replayed in only a fraction of a second. To do this, the brain links together smaller pieces to construct the memory of the long experience.

The researchers speculated that this strategy could help different areas of the brain share information - and deal with multiple memories that may share content - in a flexible and efficient way. "These results suggest that extended replay is composed of chains of shorter subsequences, which may reflect a strategy for the storage and flexible expression of memories of prolonged experience," Wilson said.

To me this seals the fate of hippocampus as not just necessary for formation of new memories, but also for novel future-oriented thoughts and imaginations.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Top 10 Psychology blogs for the Curious Minds

I feel honored to have been asked by blogs.com to compile a list of top 10 psychology blogs for the curious minds. Any list , such as this, is necessarily subjective and being limited in nature, cannot do justice to all the other psychology blogs that I equally love and follow on a regular basis or other interesting blogs, which I am perhaps not aware of. 

The top 10 blogs are presented in an alphabetical order and reflect those that I find most interesting, insightful or fun to read.  Hopefully the mouse trap community would concur and benefit from following these blogs as well. Do check out the list and by the way of comments to this post,  add some other blogs that you think are equally interesting and catering to the curious amongst us.

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BlogCampPune2: A thank you note!

I attended the BlogCampPune2 last Saturday and it was a fun event - bringing diverse people , all driven by the passion of blogging, in the same room and providing them an opportunity to get to know each other well.

Special thanks go to the unorganizers, Tarun, Bhavya et al. for unorganizing it and to all others who showed up at the event and participated. It was my first blogcmap/tweetup/ unconference/ any offline activity and I met many of my online friends in real life, for the first time.

I was already looking forward to meeting Navin Kabra, Amit Paranjape,Meeta Kabra, Dhananjaye Nene, Sneha Gore, Vishal Gangawane, Tarun Chandel and many others and was gratified when that happened; but the icing on the cake was to find other unexpected contacts like Mahendra Om  also present there, or making new and interesting contacts like Annkur of Only Gizmos.

Some of the sessions were really interesting- Annkur with his 'Mistakes were made (but not by me) (but by me)' presentation ; or Navin with his 'What blogs can learn from newspapers' presentation provided some good food for thought and something to take home with you and apply to your blogging later.The informal talk by Meeta and how her dependence on third-party marketing backfired provided new insights. Thakkars' impromptu session stressed the importance of humor and fun and how presentation matters.  The only regret form the blogcamp was the fact that due to some last minute rescheduling, I and Dhananjaye had to take sessions at the same time and we ended up missing each others presentations.  I had already gone through Dhanajaye's presentation , which he had loaded prior to the event on his site, and was really looking forward to his talk.

To those of you who missed the event, search for #blogcamppune on twiiter or go to this FriendFeed page to get a sense of real-time excitement and reprting.  I am sure , the post-blogcamp blog posts and tweets and press covergae would be aggregated at some place and I'll link to it soon here.My own persentation can be found here

Thanks again to all who were there!


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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Best of Tweets: 24-06-09

OligodendrocyteImage via Wikipedia
Not much activity last week, yet:
  1. Aripiprazole, Dopamine, and Well-Being - Science or Selling Point? http://ff.im/-44CUt
  2. The origins of Language http://ff.im/-44HnN
  3. Beauty: symmetry versus averageness http://ff.im/-44QNO
  4. Nerve Cells and Glial Cells: Redefining the Foundation of Intelligence http://ff.im/-4h2Wc
  5. On Anonyminity http://ff.im/-4hsav
  6. The Dearth of Artificial Intelligence http://ff.im/-4hGAD
  7. pls RT/Buy: Just published my novel on Lulu http://bit.ly/ZN9uWtw   
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Sculptor and the Sandman: A novel as much about psychosis as about the human condition

Last night I somehow got inspired, brushed my manuscript that was written about 6 yrs earlier, and in a span of just 4-5 hrs was able to create a sell able paperback book out of it, all thanks to new publishing tools like the lulu.com. Of course, the manuscript, had been read/ re-read, revised and edited by me, all these years, so I'm sure the quality of the product would be great.

Some of you may be aware that I write prose and poetry and have a poetry focussed blog called The Fools Quest. Perhaps, the right place to promote my novel, The Sculptor and the Sandman, would be that blog, instead of the mouse trap; but then again, that novel is as much a piece of fiction, as it is a psychological treatise- my view of what psychosis is, how it manifests and what some of the triggers may be. The tale is grounded in my undersantding of the psychotic condition and I am sure that my readers with exclusive interest in the psychologcial aspects would still find reading that novel worthwhile. Of course, I know that many of your are multi-dimensional, and value arts, as much as science, and reading the novel would be an artistic pleasure in itself- even when not being bogged down by the psychological aspects and the truth or falsity of my depiction of the psychotic condition - the novel can be enjoyed in its own right . Reading it may also help you connect with me on a different level- exposing aspects of myself that were never apparent while reading the mouse trap.

As always I would love feedback, reviews etc and would sincerely request that you give the novel a try. The paperback edition is priced at $10.80 and a downloadable version is priced at $2.50; I am sure it would prove value for money and you will end up buying further copies for your friends and recommending it to others. It is at present just available at lulu.com , but soon will be available at all other major stores like amazon.com.

You can read an excerpt from the novel at the lulu.com site and here is the blurb from the back cover:
The sculptor and the sandman is a fable set in the India of the twenty first century. A tale of passion, obsession, madness and rebellion, the story revolves around how the protagonists move in and out of madness, competing as well as caring for each other, and how their life becomes inextricably twined with that of the narrator, a coconut water vendor.
A tale in which episodes of frank psychosis seem more understandable and reasonable than the unbearable normality of everyday life, the tale is a grim reminder of how misunderstandings and malice work together to weave the different strands of our life together and how silver linings are present in the darkest of clouds hovering over the horizon.
Seen from another perspective, the tale documents different approaches to find meaning and value in this modern world, a world devoid of absolutes. One approach may seem more absurd and futile than the other, but perhaps it is not so much about the 'right' value system or frame of meaning, as it is about the need for 'a' value system or a frame of meaning- to each his own cross.

Please, Please, Please do read the novel (for that you'l need to buy it!), share it with others( if you indeed like it) , recommend/review it on your blogs and do send me comments, either using this page, the lulu reviews page etc or by directly sending your comments to me at sandygautam@yahoo.com, even if the comments are not positive or encouraging. Any feedback is much better than no feedback. Depending on the feedback, I have the sequel to the sculptor and sandman already in draft stage but I need some reassurance as to whether the efforts are worthwhile and whether  there is a need and appreciation for this type of writing.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Best of Tweets: 17-06-09

Haiku to a Summer LeafImage by Springsun via Flickr
Here goes: 
  1. fear elicits herding & social proof/desire the need for distinctiveness/oh! the tyranny of persuasion heuristics http://bit.ly/ZTQis #scaiku
  2. good acts were constrained/ bad acts were free/ the paradox of initial moral intuition http://bit.ly/13ky8o #scaiku #haiku #morality
  3. Edge: HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK? By Lera Boroditsky http://ff.im/-3ZKxC
  4. A Better Mood Broadens Your Field Of Vision http://ff.im/-3QAq4
  5. The Top 10 Existential Movies of All Time http://ff.im/-3Jyj7
  6. lifeless and mechanical /or conscious and impotent/ a zombie or a madman? http://bit.ly/187qqT #haiku #scaiku #consciousness
  7. hyper-systematizing, greater attention to details and savantism RT @anibalmastobiza: Talent in autism: http://bit.ly/xjIb7
  8. @mocost re: svante paabo, the article is decent; may be look for emergent linguistic behavior in mice housed together? http://bit.ly/19CEi3      
  9. must read:Lehrer on 'big picture' science journalism and the 'narrow picture' but more demanding actual scientific work http://bit.ly/fDD1z
  10. Joshua Knobe's new paper on how moral and causal reasoning are shaped by imperatives of counterfactual thinking http://bit.ly/1vE9y  
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

What it is like to be a zombie?

I am sure many of you are already familiar with Nagel's perennial question 'what it is like to be a bat?'  (see this one with some added commentary too). Today I propose to ask a slightly different question 'what it is like to be a zombie'? That may seem absurd at the outset, as in many people's mind Zombies are synonymous with no consciousness. I beg to differ. As I have already indicated in my last post on major conscious and unconscious processes in the brain, there is an easy problem of A-consciousness and there is a hard problem of P-consciousness. I have already tried to breakup A-consciousness in its parts and  I similarly think that P-consciousness is much more that qualia (qualia I envisage as more grounded in sensory or perceptive systems). So given the fact that most zombies are behaviorurally indistinguishable from normal humans, and given the fact that most people who argue for zombie models of humans (that 'there is no one home to watch/direct the picture') do still endow the zombie and themselves with the A-consciousness aspects - they do not deny that a representation is made and is consciously available for processing (the theater of consciousness) , it is reasonable to speculate that although lacking full P-consciousness, it would still be something like to feel like a zombie. Let me draw an analogy, in some dissociative disorders, one starts seeing the world as unreal (derealization)  and the self as unreal (depersonalization) ; yet even though one believes oneself to be unreal there is still something it is like to exist in that 'unreal' state.

Similarly, though one may model oneself and others as zombies, still it would be something like it is to be in a state that thinks and believes that one is a zombie and also acts accordingly. I am making a leap here. I am assuming that awareness or modeling of ones A-conscious experiences leads to or affects one's phenomenal consciousness. Thus, in my view , someone who models oneself and others as a zombie, would have a different sort of P-consciousness or what it feels-to-be-like, than a person who models oneself and others as sentient agents  and his P-cosnsciousness would be of a different nature.

Now consider the problem we face when confronted with a world which is deterministic and chaotic at the same time, and which is inhabited by agents which seem to be unpredicatable and constrained at the same time. I have already indicated elsewhere, that people may form tow types of model- one is a statistical/ deterministic model that they may apply to the world; another is a probabilisitic/agentic model that they may apply to the self (as well as other sentient beings).  If one keeps these domains of folk-physics and folk-psychology separate, all is hunky dory; all hell breaks lose (pun intended; zombies are correlated with dead apocalypse scenarios in popular culture) when one applies a deterministic  model (that fits the world) to the self/others. Similarly all hell breaks loose, when one applies an agentic/indetrminsitc model (that fits the sefl/others) to the world.

For today, we will focus on the problem of modeling self, and leave the problem of modeling world for a later day. A self may act differently in many similar/same situations. If it acts the same on each occasion, given the same situation; we can easily say that the situation causes the action. This poses no problem for the zombie (I will refer to a zombie as a person whose self/other conceptualization is as that of oneself/others as machines), as one has a deterministic rule that defines the self- (given situation A-> action B), and thus one can keep one's model of self as-a-deterministic-being consistent. On the other hand, if the situation A sometimes leads to action B, but at other times to action C, then one has to explain the variance in the behavioral output. Consider first the problem of explaining the variance between-subjects. Given the same situation A, subject Z acts in way B while the subject Y acts in way C.   There is considerable variance. If one assumes all selves as created equal, then all should have behaved similarly. Either one has to grant an extraordinariness and uniqueness to all selves, or if one has a statistical  and ordinary nature of human beings, one has to grant that the subject given the same situation, should have behaved identically. But we all see that there is considerable variance.  This variance is individualistc and one may try to explain this between-subjects variance using subject's personal history (prior conditioning: a behavioristic model; or repressed emotional experiences/memories: psychoanalytical theory), one may also look at subject's common ancestral history and use that to explain behavior (genetic differences: evolutionary biology; cultural differences : anthropology ) or one may even look at his holistic experiences and use that individualistic experiential history as a basis for explaining behavior ( consider two identical twins that because of their different sampling of environment may end up as differently conditioned etc). Phew that covers all the major psychological theories that I could remember.

Now lets focus on the problem of explaining within-subjects variance ; given the fact that the Situation is the same (situation A)  and the subject is the same (subject Z), why does the same subject react differently to the same situation (acts in ways B and C). This is a relatively hard problem. One could deny the problem itself and claim that no situation is identical, but hey we are doing armchair philosophy right now, and we have already agreed to the premise of existence of a same situation A when we discussed between-subjects variance above, so it doesn't hurt to concede that the situation A can be same for subject Z, but he may still react differently in ways B and C. None of the above psychological approaches, if applied in a strict, causal deterministic sense can explain the same subject Z reacting differently to situation A , as the subject Z's personal history (conditioning, repressed memories) or ancestral history (genes, cultural influences) or even previous experiences and choices remain the same and thus should ideally have led to the same behavior. I am making an assumption here that situation A is repeated twice or more in succession (closely in time) so that one cannot counter and say that conditioning (to take an example) has changed in meanwhile due to situation A itself and thus, as the subject Z (at time t=1) has changed to an extent (by delta effect of situation A on the 'earlier' subject Z at time t=0) , so he may react differently at tome t=1 from how he reacted at time t=0.   What we are really doing is doing away with a term of the equation; we are saying subject Z is not constant (it  keep changing- self as constantly changing- a Buddhist philosophical premise and also favored by many in psychology) , but in the spirit of Camus's Absurdity argument in Myth of Sisyphus, I am not satisfied with doing away one of the variables of the equation itself, so let us see, where this model of self-as-a-deterministic-being leads us to. Now that subject Z remains the same for two iterations of situation A, how can one explain the variance that results in action B at one time and action C at the other. One can again try to dissolve the equation by claiming that there is no unified self in space (earlier argument was that there is no unified self in time- it is a constantly changing in time self) - that is we are not a single self , but made up of many different selves- some conscious, some unconscious etc. Different selves may compete with each other and whoever wins at the moment, directs the show. Again assuming different selves cohabiting the same person doesn't really feel what-it-is like to-be-oneself , and apart from some multiple-personality disorder (DID) this has not been frequently reported; but more importantly . Granting multiple selves to subject Z  again vanishes one of the terms of the equation, and I am not interested, I want to stay and see where my inquiry takes me to.

If the situation is same, the subject is same and a single one, than what explains the within-subject variance? One has to grant unpredictability to a self that was assumed to be deterministic to begin with. One can now take two routes, either resort to the magical mumbo-jumbo of quantum world and indeterminacy and uncertainty; or  stay in the deterministic world but look at complex systems/ chaos theory etc to explain the apparent indeterminacy.  I believe a zombie will prefer the second route and model the self as a complex-system/chaotic self. One could say that the self/ others are still completely determined, but due to an initial 'butterfly flapping wings effect' the self seems or appears to be unpredictable and will continue to remain unpredicatble because of that 'original sin'. The original sin may be how the infant took the first breath, whether he cried or laughed when born; what the time of conception was etc etc. Whatever may be the initial condition that escaped measuring, it leads to an unperdicatble self, a chaotic self that one cannot measure in the present and thus cannot predict in the long term- a self that is as fickle and as perdicatble as the waether.

There are important implications to seeing / modeling the self as a chaotic system. That leads to a diminished sense of agency / responsibility as perhaps there is not much one can do to correct the original sin and thus modify/ change ones long term behavior. This diminished p-consciousness of agency and the consequent differential experiences of sensations/ perceptions should also lead to diminished qualia or what-it-feels-to be-like feeling.  Maybe the zombies do feel really like zombies- mechanical and chaotic- going along the life stream in a mechanical , predetermined manner- seeing all and understanding all, even acting and reacting, but feeling impotent and lifeless, perhaps just fulfilling a role which has been scripted by someone else (the initial butterfly flapping its wings or the original sin).

This is a good point to stop, but I would like to thank Melbren, a reader of this blog, who commented on my last post and asked me if I would re-define , give a new name to Autism spectrum disorders. Thta made me think and somehow led to this post. But first his comment:

Very cool post. And I love your blog. I am trying to think about this particular post in terms of your psychotic spectrum--most specifically as it relates to autism. But I am impeded by an overwhelming feeling that if we have a new spectrum--we'll need new terms. The term "autism" has outgrown its usefulness, don't you think?
For one thing--if we are to use the framework of a psychosis spectrum--I think there will be a lot of people currently diagnosed with autism who are, in fact, organically more biased toward the opposite end of the spectrum. However, such individuals may still have "stereotypies" that we have come to associate with the term "autism."
That being said--if you were appointed "word czar of the day," and, as such, had the authority to scrap all of our conventional terminology and come up with "new and improved" terms that are more in alignment with a psychosis spectrum--what new terms would you choose?


I conceptualize autism as defect whereby people falsely apply a deterministic model (relevant for the world/ non-living things) to the self/others (living things) ; I consider of psychosis as the reverse, whereby one applies an agentic model to the world, thus exhibiting magical thinking etc. Because psychotic spectrum is consptualised in terms of a disability (loss of contact with reality), I would rechristen autism spectrum as the zombie spectrum (loss of contact with agency); of course, If I indeed am the 'word czar of the day' I'll probably rename both as consciousness-orientation (psychotic spectrum)  and reality-orientation (autistic spectrum) and highlight the good aspects of both- shaministic Altered states of consciousness and creativity of schizotypals and the scientific and savantic abilities of the Aspergers. Of course, in a lighter vein, perhaps the autistic spectrum people are 'muggles'  (believers in ordinariness ) who still have to come to terms with the 'magic' (believers in extraordinariness)  of consciousness.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Mood and felt Energy are related to thought variability and speed

There is a recent article by Pronin and Jacobs, on the relationship between mood, thought speed and experience of 'mental motion' that builds up on their previous work.

Let us see how they describe thought speed and variability and what their hypothesis is:


1. The principle of thought speed. Fast thinking, which involves many thoughts per unit time, generally produces positive affect. Slow thinking, which involves few thoughts per unit time, generally produces less positive affect. At the extremes of thought speed, racing thoughts can elicit feelings of mania, and sluggish thoughts can elicit feelings of depression.
2. The principle of thought variability. Varied thinking generally produces positive affect, whereas repetitive thinking generally produces negative affect. This principle is derived in part from the speed principle: when thoughts are repetitive, thought speed (thoughts per unit time) diminishes. At its extremes, repetitive thinking can elicit feelings of depression (or anxiety), and varied thinking can elicit feelings of mania (or reverie).

Let me clarify at the outset that they are aware of the effects of though speed on variability and vice versa; as well as the effects of mood on felt energy and vice versa; thus they know that one can confound the other. Another angle they consider is the relationship between thought speed/variability i.e the form of thought and the contents of thought (whether having emotional salience or neutral) and investigated whether the effects of speed and variability were confounded with though content; they found negative evidence for this inetrcationist view.

Let me also clarify that I differ slightly (based on my interpreation of their data) from their original hypothesis, in the sense that I believe that their data shows that speed affects felt energy and variability affects affect and that the effects of speed on mood may be mediated by the effect of speed on felt energy and similarly the effect of variability on felt energy may be mediated by its effects on mood.

Thus my claim is that:

  1. Thought speed leads to more felt energy. Extremes of 'racing thoughts' leads to the manic feeling of being very energetic (when accompanied with positive mood, this may give rise to feelings of grandiosity- I have the energy to achieve anything), while also may lead to anxiety states (when accompanied with negative affect) in which one cannot really suppress a negative chain of thoughts - one following the other in fast succession, regarding the object of ones anxiety. The counterpart to this the state where thoughts come slowly (writer's block etc) and when accompanied with negative affect, this can easily be viewed as depression.
  2. Thought variability leads to more positive affect: Extremes of 'tangential thoughts' leads to the manic feeling of being in a good mood (when accompanied with high energy , this manifest as feelings of euphoria); while the same tangential thoughts when accompanied by low felt energy may actually be felt as serenity/ calmness/ reverie. The counterpart to this is the state of thoughts that are stuck in a rut - when accompanied with low energy this leads to feelings of depression and sadness.

Thus, to put simply : there are two dimensions one needs to take care of - mood (thought variability) x energy (thought speed) and high and low extremes on these dimensions are all opposites of their counterpart.

Before we move on, I'll let the authors present their other two claims too:
3. The combination principle. Fast, varied thinking prompts elation; slow, repetitive thinking prompts dejection. When speed and variability oppose each other, such that one is low and the other high, individuals’ affective experience will depend on factors including which one of the two factors is more extreme. The psychological state elicited by such combinations can vary apart from its valence, as shown in Figure 1. For example, repetitive thinking can elicit feelings of anxiety rather than depression if that repetitive thinking is rapid. Notably, anxious states generally are more energetic than depressive states. Moreover, just as fast-moving physical objects possess more energy than do identical slower objects, fast thinking involves more energy (e.g., greater wakefulness, arousal, and feelings of energy) than does slow thinking.
4. The content independence principle. Effects of thought speed and variability are independent of the specific nature of thought content. Powerful affective states such as depression and anxiety have been traced to irrational and dysfunctional cognitions (e.g., Beck, 1976). According to the independence principle, effects of mental motion on mood do not require any particular type of thought content.

They review a number of factors and studies that all point to a causal link between thought speed and energy and between thought variability and mood. More importantly they show the independent effects of though speed and variability from the effects of thought content on mood. I'll not go into the details of the studies and experiments they performed, as their article is available freely online and one can read for oneself (it makes for excellent reading); suffice it to say that I believe they are on the right track and have evidence to back their claims.

What are the implications of this:

The speed and repetition of thoughts, we suggest, could be manipulated in order to alter and alleviate some of the mood and energy symptoms of mental disorders. The slow and repetitive aspects of depressive thinking, for example, seem to contribute to the disorder’s affective symptoms (e.g., Ianzito et al., 1974; Judd et al., 1994; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991; Philipp et al., 1991; Segerstrom et al., 2000). Thus, techniques that are effective in speeding cognition and in breaking the cycle of repetitive thought may be useful in improving the mood and energy levels of depressed patients. The potential of this sort of treatment is suggested by Pronin and Wegner’s (2006) study, in which speeding participants’ cognitions led to improved mood and energy, even when those cognitions were negative, self-referential, and decidedly depressing. It also is suggested by Gortner et al.’s (2006) finding that an expressive writing manipulation that decreased rumination (even while inducing thoughts about an upsetting experience) rendered recurrent depression less likely.

There also is some evidence suggesting that speeding up even low-level cognition may improve mood in clinically depressed patients. In one experiment, Teasdale and Rezin (1978) instructed depressed participants to repeat aloud one of four letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, or D) presented in random order every 1, 2, or 4 s. They found that those participants required to repeat the letters at the fastest rate experienced the most reduction in depressed mood. Similar techniques could be tested for the treatment of other mental illnesses. For example, manipulations might be designed to decrease the mental motion of manic patients, perhaps by introducing repetitive and slow cognitive stimuli. Or, in the case of anxiety disorders, it would be worthwhile to test interventions aimed at inducing slow and varied thought (as opposed to the fast and repetitive thought characteristic of anxiety). The potential effectiveness of such interventions is supported by the fact that mindfulness meditation, which involves slow but varied thinking, can lessen anxiety, stress, and arousal.
 hat tip: Ulterior Motives

ResearchBlogging.org
Pronin, E., & Jacobs, E. (2008). Thought Speed, Mood, and the Experience of Mental Motion Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3 (6), 461-485 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00091.x
Pronin, E., & Wegner, D. (2006). Manic Thinking: Independent Effects of Thought Speed and Thought Content on Mood Psychological Science, 17 (9), 807-813 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01786.x

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Best of Tweets: 27-05-09

Here goes:

  1. Fast, happy, and impulsive I: Speed makes you happy http://ff.im/-35MoD 
  2. Bad drives reactions, Good propels behaviors http://ff.im/-36HFt 
  3. even 'classical' radioactivity is random RT @Wildcat2030: Free Will And Quantum Physics: Less Related Than You Think - http://bit.ly/145bEJ 
  4. co-operation as 'another' feature/ guiding principle of evolution RT @XiXiDu: The Key to Success? http://is.gd/CjEG
  5. RT @mariapage: RT @news_science: Psychologists find that head movement is more important than ... http://cli.gs/zTyZJA #LinkTweet
  6. the improv. nature of web2.0 RT @Wildcat2030: new essay "Wildcat: Jazzing the Beast" The web cultural revolution http://bit.ly/19o2X5
  7. RT @BoraZ: @carlzimmer: .3quarksdaily's new prize for science blogs. Submit url of your favorite blog post: http://tinyurl.com/re3cjp
  8. Encephalon #71: Big Night http://ff.im/-3fHBH
  9.   The Universal Language of Bird Song - Very Short List http://ff.im/-3fIk3  
  10. Welcome to the Stream: The Next Phase of the Web | Twine http://ff.im/-3gaqN
  11. RT @anibalmastobiza: RT: @DoctorZhivago Why We Stare, Even When We Don't Want to: http://bit.ly/IOcx5
  12. RT @Wildcat2030: "In search of the black swans" Mark Buchanan comments on marginal revolutionary ideas in science http://bit.ly/UeosV   

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Major conscious and unconscious processes in the brain: part 5: Physical substrates of A-cosnciousness

This is the fifth post in my ongoing series on major conscious and unconscious processes in the brain. For earlier parts, click here.

Today , I would like to point to  a few physical models and theories of consciousness that have been proposed that show that consciousness still resides in the brain, although the neural/ supportive processes may be more esoteric. 

I should forewarn before hand that all the theories involve advanced understanding of brains/ physics/ biochemistry etc and that I do not feel qualified enough to understand/ explain all the different theories in their entirety (or even have a surface understanding of them) ; yet , I believe that there are important underlying patterns and that applying the eight stage model to these approaches will only help us further understand and predict and search in the right directions. The style of this post is similar to the part 3 post on robot minds that delineated the different physical approaches that are used to implement intelligence/ brains in machines.

With that as a background, let us look at the major theoretical approaches to locate consciousness and define its underlying substrates. I could find six different physical hypothesis about consciousness on the Wikipedia page:

  1. * Orch-OR theory
  2. * Electromagnetic theories of consciousness
  3. * Holonomic brain theory
  4. * Quantum mind
  5. * Space-time theories of consciousness
  6. * Simulated Reality

Now let me briefly introduce each of the theories and where they seem to have been most successful; again I believe that though this time visually-normal people are perceiving the elephant, yet they are hooked on to its different aspects and need to bind their perspectives together to arrive at the real nature of the elephant.

1. Orch-OR theory:

The Orch OR theory combines Penrose's hypothesis with respect to the Gödel theorem with Hameroff's hypothesis with respect to microtubules. Together, Penrose and Hameroff have proposed that when condensates in the brain undergo an objective reduction of their wave function, that collapse connects to non-computational decision taking/experience embedded in the geometry of fundamental spacetime.
The theory further proposes that the microtubules both influence and are influenced by the conventional activity at the synapses between neurons. The Orch in Orch OR stands for orchestrated to give the full name of the theory Orchestrated Objective Reduction. Orchestration refers to the hypothetical process by which connective proteins, known as microtubule associated proteins (MAPs) influence or orchestrate the quantum processing of the microtubules.
Hameroff has proposed that condensates in microtubules in one neuron can link with other neurons via gap junctions[6]. In addition to the synaptic connections between brain cells, gap junctions are a different category of connections, where the gap between the cells is sufficiently small for quantum objects to cross it by means of a process known as quantum tunnelling. Hameroff proposes that this tunnelling allows a quantum object, such as the Bose-Einstein condensates mentioned above, to cross into other neurons, and thus extend across a large area of the brain as a single quantum object.
He further postulates that the action of this large-scale quantum feature is the source of the gamma (40 Hz) synchronisation observed in the brain, and sometimes viewed as a correlate of consciousness [7]. In support of the much more limited theory that gap junctions are related to the gamma oscillation, Hameroff quotes a number of studies from recent year.
From the point of view of consciousness theory, an essential feature of Penrose's objective reduction is that the choice of states when objective reduction occurs is selected neither randomly, as are choices following measurement or decoherence, nor completely algorithmically. Rather, states are proposed to be selected by a 'non-computable' influence embedded in the fundamental level of spacetime geometry at the Planck scale.
Penrose claimed that such information is Platonic, representing pure mathematical truth, aesthetic and ethical values. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato had proposed such pure values and forms, but in an abstract realm. Penrose placed the Platonic realm at the Planck scale. This relates to Penrose's ideas concerning the three worlds: physical, mental, and the Platonic mathematical world. In his theory, the physical world can be seen as the external reality, the mental world as information processing in the brain and the Platonic world as the encryption, measurement, or geometry of fundamental spacetime that is claimed to support non-computational understanding.
To me it seems that Orch OR theory is more suitable for forming platonic representations of objects - that is invariant/ideal perception of an object. This I would relate to the Perceptual aspect of A-consciousness.

2. Electromagnetic theories of consciousness

The electromagnetic field theory of consciousness is a theory that says the electromagnetic field generated by the brain (measurable by ECoG) is the actual carrier of conscious experience.
The starting point for these theories is the fact that every time a neuron fires to generate an action potential and a postsynaptic potential in the next neuron down the line, it also generates a disturbance to the surrounding electromagnetic (EM) field. Information coded in neuron firing patterns is therefore reflected into the brain's EM field. Locating consciousness in the brain's EM field, rather than the neurons, has the advantage of neatly accounting for how information located in millions of neurons scattered throughout the brain can be unified into a single conscious experience (sometimes called the binding problem): the information is unified in the EM field. In this way EM field consciousness can be considered to be 'joined-up information'.
However their generation by synchronous firing is not the only important characteristic of conscious electromagnetic fields — in Pockett's original theory, spatial pattern is the defining feature of a conscious (as opposed to a non-conscious) field.
In McFadden's cemi field theory, the brain's global EM field modifies the electric charges across neural membranes and thereby influences the probability that particular neurons will fire, providing a feed-back loop that drives free will.

To me, the EM filed theories seem to be right on track regarding the fact that the EM filed itself may modify / affect the probabilities of firing of individual neurons and thus lead to free will or sense of agency by in some sense causing some neurons to fire over others. I believe we can model the agency aspect of A-consciousness and find neural substrates of the same in brain, using this approach.

3. Holonomic brain theory:

The holonomic brain theory, originated by psychologist Karl Pribram and initially developed in collaboration with physicist David Bohm, is a model for human cognition that is drastically different from conventionally accepted ideas: Pribram and Bohm posit a model of cognitive function as being guided by a matrix of neurological wave interference patterns situated temporally between holographic Gestalt perception and discrete, affective, quantum vectors derived from reward anticipation potentials.
Pribram was originally struck by the similarity of the hologram idea and Bohm's idea of the implicate order in physics, and contacted him for collaboration. In particular, the fact that information about an image point is distributed throughout the hologram, such that each piece of the hologram contains some information about the entire image, seemed suggestive to Pribram about how the brain could encode memories.
According to Pribram, the tuning of wave frequency in cells of the primary visual cortex plays a role in visual imaging, while such tuning in the auditory system has been well established for decades[citation needed]. Pribram and colleagues also assert that similar tuning occurs in the somatosensory cortex.
Pribram distinguishes between propagative nerve impulses on the one hand, and slow potentials (hyperpolarizations, steep polarizations) that are essentially static. At this temporal interface, he indicates, the wave interferences form holographic patterns.
To me, the holnomic approach seems to be the phenomenon lying between gestalt perception and quantum vectors derived from reward-anticipation potentials or in simple English between the perception and agency components of A-consciousness. this is the Memory aspect of A-consciousness. The use of hologram used to store information as a model, the use of slow waves that are tuned to carry information, the use of this model to explain memory formation (including hyperpolarization etc) all point to the fact that this approach will be most successful in explaining the autobiographical memory that is assited wuith A-cosnciousness.

4. Quantum Mind:

The quantum mind hypothesis proposes that classical mechanics cannot fully explain consciousness and suggests that quantum mechanical phenomena such as quantum entanglement and superposition may play an important part in the brain's function and could form the basis of an explanation of consciousness.
Recent papers by physicist, Gustav Bernroider, have indicated that he thinks that Bohm's implicate-explicate structure can account for the relationship between neural processes and consciousness[7]. In a paper published in 2005 Bernroider elaborated his proposals for the physical basis of this process[8]. The main thrust of his paper was the argument that quantum coherence may be sustained in ion channels for long enough to be relevant for neural processes and the channels could be entangled with surrounding lipids and proteins and with other channels in the same membrane. Ion channels regulate the electrical potential across the axon membrane and thus play a central role in the brain's information processing.
Bernroider uses this recently revealed structure to speculate about the possibility of quantum coherence in the ion channels. Bernroider and co-author Sisir Roy's calculations suggested to them that the behaviour of the ions in the K channel could only be understood at the quantum level. Taking this as their starting point, they then ask whether the structure of the ion channel can be related to logic states. Further calculations lead them to suggest that the K+ ions and the oxygen atoms of the binding pockets are two quantum-entangled sub-systems, which they then equate to a quantum computational mapping. The ions that are destined to be expelled from the channel are proposed to encode information about the state of the oxygen atoms. It is further proposed the separate ion channels could be quantum entangled with one another.

To me, the quantum entanglement (or bond between different phenomenons)and the encoding of information about the state of the system in that entanglement seems all too similar to feelings as information about the emotional/bodily state. Thus, I propose that these quantum entanglements in these ion-channels may be the substrate that give rise to access to the state of the system, thus giving rise to feelings that is the feeling component of A-consciousness i.e access to one's own emotional states.

5. Space-time theories of consciousness:

Space-time theories of consciousness have been advanced by Arthur Eddington, John Smythies and other scientists. The concept was also mentioned by Hermann Weyl who wrote that reality is a "...four-dimensional continuum which is neither 'time' nor 'space'. Only the consciousness that passes on in one portion of this world experiences the detached piece which comes to meet it and passes behind it, as history, that is, as a process that is going forward in time and takes place in space".
In 1953, CD Broad, in common with most authors in this field, proposed that there are two types of time, imaginary time measured in imaginary units (i) and real time measured on the real plane.
It can be seen that for any separation in 3D space there is a time at which the separation in 4D spacetime is zero. Similarly, if another coordinate axis is introduced called 'real time' that changes with imaginary time then historical events can also be no distance from a point. The combination of these result in the possibility of brain activity being at a point as well as being distributed in 3D space and time. This might allow the conscious individual to observe things, including whole movements, as if viewing them from a point.
Alex Green has developed an empirical theory of phenomenal consciousness that proposes that conscious experience can be described as a five-dimensional manifold. As in Broad's hypothesis, space-time can contain vectors of zero length between two points in space and time because of an imaginary time coordinate. A 3D volume of brain activity over a short period of time would have the time extended geometric form of a conscious observation in 5D. Green considers imaginary time to be incompatible with the modern physical description of the world, and proposes that the imaginary time coordinate is a property of the observer and unobserved things (things governed by quantum mechanics), whereas the real time of general relativity is a property of observed things.
These space-time theories of consciousness are highly speculative but have features that their proponents consider attractive: every individual would be unique because they are a space-time path rather than an instantaneous object (i.e., the theories are non-fungible), and also because consciousness is a material thing so direct supervenience would apply. The possibility that conscious experience occupies a short period of time (the specious present) would mean that it can include movements and short words; these would not seem to be possible in a presentist interpretation of experience.
Theories of this type are also suggested by cosmology. The Wheeler-De Witt equation describes the quantum wave function of the universe (or more correctly, the multiverse).

To me, the space-time theories of consciousness that lead to observation/consciousness from a point in the 4d/5d space-time continuum seem to mirror the identity formation function of stage 5.This I relate to evaluation /deliberation aspect of A-consciousness.

6. Simulated Reality
 
In theoretical physics, digital physics holds the basic premise that the entire history of our universe is computable in some sense. The hypothesis was pioneered in Konrad Zuse's book Rechnender Raum (translated by MIT into English as Calculating Space, 1970), which focuses on cellular automata. Juergen Schmidhuber suggested that the universe could be a Turing machine, because there is a very short program that outputs all possible programmes in an asymptotically optimal way. Other proponents include Edward Fredkin, Stephen Wolfram, and Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft. They hold that the apparently probabilistic nature of quantum physics is not incompatible with the notion of computability. A quantum version of digital physics has recently been proposed by Seth Lloyd. None of these suggestions has been developed into a workable physical theory.
It can be argued that the use of continua in physics constitutes a possible argument against the simulation of a physical universe. Removing the real numbers and uncountable infinities from physics would counter some of the objections noted above, and at least make computer simulation a possibility. However, digital physics must overcome these objections. For instance, cellular automata would appear to be a poor model for the non-locality of quantum mechanics.
To me the simulation argument is one model of us and the world- i.e we are living in a dream state/ simulation/ digital world where everything is synthetic/ predictable and computable. The alternative view of world as real, analog, continuous world where everything is creative / unpredictable and non-computable. One can , and should have both the models in mind - a simulated reality that is the world and a simulator that is oneself. Jagat mithya, brahma sach. World (simulation) is false, Brahma (creation) is true . Ability to see the world as both a fiction and a reality at the same time, as a fore laid stage and as a creative jazz at the same time leads to this sixth stage of consciousness the A-consciousness of an emergent conscious self that is distinct from mere body/brain. One can see oneself and others as actors acting as per their roles on the world's stage; or as agents co-creating the reality.

That should be enough for today, but I am sure my astute readers will take this a notch further and propose two more theoretical approaches to consciousness and perhaps look for their neural substrates basde on teh remianing tow stages and componenets of A-consciousness..

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