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Unread May 24th, 2006, 02:13 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

Glad to see you back. Did you get a chance to visit with Bill Calvin while in Seattle?

Your full post will take some time for me to digest to the point where I understand it. (I love these mini projects.) But, one statement jumps out that I'd like to comment on - perhaps because I've spent so much time thinking about this already - and because it's somewhat central to my thesis.

You said,
Our first impressions, our intuitions, all of our "Blink" responses fall into this core, which I think is our default mode of responding to everything. I think hot cognitition is central to a lot of what happens, but I agree with JB that the limbic system is not at the core.
First, I assume we are still discussing the mechanism by which behavior choices are made in the human brain - and setting aside any differences we may have over the meaning of core . . .

Am I wrong in my understanding that the limbic system is where decision choices are made in all mammals (except perhaps in humans if you and JB are right)?

Doesn't your assertion imply that evolution would have somehow had to come up with a significantly different decision mechanism for humans alone among mammals?

Note that I have stated that the final nexus of decision choice for any behavior could even be located in the brain stem region since reptiles also make behavior choices and I suspect that early mammals added to that basic mechanism (by adding more refined emotional inputs) rather than replaced it.

Evolution seems to work gradually. Features are added or trimmed from existing physiology - but I've never seen an example of a complete replacement of function from one organ to another - especially for such a basic need as decision choice.

But if that happened, how do humans make behavior choices before their cognition first starts to become active - after mylenation of their neo-cortical nuerons occurs. Infants cry, smile, look at things, etc. Simlarly, how do humans who suffer from cognitive impairment or old age dementia still manage to make competent behavior decisions like eating and sleeping, to survive?

I ask these questions because they seem (to me) to so obviously lead to the conclusion that intellect is an evolutionary add-on to our basic decision mechanism and not a replacement - that it is basically the same mechanism that we share with all other mammals, just with an additonal data input path (intellect).

It seems reasonable to me that we would subconsciously create an emotional tag for our intellectual conclusions then, to be weighed in our decision computation along with our other emotional input channels - thereby preserving that basic mammalian mechanism. Smart people therefore, are not only good at reasoning, they have learned (developed a belief) that their intellectual conclusions are likely to improve their well-being and therefore they characteristically (and unconsciously) give those logically tested conclusions greater appropriate emotional weight than other sources in their mind.

I reiterate this here because it seems so unpalatable to you (and JB) that it causes me to wonder if I have missed something very basic in my understanding of the brain. If you could point me to that underlying misconception - that might save me a lot of time trying to support something that is not tenable.

Added on edit: After re-reading my post a few times, it occurs to me that my thesis is really not about where in the brain these things occur. I think what I am proposing is a model of behavior decision computation. I am describing the inputs, the outputs and the type of algorithm that I suspect lies at the heart of decision-making. There are many ways the circuits and regions of the brain-stem, the limbic system, neo-cortex, etc. could be wired to perform this decision-making function. I considered the where question because I wanted to be sure there was not something obvious about the known organization of the brain to preclude my thesis. But, where in the brain these things occur is not what I'm interested in proposing - it is this as if model of computation that I suspect is at work when we make behavior decisions.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; May 25th, 2006 at 12:04 PM.
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