Societies of Brains: A Study in the Neuroscience of Love and Hate

By Walter J. Freeman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Sensation and Perception

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.
William Shakespeare. Hamlet, Act I, Scene V


3.1 Remarks on the use of dynamics
Neurodynamics is a tool for simulating how brains and neurons change with time. Effective use by dynamicists requires plodding routines, meticulous attention to experimental detail, a talent for fruitful speculation, and an ability to turn mistakes and bad luck into good insights. An application is made in steps:
1. We choose or delimit a system for study (Chapter 2).
2. We give it an input, which we measure (Note 3.1).
3. It gives an output; we measure it for an input-output pair.
4. We collect input-output pairs until there are no surprises.
5. We construct an operation, a rule to change input to output.
6. We derive an equation to express the rule.
7. We put the set of numbers that describes the input into the equation, solve it, and fit the solution to the output.

The observed and calculated outputs never match exactly, so we re-assess each step and modify it to reduce the disparity. These steps give all we can know of neurodynamics. The equations are a mathematical skeleton of neuroscience. It is the best method we have to describe formal relations among the widely differing physical and chemical properties of neurons. It serves to describe function in neurons, in their parts down to the atomic level, and in their assemblies up to whole brains ( Freeman 1975; Basar 1980; Nunez 1981).

Dynamics degenerates into curve-fitting, if the equations serve to match the observed outputs without modeling the global processes that generate the outputs. What avoids degeneracy is including the behavioral context in which a neuron or population functions. Each variable and parameter in a set of equations must represent an experimental quantity or condition in the parts of a system, and the system must be chosen and analyzed

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Societies of Brains: A Study in the Neuroscience of Love and Hate
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Societies of Brains - A Study in the Neuroscience of Love and Hate *
  • Acknowledgements *
  • Prologue 1
  • Chapter 1 - Brains and Minds 9
  • Chapter 2 - Nerve Energy and Neuroactivity 27
  • Chapter 3 - Sensation and Perception 44
  • Chapter 4 - Intention and Movement 68
  • Chapter 5 - Intentional Structure and Thought 93
  • Chapter 6 - Learning and Unlearning 111
  • Chapter 7 - Self and Society 135
  • Epilogue 155
  • Notes 159
  • References 177
  • Index 197
  • Glossary of Terms Used with Special Meanings [page] 203
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