Chapter 7

Theorem VI – IX: Identity, Similarity, and Difference of Neural Processes, Mental Processes, and Qualia

 

This chapter consists of four theories about identity, similarity, and difference of neural processes, mental processes, and qualia.

(N.B. In this chapter, * in the following text indicates “in the case that the neural processes have qualia”.)

7.1. Theorem VIa

Because identical neural processes have identical information-processing processes and because the information-processing process of a neural process is a mental process, identical neural processes have identical mental processes.

Because identical neural processes have identical special signaling patterns* and because the special signaling pattern of a neural process is a quale, identical neural processes have identical qualia.

Theorem Via: Identical Neural Processes have Identical Mental Processes and Identical Qualia*.

Because identical neural processes have identical qualia*, identical people, with identical brains and neural circuits, looking at the same red color and having identical neural processes for the visual image of the red color occurring in their brains, must have identical qualia of the red color occurring in their minds. Also, with identical neural processes for conscious experiences of the red color qualia occurring in their brains, they must have identical conscious experiences of the red color qualia occurring in their minds. This is true in general for all qualia and conscious experiences.

7.2. Theorem VIb

Because similar neural processes have similar information-processing processes and because the information-processing process of a neural process is a mental process, similar neural processes have similar mental processes.

Because similar neural processes have similar special signaling patterns* and because the special signaling pattern of a neural process is a quale, similar neural processes have similar qualia.

Theorem VIb: Similar Neural Processes have Similar Mental Processes and Similar Qualia*.

Because similar neural processes have similar qualia*, similar people, with similar brains and neural circuits, looking at the same red color and having similar neural processes for the visual image of the red color occurring in their brains, must have similar qualia of the red color occurring in their minds. Also, with similar neural processes for conscious experiences of the red color qualia occurring in their brains, they must have similar conscious experiences of the red color qualia occurring in their minds. This is true in general for all qualia and conscious experiences.

7.3. Implications

If one person’s consciousness neural process can access and read the signaling pattern of a perception neural process (such as a visual perception neural process) of another person who is experiencing the same thing (such as looking at the same color), the first person will find that the quale that occurs in the second person’s perception neural process is similar to the quale that occurs in his/her perception neural process. This seems to be impossible to test at the present time, but it can approximately be verified in craniopagus twins (conjoined twins whose craniums are fused together) who share some perception neural processes that are not much different.

Any animals that have brains with similar neural circuits, connections, and physiology to those of human brains should have similar neural processes to those of human brains occurring in their brains when sensing the same things that humans do and thus should have similar qualia and conscious experiences to those that occur in human minds occurring in their minds [1,2]. The more similar brains to ours they have, the more similar qualia and conscious experiences to ours occur in them. The more different brains from ours they have, the more different qualia and conscious experiences from ours they experience. For example, we can infer that a dog mentally sees a house (consciously experiences a visual quale of the house) similarly to us (except that they are color-blinded by their inherent lack of some retinal photoreceptors). Bees, however, with compound eyes, ability to sense UV light, and different eye and brain structures from ours [3], probably see the house (consciously experience visual qualia of the house) in a very different way (maybe in totally different qualia from our visual qualia) that we cannot imagine because we do not and cannot have signaling patterns similar to bees’ signaling patterns occurring in our brains.

As identical/similar neural processes have identical/similar qualia, different qualia or qualia (of the same thing) that have different phenomenal characteristics in identical/similar people are not possible. This will be discussed more in detail in Chapter 9.

As identical/similar neural processes have identical/similar mental processes and identical/similar qualia, mind reading and thought identification by physical instruments are possible by comparing signaling patterns of neural processes of mental processes or qualia in question with those of the known ones [4,5,6].

7.4. Predictions

  1. Craniopagus twins who share certain perception neural processes and can access the shared neural process of the other twin will find that the quale (of some object) that occurs in his/her personal neural process is similar to the quale (of the same object) that occurs in the other’s neural process that he/she can access provided that their neural processes for that perception are similar.
  2. If, in the future, there is a way to connect neural processes of different persons together so that one person’s consciousness neural process can access and read the signaling pattern of a perception neural process (such as a visual perception neural process) of another person who is experiencing the same thing (such as looking at the same color), the first person will find that the quale that occurs in the second person’s perception neural process is similar to the quale that occurs in his/her perception neural process.
  3. Mind reading and thought identification by physical instruments will be able to be done by comparing the signaling patterns of neural processes of mental processes or qualia in question with those of the known ones.
  4. A transplanted neural tissue that results in a neural process that is similar to the previously-functioning neural process will yield a corresponding mental process (perception, motor, cognition, etc.) and a corresponding quale (visual, auditory, cutaneous sensation, etc.) that are similar to the previously-functioning mental process and the previously-functioning quale. Theoretically, neural transplantations for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, cortical visual impairment, and cortical sensory impairment will work if they result in correctly functioning neural processes.

7.5. Remarks

The ideas of these two theorems are not novel. Similar ideas were proposed before such as in “The principle of organizational invariance”, in which Chalmers DJ [7,8] says that “This principle states that any two systems with the same fine-grained functional organization will have qualitatively identical experiences.”, and Moutoussis K [9] says that “… a specific brain-activation pattern, leading to the formation of a specific percept.”  and “specific, individual perceptual experiences are caused by specific, individual brain activation pattern.”.

 

7.6. Theorem VII

Because different neural processes have different information-processing processes and because the information-processing process of a neural process is a mental process, different neural processes have different mental processes.

Because different neural processes have different special signaling patterns* and because the special signaling pattern of a neural process is a quale, different neural processes have different qualia.

Theorem VII: Different neural processes have different mental processes and different qualia*.

7.7. Prediction

  1. This theorem predicts that gene therapy to correct color blindness by converting one type of the existing photoreceptors to the missing type (such as converting green-sensitive cone cells to red-sensitive cone cells in people with red-color blindness) will be able to create a new color quale in the patient. This is because the color perception of any point in the visual field depends on the composite signals from the group of photoreceptors at the corresponding point in the retinal field [10-13] and because the composite signals from the group of treated photo-receptors at any retinal point will be different from the composite signals from that group before the therapy (because a photoreceptor conversion will result in a novel type of photoreceptor that will respond to light with novel signaling patterns – different from those of the previously existing photoreceptors). This will result in a novel signaling pattern from the treated group of photoreceptors to the retinal ganglion cells and a new signaling pattern from the retinal ganglion cells through the optic nerve to the lateral geniculate nucleus and then to the occipital cortex. The color perception neural process will receive a new signaling pattern that it has never received before and, to represent the new color, will generate a novel signaling pattern, which is a new color quale. Consequently, the patient will experience a new color quale that he/she has never experienced before and thus will perceive the world in more colors and will be able to better differentiate things with more perceived colors. This kind of treatment has been done successfully in animals, such as squirrel monkeys and mice [14-17].

7.8. Remarks

Although, by this theorem, different neural processes cannot have identical mental processes and identical qualia, they can have mental processes and qualia that are similar, but not identical. This is because this theorem does not specify that the difference must be extreme. The difference can thus be minor to the point that they can be considered similar. This explains the functional recovery in the nervous system when one neural process is destroyed and another neural process adapts itself to substitute for the destroyed neural process. Although the destroyed neural process and the adapted neural process are not identical, the mental process and quale that occur from the adapted neural process can be similar to the previous, destroyed mental process and quale enough to substitute for them.

 

7.9. Theorem VIII

Because mental processes are information-processing processes and because identical information-processing processes require identical neural processes, identical mental processes require identical neural processes.

Because qualia are special signaling patterns and because identical special signaling patterns require identical neural processes, identical qualia require identical neural processes.

Theorem VIII: Identical mental processes and identical qualia require identical neural processes.

7.10. Prediction

  1. If, in the future, identical mental processes and qualia can be identified by methods that are not dependent on neural processes, it will be found that identical mental processes and identical qualia indeed require identical neural processes. (Current methods that are dependent on neural processes in identifying identical mental processes and identical qualia cannot be used to identify the neural processes and confirm this theorem, because it will lead to a circular process of identification.)

 

7.11. Theorem IX

Conversely, because mental processes are information-processing processes and because different information-processing processes require different neural processes, different mental processes require different neural processes.

Because qualia are special signaling patterns and because different special signaling patterns require different neural processes, different qualia require different neural processes.

Theorem IX: Different mental processes and different qualia require different neural processes.

7.12. Prediction

  1. It will be found that neural processes for different mental processes and different qualia are different. Obviously, this has already proved to be true in general cases, such as visual and auditory mental processes and qualia require different neural processes, which are visual and auditory neural processes. More difficult to prove but more important theoretically is to prove that the perception of a certain object A without qualia occurring and the perception of that object A with qualia occurring require different neural processes. Indeed, Theorem IX and the whole Theory will be invalidated if it is proved that the perception of a certain object A without qualia occurring and the perception of that object A with qualia occurring do not require different neural processes.

 

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References

  1. Baars BJ. Subjective experience is probably not limited to humans: The evidence from neurobiology and behavior. Conscious Cogn. 2005 Mar;14(1):7-21.
  2. Low P. The Cambridge declaration on consciousness. Panksepp J, Reiss D, Edelman D, Van Swinderen B, Low P, Koch C, editors. Publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf
  3. Roth G, Dicke U. Evolution of the brain and intelligence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2005 May;9,(5):250–257. http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(05)00082-3?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661305000823%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
  4. Gallivan JP, McLean DA, Valyear KF, Pettypiece CE, Culham JC. Decoding action intentions from preparatory brain activity in human parieto-frontal networks. Journal of Neuroscience. 2011 Jun;31(26):9599-9610. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/26/9599.full
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  9. Moutoussis K. The machine behind the stage: A neurobiological approach toward theoretical issues of sensory perception. Front Psychol. 2016;7:1357. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5020606/
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  15. Mancuso K, Hauswirth WW, Li Q, Connor TB, Kuchenbecker JA, Mauck MC, et al. Gene therapy for red-green colour blindness in adult primates. Nature. 2009 Oct;461(7265):784–787. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782927/
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