Thursday, February 9, 2012

380: Eavesdropping on the Brain

Before continuing with the question of Free Will I'd like to bring to your attention what was in my newspaper this morning.

For the first time neuroscientists of Berkeley University in California have been able to translate brain activity into understandable words.

The technique is still in its early stages. To "read" whole sentences is still impossible and the eavesdropping only works when electrodes are placed directly on the brain.

Yet the results are amazing: 6 out of 18 words could be reconstructed from brain activity and made understandable.

There is a small brain area just above the ear, in which tiny brain parts become only active when for instance, we hear a word.

Each tiny group of neurons is activated by just one specific sound or vibration, just like the keys of a piano keyboard are related to one specific sound each.

Fifteen patients who already had to undergo brain surgery for another reason volunteered for the research team of Brian Pasley.

They all got a pad full of electrodes placed on the speech center of the brain. The electrodes registered precisely which braincells became active when certain words were heard. And a language recognition program was able to convert the resulting diagrams into speech.

This of course is far from reading someone's thoughts. Only what the patient hears is decoded. But there is a remarkable resemblance between how the brain "hears' speech and how it imagines speech.

This brings us back to the intentionality of consciousness. Thoughts are not just thoughts, but always thoughts about something and do we think in language? Is thinking a kind of inner speech.

This is a first step in analyzing how a brain decodes sound. Maybe the next step is, assuming we think in language, to discover how the brain formulates its thoughts.

Allthough the debate on free will is as old as philosophy, it is mainly due to the publicity about neuroscientific discoveries, that free will, and especially free will as an illusion is high on the agenda again.

But an illusion? Is our consciousness telling us stories. How does that work?

As an illustration, some strategy board games have rigorous rules in which no information (such as cards' face values) is hidden from either player and no random events (such as dice rolling) occur in the game.

Nevertheless, strategy games like chess and especially Go, with its simple deterministic rules, can have an extremely large number of unpredictable moves.

This could be analogue to how we function as organisms with a brain. The brain as a material thing is subject to deterministic laws of nature.

We interact with an environment that is controlled by the same deterministic limitation, but for every situation the brain can generate infinite and unpredictable behavior. Like you are in a candy store and don't know what to choose.

Yet, if all these events were accounted for, and there were a known way to evaluate these events, the seemingly unpredictable behavior would become predictable.

But that brain that shows a readiness-potential for a movement before we consciously decide to move, does that support the idea of free will being an illusion?

Take a golf payer. His brain shows already a readiness-potential before he consciously decides to swing his club.

The club swings down, but a split second before he hits the ball, he decides to miss, because he wants to give it another try. In other words, wasn't that th use of free will to choose what to do in this situation?

About the Berkely reach:

The Discussion

[[2012/02/02 13:20] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[2012/02/02 13:20] Bejiita Imako: but i miss sometimes yes
[2012/02/02 13:21] Bejiita Imako: but mostly i hit but i always want to hit the ball as good as possible
[2012/02/02 13:21] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): apparently they'r hooking up military airplane pilots now to act on their thots before that can even move
[2012/02/02 13:21] herman Bergson: Ok Sybyle...
[2012/02/02 13:21] Lizzy Pleides: If we don't have a free will, then we are probably dominated by elematary insincts like hunger, being cold and reproduction
[2012/02/02 13:21] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): *they
[2012/02/02 13:21] herman Bergson: Yes they do Shiva
[2012/02/02 13:21] Hokon Cazalet: why say that lizzy?
[2012/02/02 13:21] Bejiita Imako: its an interesting idea for sure this
[2012/02/02 13:21] Sybyle Perdide: if you can read in the brain reaction before they are executed it onl y tells about the relation between body and brain
[2012/02/02 13:21] Sybyle Perdide: not about consciousness and brain
[2012/02/02 13:22] herman Bergson: Yes I agree Sybyle....
[2012/02/02 13:22] herman Bergson: I am wondering about this relation myself....
[2012/02/02 13:22] Qwark Allen is Online
[2012/02/02 13:22] herman Bergson: but the brain performs already unconscious action
[2012/02/02 13:22] Mick Nerido: could the brain have many options available before "sending" signals
[2012/02/02 13:23] Lizzy Pleides: what is the reason for a decision when we don't have a free will?
[2012/02/02 13:23] Hokon Cazalet: rational calculation, higher feelings
[2012/02/02 13:23] Sybyle Perdide: hi Qwark
[2012/02/02 13:23] Bejiita Imako: hi Qwark
[[2012/02/02 13:23] Qwark Allen: Hey!
[2012/02/02 13:23] herman Bergson: Well that is the point Mick....the brain generates thousends of options in every situation....
[2012/02/02 13:23] Hokon Cazalet: my calculator has no free will, but isn't governing by any lower drive
[2012/02/02 13:24] herman Bergson: and some say that when we have picked an option we think it was based on free will
[2012/02/02 13:24] Hokon Cazalet: perhaps there isn't a psychical [mental] basis for our actions, perhaps its purely neurological
[2012/02/02 13:24] herman Bergson: No Hokon, becaue your calculator isn't conscious
[2012/02/02 13:24] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh my
[2012/02/02 13:24] Hokon Cazalet: psychologists and philosophers, i've noticed, presume that for every psychical events, there must be another psychical thing that is the cause, but why is this so?
[2012/02/02 13:25] Hokon Cazalet: i agree herman
[2012/02/02 13:25] Sybyle Perdide: have we ever had a definition what free will means, Herman?
[2012/02/02 13:25] Hokon Cazalet: why cant the psychical be caused by the non-psychical @ lizzy
[2012/02/02 13:25] herman Bergson: in fact it is Hokon....
[2012/02/02 13:25] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): it seems to me most things are decided by will and others are aresponse to a stimulus
[2012/02/02 13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): automatic response
[2012/02/02 13:26] Mistyowl Warrhol: Our reflex actions are based on preconditioned actions from past activities. So in effect, the doing without thinking was something we conditioned ourselves to do. Does that not still make it something we wanted to do, so would that not still count as free will?
[2012/02/02 13:26] Lizzy Pleides: thats what i meant with instincts
[2012/02/02 13:26] Sybyle Perdide: nods to Gemma
[2012/02/02 13:26] Hokon Cazalet: my calculator was merely an example of a complex thing that acts without reference to "drives", perhaps human mental life has no mental basis ultimately
[2012/02/02 13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[2012/02/02 13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): reflexive
[2012/02/02 13:27] herman Bergson: The thesis here is that we are our brain....
[2012/02/02 13:27] Hokon Cazalet: instincts to me beg the question, why propose something else psychical [hunger etc], since we can ask what is their cause, and just apply ockham's razor, go to neural behavoir from the start
[2012/02/02 13:27] Hokon Cazalet: id agree herman
[2012/02/02 13:27] herman Bergson: the mind, or consciousness is a feature of the brain
[2012/02/02 13:27] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i think to use free will we need time to think about it
[2012/02/02 13:27] Hokon Cazalet: imo there's a lot of psychology that presumes we are a spirit still
[2012/02/02 13:27] herman Bergson: like liquidity is a feature of water...
[2012/02/02 13:27] Hokon Cazalet: [mistakenly so]
[2012/02/02 13:27] herman Bergson: no water no liquidity
[2012/02/02 13:27] herman Bergson: no brain no mind
[2012/02/02 13:28] herman Bergson: The big question however is...
[2012/02/02 13:28] herman Bergson: how can a material thing like the brain generate that what we experience as our consciousness
[2012/02/02 13:29] herman Bergson: and one of the features of consciousness is th eexperience of a free will
[2012/02/02 13:29] herman Bergson: the power that shapes our life, makes us responseble for what we do
[2012/02/02 13:29] herman Bergson: the deeper layer of the free will problem is causality...
[2012/02/02 13:30] herman Bergson: every event has a the basic idea
[2012/02/02 13:30] herman Bergson: and if every event has a cause all is determined
[2012/02/02 13:31] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): :(
[2012/02/02 13:31] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): hmmm
[2012/02/02 13:31] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): :-)
[2012/02/02 13:31] herman Bergson: just think about an uncaused event.....
[2012/02/02 13:31] Hokon Cazalet: although free will needs a cause or determining principle, otherwise its random, chaotic
[2012/02/02 13:32] herman Bergson: it is just there..happens out of the blue....
[2012/02/02 13:32] herman Bergson: exactly Hokon....
[2012/02/02 13:32] herman Bergson: that is at the heart of the debate on determinism
[2012/02/02 13:32] Hokon Cazalet: yup, so there's a paradox - freedom requires a violation of causality, yet without causality freedom doesn't exist [i.e. random]
[2012/02/02 13:32] herman Bergson: right...
[2012/02/02 13:32] Mistyowl Warrhol: I guess to me this is all like the saying, you can not see the forest for the trees. Looking at just the consciousness, without all the other components involved, we are missing the full picture.
[2012/02/02 13:33] Bejiita Imako: ah
[2012/02/02 13:33] Hokon Cazalet: hmm
[2012/02/02 13:33] herman Bergson: In a next lecture I'll explain how philosophers try to solve that problen Hokon
[2012/02/02 13:33] Mick Nerido: but it could be we just rely on old habits and patterns of behavior
[2012/02/02 13:33] Hokon Cazalet: cool =) that's the one i got stuck on
[2012/02/02 13:34] herman Bergson: It is not easy....
[2012/02/02 13:34] Hokon Cazalet: hehe its had me stumped for years
[2012/02/02 13:35] herman Bergson: and this new research bring up so many new questions about the brain and consciousness...
[2012/02/02 13:35] Hokon Cazalet nods
[2012/02/02 13:35] Lizzy Pleides: not easy but exciting
[2012/02/02 13:35] herman Bergson: yes...
[2012/02/02 13:35] Hokon Cazalet: =)
[2012/02/02 13:35] herman Bergson: just imagine....
[2012/02/02 13:36] herman Bergson: there is that pattern of neurons in the brain firing when a person hears a word....
[2012/02/02 13:36] herman Bergson: that pattern enables him to say I hear the word 'house'
[2012/02/02 13:36] Mick Nerido: why the hearts it's early for Valentine Day lol
[2012/02/02 13:36] herman Bergson: so consciousness kicks in....
[2012/02/02 13:36] Hokon Cazalet: its always love a teddy bear day :√û
[2012/02/02 13:36] herman Bergson: there is a transition from that unique pattern to consciousness
[2012/02/02 13:37] herman Bergson: how does that work...
[2012/02/02 13:37] herman Bergson: from firing neurons to a conscious ness of the word 'house'?
[2012/02/02 13:38] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): theres another set of neurons firing to enable the voice to speak the word thats heard
[2012/02/02 13:38] herman Bergson: yes shiva....
[2012/02/02 13:38] Lizzy Pleides: we have more exciting words than house, giggle
[2012/02/02 13:39] Bejiita Imako: hahaha
[2012/02/02 13:39] herman Bergson: that is what I meant to say with 'do we think in language'
[2012/02/02 13:39] Mistyowl Warrhol: Nooooo comment !!!!
[2012/02/02 13:39] herman Bergson: gins
[2012/02/02 13:39] herman Bergson: yes lizzy.bu tthe effect is the hear the word
[2012/02/02 13:39] Lizzy Pleides: nods
[2012/02/02 13:39] herman Bergson: What consciousness does with it is another story
[2012/02/02 13:40] druth Vlodovic: I can think in sounds and pictures as well, I thought this was investigated for education research already
[2012/02/02 13:40] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): interesting
[2012/02/02 13:40] Hokon Cazalet: i think in feelings sometimes [to add to druth's comment]
[2012/02/02 13:40] herman Bergson: The next big question to deal with is: Is a determinist worldview compatible with the concept of free will
[2012/02/02 13:41] Mick Nerido: without a word for it, things have less meaning
[2012/02/02 13:41] druth Vlodovic: depends Mick :)
[2012/02/02 13:41] Mistyowl Warrhol: I do wish you had never mentioned "candy store", my free will was gone and all I can think of now is CHOCOLATE!!!!
[2012/02/02 13:41] herman Bergson: True Druth, indeed....
[2012/02/02 13:41] druth Vlodovic: less definition certainly
[2012/02/02 13:41] herman Bergson: How does a composer or a painter think otherwise...
[2012/02/02 13:41] herman Bergson: But other brain areas can be involved in such processes
[2012/02/02 13:42] herman Bergson: for instance the visual cortex, while a logic reasoning is situated in the prefrontal lobe
[2012/02/02 13:42] Mistyowl Warrhol: and the composer, who wrote such beautiful music, even though he was deaf?
[2012/02/02 13:43] herman Bergson: that is a very complex situation Misty
[2012/02/02 13:43] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): very
[2012/02/02 13:44] herman Bergson: can be anything....for instance extreme sentitivity for vibrations
[2012/02/02 13:44] druth Vlodovic: so maybe this is why it is harder to reason about what you see without translating it into language first, proximity to the appropriate connections/functions
[2012/02/02 13:44] herman Bergson: for those who want to know more about the berkeley reseach...
[2012/02/02 13:44] herman Bergson: you really show have a look...
[2012/02/02 13:45] herman Bergson: there are audio samples of the experiment and how the word was reconstructed
[2012/02/02 13:45] herman Bergson: FOR YOUR INFORMATiON
About the Berkely reach:
[2012/02/02 13:46] Mistyowl Warrhol: TY, saved
[2012/02/02 13:46] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[2012/02/02 13:46] herman Bergson: Extensive and well documented article...
[2012/02/02 13:46] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[2012/02/02 13:46] Bejiita Imako: interesting
[2012/02/02 13:47] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): apparently they have to rewrite the medical texts now as research has shown that the language center, per se, is not behind the ear as always thot, but near the front and in the same place as the monkeys
[2012/02/02 13:47] herman Bergson: this is just the beginning....
[2012/02/02 13:47] Mick Nerido: Thanks
[2012/02/02 13:47] Qwark Allen: that reminds me psytrance
[2012/02/02 13:47] Qwark Allen: they add some frequencies to the music, that stimulate the production of endomorphines in the brain
[2012/02/02 13:47] herman Bergson: Yes Shiva I already heard that comment too ^_^
[2012/02/02 13:47] Bejiita Imako: you mean psy trance music
[2012/02/02 13:48] Qwark Allen: yes
[2012/02/02 13:48] Bejiita Imako: hmm that might be possible indeed
[2012/02/02 13:48] Qwark Allen: that is why is so addictive music
[2012/02/02 13:48] Qwark Allen: eheheh
[2012/02/02 13:48] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): yes, that is so, qwark
[2012/02/02 13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): not to herman
[2012/02/02 13:48] Bejiita Imako: il think about that during your set now today and see if i can note such things
[2012/02/02 13:48] herman Bergson: that is very well possible Qwark....
[2012/02/02 13:48] Qwark Allen: he never heard it ^^
[2012/02/02 13:48] herman Bergson: like joggers get addicted to endorphines too
[2012/02/02 13:48] Qwark Allen: it is hermann, all true
[2012/02/02 13:48] Qwark Allen: yes
[2012/02/02 13:49] Bejiita Imako: its speedy stuff that gets me going for sure
[2012/02/02 13:49] herman Bergson: Well...plenty of questions and ideas to think about again I guess
[2012/02/02 13:49] Qwark Allen: its the beat of the heart beat of babies
[2012/02/02 13:49] Qwark Allen: 140-160 beats per minute
[2012/02/02 13:49] herman Bergson: Next lecute will be on the (in)compatobility between determinism and free will
[2012/02/02 13:50] Mistyowl Warrhol: now that is interesting Qwark.
[2012/02/02 13:50] herman Bergson: That is pure philosophy...
[2012/02/02 13:50] Qwark Allen: kind of the first sound you listen, before you born
[2012/02/02 13:50] Lizzy Pleides: great!
[2012/02/02 13:50] Bejiita Imako: i like it
[2012/02/02 13:50] Bejiita Imako: what my neighbours think i dont know
[2012/02/02 13:50] Bejiita Imako: good its welll insulated here
[2012/02/02 13:50] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[2012/02/02 13:51] herman Bergson: But how can it be that someone doesn't like that kind of music Qwark?
[2012/02/02 13:51] Mistyowl Warrhol: Qwark, first sound you hear is Mom's heart beat and the gurgling of her intestines.
[2012/02/02 13:51] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
[2012/02/02 13:51] Bejiita Imako: my mom thinks psy sounds horrible
[2012/02/02 13:51] Bejiita Imako: haha
[2012/02/02 13:51] Qwark Allen: first is yours eheheh
[2012/02/02 13:51] druth Vlodovic: preconditioning maybe
[[2012/02/02 13:51] herman Bergson: to much Bach consumed Druth?
[2012/02/02 13:51] herman Bergson: Is that the cause?
[2[2012/02/02 13:52] druth Vlodovic: people develop preferences for music that makes them feel a certain way, even music that makes you feel good will be annoying if you prefer to feel a different way while listening to music
[[2012/02/02 13:52] herman Bergson: Well Qwark...I'll try an come to listen to your baby heartbeat music again ^_^
[2012/02/02 13:52] Mick Nerido: True druth
[2012/02/02 13:52] Bejiita Imako: yes
[2012/02/02 13:52] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[2012/02/02 13:52] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[2012/02/02 13:52] Qwark Allen: thank you
[2012/02/02 13:52] Qwark Allen: :-)))
[2012/02/02 13:53] Qwark Allen: i`ll do my best
[2012/02/02 13:53] Qwark Allen: the heart rate of mom, is made by a instrument, its the snare
[2012/02/02 13:53] Bejiita Imako: for example when at work if i mount stuff and take it easy i often prefer either srtuff like this or deep house style
[2012/02/02 13:53] herman Bergson: Just let me know when you are on with it, Qwark ..I am curious
[2012/02/02 13:53] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): today
[2012/02/02 13:53] Qwark Allen: going to play some at the party right after class
[2012/02/02 13:53] Bejiita Imako: but when harder stuff like welding or grinding work i usually go for talamasca or somethinkg like that
[2012/02/02 13:53] Lizzy Pleides: please tell me too qwark
[2012/02/02 13:54] herman Bergson: cool...quick service!
[2012/02/02 13:54] herman Bergson: Time to end our discussion then....
[2012/02/02 13:54] Qwark Allen: this music talks about images, that your brain makes with the sounds
[2012/02/02 13:54] Bejiita Imako: or when training hard also go for quicker harder stuff
[2012/02/02 13:54] : llStopAnimation: Script trying to stop animations but agent not found
[2012/02/02 13:54] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your inspiring participation
[2012/02/02 13:54] Qwark Allen: when you get a bit used to it, you can see what the music talks about
[2012/02/02 13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ‚ô• Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ‚ô•
[2012/02/02 13:54] Bejiita Imako: what suits the situation so to speak
[2012/02/02 13:54] Alexina Rene' (rene2008.zanzibar): ty!
[2012/02/02 13:54] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[2012/02/02 13:54] Qwark Allen: it`s like to understand the fax machine
[2012/02/02 13:54] Bejiita Imako: really interesting
[2012/02/02 13:54] Bejiita Imako: thanx Herman
[2012/02/02 13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): see you next thursday
[2[2012/02/02 13:55] Sybyle Perdide: thank you Herman
[2012/02/02 13:55] Qwark Allen: ty hermann, glad i arrived in time for the discussion
[2012/02/02 13:55] Qwark Allen: :-)))
[2012/02/02 13:55] Sybyle Perdide: many input again
[2012/02/02 13:55] druth Vlodovic: a lot of human behavior seems to be based on creating predictable outcomes, or fitting our mental states to the environment (or avoiding doing so)
[2012/02/02 13:55] Hokon Cazalet: ty herman =)
[2012/02/02 13:55] druth Vlodovic: thanks herman
[2012/02/02 13:55] Sybyle Perdide: or better much input
[2012/02/02 13:55] herman Bergson: My pleasure
[2012/02/02 13:55] Sybyle Perdide: cannot decide
[2012/02/02 13:55] Shiva Rhapsody in Blue (rhaptuous.aura): always an inspiration to come here, thank you, professor herman
[2012/02/02 13:55] Hokon Cazalet: its gotten me thinking about this subject again, been busy on other stuff - forgot how fun this one was =)
[2012/02/02 13:55] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes, TY from me too Herman. I will have to read some of that back later
[2012/02/02 13:55] herman Bergson: you are welcome Shiva
[2012/02/02 13:56] druth Vlodovic: where are you performing qwark?
[2012/02/02 13:56] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman:)
[2012/02/02 13:56] Jareth Wirsing: bye all
[2012/02/02 13:56] Sybyle Perdide: bye Jareth
[2012/02/02 13:56] Jaelle Faerye: bye Jareth
[2012/02/02 13:57] Bejiita Imako: cu soon
[2012/02/02 13:57] Sybyle Perdide: ciao Beertje :)
[2012/02/02 13:57] Bejiita Imako: :)'
[2012/02/02 13:57] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye bye..goodnight

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