Introduction and Definitions

In this theory, many specific terms will need to be used in the process, but some of them have varied meanings in the literature. To avoid misunderstandings, these terms will be defined what they mean in this theory at appropriate points. All the definitions such defined are intended to be the working definitions just for use in this theory. Thus, caution should be exercised if these terms are compared with the same terms, which may have different meanings, in the literature. Some of the terms will be used from the beginning and throughout the theory and will be defined in this chapter as follows.

D1. Mind

The word “mind” has various meanings for people, depending on many things, such as their cultures, religions, personal beliefs, senses of the word (e.g., philosophical, physical, or psychiatric), and usage context. It can be confused with closely-related words such as soul, spirit, psyche, and consciousness [1-21]. In the sense of referring to an entity, the word “mind” or related words can be used to refer to a) an immaterial entity that exists in everything (which includes non-living things, such as rocks, rivers, and clouds, also) – the belief of panpsychism [16,22-25], b) an immaterial entity that exists in every living thing (which includes non-animal living things, such as trees, fungi, and bacteria, also) – the belief that may involve life-force and is related to vitalism [26-31], or c) an immaterial entity that exists in every animal (which includes non-human animals, such as dogs, birds, fish, and even hydras and sponges, also)[32].

However, for many people, the mind refers to a non-material entity that can sense things in its environment, its physical body, and its non-material self (such as can see things in the outside world, be aware of its body parts’ positions, and feel its emotion); can perform mental activities (such as thinking, memorizing and recalling, and planning and making decisions); and can respond to the environment via its body parts (such as by executing motor movements, making sound, and secreting something, e.g., saliva, pheromone, and poison). Because animals with a nervous system exhibit all these three kinds of activity definitely, the non-material entity that can do these three kinds of activity can definitely exist in such animals. That is, the kind of mind that many people think of as mentioned above can definitely exist in animals with a nervous system. Because of this, this theory, which is a basic theory, will investigate the kind of mind that exists in these animals. It is possible that other kinds of mind exist in entities other than animals with a nervous system, such as in sponges, trees, or even rocks. However, because the three kinds of activity listed above cannot all be observed to clearly exist in these entities, it is difficult both to confirm the existence of and to investigate the kinds of mind that may exist in these entities. Therefore, this theory, which is a basic theory, will not involve these kinds of mind. Hopefully, however, this theory will provide some bases for further investigations of all kinds of mind by a more advanced theory in the future. Therefore, the word “mind” in this theory will be specifically defined as follows:

The mind is a non-material entity that exists in an animal with a nervous system and that functions to

– sense signals from outside its body (such as light, sound, and tactile stimuli), from its own body parts (such as proprioceptive stimuli from joints and muscles, vestibular stimuli from vestibular organs, and pain from internal organs), and from within its mental self (such as emotion, thought, and memory);

– operate (such as integrate, store, and retrieve) such aforementioned signals, resulting in various mental processes, both conscious (such as thinking, remembering things, and experiencing emotions) and unconscious (such as unconscious control of muscle tone and balance, unconscious control of spontaneous reflex breathing/circadian rhythm, and unconscious control of sweat secretion); and

– send signals between its parts (such as between the sensory perception parts, the consciousness part, and the emotion part) and to the effectors of its body (such as striated muscles, smooth muscles, and glands) to communicate between its parts, to control its own body functions, and/or to respond to its environment.

A complete mind is a non-material entity that exists in an animal with a nervous system and that can function to do the above three kinds of activity that are possible for that kind of animal completely.

An immature mind is a non-material entity that exists in an animal with a nervous system and that can function to do the above three kinds of activity only incompletely because the animal is still in a developing stage, such as a fetus.

A partially-functioning mind is a non-material entity that exists in an animal with a nervous system and that can function to do the above three kinds of activity only incompletely because the animal is being in a sleep stage, suppressed by a pharmacologic or toxic agent, or affected by a pathologic condition such as a cerebral concussion, brain tumor, stroke, dementing disorder, or congenital brain defect.

It should be noted that, when the brain of an animal is cut off, its body and limbs can still function to sense, operate, and send signals for some time before all those parts die. In this case, a non-material entity that is left in the body and limbs and that can still function to do the above three kinds of activity can be considered to be only a part of the complete mind because it can function to do only some part of what the complete mind can.

This theory deals with the mind as defined above. The eventual conclusions, implications, predictions, and other statements that are valid for this kind of mind are also valid for an immature mind, a partially-functioning mind, and a part of the complete mind, but they are valid only for the functioning part(s) of that mind.

Again, as discussed previously, this theory is about the mind as specifically defined: a non-material entity that exists in an animal with a nervous system and that functions to do the listed three kinds of activity. The definition does not include possibly-existing, non-material entities that function to do the listed three kinds of activity but reside in

– animals that do not have a nervous system, such as sponges and Trichoplax

– non-animal, living organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and plants, or

– non-living things, such as rocks, computers, robots, weather systems, and the dynamic photosphere of the sun.

Thus, even if sponges, bacteria, plants, computers, robots, or some other entities above can function to sense signals from the environment, operate signals, and send signals between their parts and to their effectors [33-53] and even if it is possible that there exist non-material entities in them that can function to do these activities, these possibly-existing, non-material entities are not the kind of mind that will be discussed in this theory. The conclusions, implications, predictions, and other statements that are valid for the mind as specifically defined above are thus unproven to be valid or invalid for these possible entities.

D2. Brain

In this theory, the main discussion about the brain will be about the brain that is alive and processing signals. Therefore, the term “brain” in this theory will have this meaning unless specified otherwise, such as “the dead brain” or “the non-processing brain”.

D3. Mental process

In this theory, a mental process is a mind’s component that functions to do a certain specific activity of the above listed activities, that is, to do a certain specific activity of sensing, operating, or sending signals; and the result of a mental process’s function is called a mental product. For example, visual perception mental processes are mental processes that function to perceive a vision, and their final-stage mental process has a visual perception as its product; emotion mental processes are mental processes that function to synthesize an emotion, and their final-stage mental process has an emotion as its product; and thinking mental processes are mental processes that function to form a thought, and their final-stage mental process has a thought as its product.

A mental process can be a conscious mental process or an unconscious mental process. [20, 54-63] In this theory, a conscious mental process is a mental process that has a mental product that the mind can be aware of consciously, such as the final-stage mental processes of visual perception mental processes, emotion processes, and thinking processes, which have a visual perception, an emotion, and a thought, respectively, as the mental products that the mind can be aware of consciously. That the mind can be aware of a mental product consciously means that an experience of what that mental product is like, such as what the visual perception is like, what the emotion is like, and what the thought is like, occurs when the mind is aware of it. [2,54,64-75] Characteristically, this kind of mental product can be intentionally processed in various ways, such as intentionally reported, memorized and recalled, and concentrated on. [57,58,61,76-90] So, these mental activities are possible in the case of a conscious mental process, and they can be used to identify whether a mental process is a conscious mental process.

On the other hand, an unconscious mental process is a mental process that does not have anything, including its mental product, that the mind can be aware of consciously, such as the early-stage mental processes of visual perception mental processes, emotional processes, and thinking processes; the mental processes that execute detailed muscle contractions in articulation, writing, and other skilled performances; and the mental processes that control spontaneous reflex breathing rate and rhythm and the circadian rhythm [91-106] Thus, an experience of what something is like does not occur with this kind of mental process. For example, we do not know what the control of circadian rhythm is like. In contrast to a conscious mental process, an unconscious mental process does not have anything, including its product, that can be intentionally processed, such as intentionally reported, memorized and recalled, and concentrated on. So, these activities are not possible in the case of an unconscious mental process.

(This is only a preliminary introduction of these two mental process types; more thorough discussion of them will be in Chapter 3.)

D5. Neural circuit

A neural circuit is a group of neurons that are connected together in some specific pattern to process signals in its circuit to do a certain function [107-112], such as to perceive visual sensation signals, to integrate various signals to form a decision, or to synthesize signals to control a motor movement. Anatomically, a neural circuit may not be just a single group of connected neurons in one location but may be a network of scattered groups of connected neurons [109,112], such as the neural circuit of default mode network [113-119]. However, to be a certain neural circuit, all the groups of the circuit must be connected and function together to perform a certain neural function.

A normal functional neural circuit is usually a complex 3-dimensional circuit and always has connections with other neural circuits and/or its sensor(s) and/or its effector(s) so that it can send/receive signals to/from them. At present, there is a lot of evidence that, under a normal condition, a certain neural circuit is not a multi-functional circuit that performs various neural functions alternately. Instead, a certain neural circuit mostly, if not exclusively, performs only a certain function [109,120], such as perceiving visual sensation, thinking, or generating emotion. These specific-function neural circuits reside in different, specific brain areas, such as visual perception neural circuits are in the visual cortex and the visual association cortices, thinking neural circuits are in the frontal cortex and the nearby cortices, and emotion neural circuits are in the amygdala, the hippocampal formation, the limbic cortex, and some neighboring areas [120-136]. Currently, more than a hundred distinct functional brain areas can be identified by several methods [125,131,133,134].

D6. Neural process

A neural process is the signal-processing process of a neural circuit. Because it processes signals in a neural circuit, a neural process is the principal process of a neural circuit. However, a neural process is not the only process in a neural circuit. A neural circuit has other processes also, such as a metabolic process, a structural maintaining (of membranes, organelles, cytoskeletons, etc.) process, and a circuit modifying (of synapses, dendrites, axons) process.

A neural process is not an instantaneous process; it takes some time, usually in milliseconds (msec) [137-141], to complete the process at each step. For example, after the signals of an image reach the visual cortex, they are processed through successive areas of visual and visual association cortices, taking about 10 msec of processing at each area, so that the final visual perception of this image is formed and distributed to various areas in the brain in about 100–150 msec [142-146].

D7. Signaling pattern (SP)

A signaling pattern (SP) is the pattern of signaling that a neural circuit sends to another neural circuit to convey its information.

An SP is a dynamic pattern of a 3-dimensional neural signaling, and neural circuits can encode their information in the SPs in the form of frequency coding, temporal coding, population coding, other types of coding, or mixed coding [147-154]. Because a neural circuit communicates its information with others via its electrical and/or electrochemical signaling in the form of SPs, an SP that the neural circuit sends to another circuit must be the information that is to be sent. But for a neural circuit to be able to distinguish any particular information, the SP for that particular information must be unique – different from all others. For example, the SP for perceiving visual sensation must be different from that for perceiving auditory sensation and the SP for perceiving a visual image of a letter “A” must be unique and different from the one for a letter “B”. Stating otherwise, for neural circuits to communicate information between each other comprehensibly, a signaling pattern for each information must be unique and different from those for other information.

SPs are very important because every neural circuit sends/receives information to/from other neural circuits in the form of SPs and thus affects/is affected by other neural circuits by SPs.

D8. Signaling state (SS) 

A signaling state (SS) is the pattern of signaling of a whole neural circuit, with signals circulating in its circuit in a certain pattern at any certain moment. Because the pattern of signals that are circulating in a whole neural circuit is the information that is in the neural circuit, a signaling state at any moment is the information that is in the neural circuit and its neural process at that moment. For example, after the primary visual perception neural process has received early-stage visual signals of a house from the lateral geniculate nucleus, it will have the signaling state that is the information of the early-stage visual perception of the house, and after the final visual perception neural process has finished the process of perceiving the vision of the house, it will have the signaling state that is the information of the final visual perception of the house (i.e., the visual image that we see in our mind).

In this theorem, for conciseness, the clause “that is the information of” will sometimes be replaced by “that signals”. Thus, the examples in the preceding paragraph can be stated as: after the primary visual perception neural process has received early-stage visual signals of a house from the lateral geniculate nucleus, it will have the signaling state that signals the early-stage visual perception of the house, and after the final visual perception neural process has finished the process of perceiving the vision of the house, it will have the signaling state that signals the final visual perception of the house (i.e., that signals the visual image that we see in our mind).

Another important example is a signaling state of the consciousness neural process. When the consciousness neural process is functioning to be consciously aware of something, such as a vision of a house, it will have signals circulating in its circuits in some specific pattern. This pattern of signaling of the whole consciousness neural process, or the signaling state of the consciousness neural process, is the information of the conscious awareness of the vision of the house. Because this particular signaling state is the information of the conscious awareness of the house, the conscious awareness of the vision of the house naturally occurs in the consciousness neural process. This matter will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.

D9. Information

In this theory, information is a non-material entity that describes something to some entity. For example, signals in the optic nerve are information about the visual aspect of something that one looks at – this information describes visual aspects (color, brightness, shape, dimension, velocity, etc.) of that thing to the visual nervous system, and signals in the auditory nerve are information about the auditory aspect of something that one hears – this information describes auditory aspects (pitch, timbre, loudness, etc.) of that thing to the auditory nervous system. Things that have different descriptions (house vs car, red vs blue, etc.) thus have different information, and vice versa. By this definition, because information describes something to some entity, the information means something to that entity and thus has a certain meaning to the entity. Thus, the information in this aspect, which will be the aspect that is discussed in this theory, is a kind of semantic information [155-159]. It is very important to note that the semantic content of information is relative, not absolute; that is, the semantic content in the information varies with the receivers of the information. A particular piece of information means a particular thing to a particular receiver but usually means different things, incomprehensible things, or even nothing to other receivers. For example, this symbol “consciousness” means consciousness for those who know English but means nothing to those who do not know English. Likewise, signals in the optic nerve describes a lot of information to the visual nervous system but describes gibberish or nothing to other parts of the nervous system and to everything else (e.g., that organism as a whole, a television set, and a computer that cannot decode the signals). Also, it is crucial to note that a particular piece of information, by its semantic content, has particular effects on the information receiver. Information of the red color and that of the blue color, by their different semantic content, have different effects on the visual nervous system, and on the whole nervous system subsequently. Information, by its semantic content, thus has cause-effect relationship with its receiver. This fact will be very important in explaining why qualia and consciousness exist.

Information in any system can be dynamic (i.e., being circulated in the system) or static (i.e. being stored in the system) [160].  Dynamic information can be carried by several kinds of carrier such as electromagnetic waves, sound waves, mechanical forces, chemical substances, or biological molecules (e.g. hormones, neurotransmitters, or mRNA); while static information can be stored in various storage media such as magnetic tape/hard-disk, optical disc, solid-state drive, image recorded/sound-recorded materials and other sign-bearing objects, or in various biological molecules (e.g. receptors on memory T-cells, receptors on memory B-cells, or DNA). In the nervous system, dynamic information is carried principally by electrical/electrochemical signals in neural circuits in the form of signaling patterns (which are information that is being sent to other neural processes) and signaling states (which are information that is circulating in the whole neural processes); while static information is stored in the pattern of neural synaptic architecture [160]. Thus, signaling patterns and signaling states are dynamic information about something. For example, when the visual perception neural process has finished the process of perceiving a vision of a house, it will have the signaling state that is the information of the visual perception of the house and, when it communicates this information with other neural processes, it will send signaling patterns that are this information to other neural processes via its synapses. It should be noted that the same information can exist in different forms, i.e., the signaling state or the signaling pattern, depending on whether it is existing in the neural process or it is being sent to other neural processes.

Because an entity is identified by its information, or descriptions, entities that have different information, or different descriptions, are different. For example, because red and blue have different information (different descriptions), such as different wavelengths, different positions in the light spectrum, and different results when mixed with yellow; red and blue are different. Also, because a perception of the red color alone and a perception of the red color with a conscious experience of what the red color is like occurring have different information (different descriptions), the two perceptions are different*.

Because, in the nervous system, information is in the form of signaling patterns and signaling states, different information has different signaling patterns and different signaling states. For example, because red and blue have different information, they have different signaling states in the neural processes and different signaling patterns when sent to other neural processes. Similarly, because a perception of the red color alone and a perception of the red color with a conscious experience of what the red color is like occurring have different information, they have different signaling states in the neural processes and different signaling patterns when sent to other neural processes*.

(*These last two examples are important examples; they will help us understand the effects of consciousness and the phenomena called qualia.)

Next: Chapter 1: The Mind-Brain Unity & Theorem I >

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