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Author Topic: Are neurons conscious entities?  (Read 2949 times)

Offline tkadm30

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Are neurons conscious entities?
« on: 16/12/2015 11:55:38 »
Research indicates that synaptic activity might be a form of self-awareness were neurons communicates via synapses to integrate conscious experience as part of the cognitive process. Therefore can neuronal sentience be an evidence for the unity of the mind were neurons are conscious entities ?

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18406536
« Last Edit: 29/12/2015 10:02:54 by chris »


 

Offline chris

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #1 on: 18/12/2015 08:09:43 »
Individual neurones can't be considered conscious, because we think that this is a function of the whole assemblage or population of neurones in a brain, although they can carry out simple forms of processing at a single cell level. Specifically, nerve cells can resolve incoming signals both spatially and temporally and use this information to change their output. However, it's by forming linked networks of nerve cells that neural networks capable of processing higher level information are made.
 

Offline tkadm30

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #2 on: 18/12/2015 19:38:45 »
Individual neurones can't be considered conscious, because we think that this is a function of the whole assemblage or population of neurones in a brain,...

Why is intrinsic brain activity (neuronal sentience) an evidence of the ubiquity of consciousness in neuronal populations?

Could a single neuron modify it's behavior through synaptic activity ?
« Last Edit: 18/12/2015 20:06:05 by tkadm30 »
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #3 on: 18/12/2015 22:00:12 »
Quote from: tkadm30
Could a single neuron modify it's behavior through synaptic activity ?
I would say "Yes", but it takes more than 1 to generate consciousness. I reason this way:

One major function of the brain is pattern-matching. Present a stimulus, and it produces the nearest stored match, which may cause us to greet a friend, run away from a lion, or eat a red berry. Inherent in this is the ability to learn new patterns, or modify old patterns, as we grow older, gain more experience, or the environment changes around us.

Pattern matching also occurs at the level of single neurons. A single neuron presented with a nerve stimulus will produce a pattern of nerve activation based on previously learned patterns and reinforcement. However, presenting a pattern to a neuron mostly requires another neuron; and interpreting the output of a neuron mostly requires another neuron. So, in a sense, it requires many neurons to record complex patterns, and to produce complex behavior.

There are many detailed aspects of brain function that we don't really understand about single neurons and the whole brain, such as the feedback mechanisms that control how relationships are learned, stored, reinforced and weakened. But computerized "neural networks" try to emulate similar functions by entirely different mechanisms.

There is a great debate about what constitutes "consciousness". One test that presents a fairly high bar is the ability to recognize oneself as an individual; this is often presented as a "mirror test". I am inclined to extend this definition to any species that has names for individuals, where an individual recognizes its name, and other individuals use that name to get their attention.

Recognizing yourself in a mirror (or your name in an audio stream) requires complex pattern storage and matching - something that we believe is beyond the ability of a single neuron.

One of the workhorse species for neurology is the tiny worm C.Elegans.  It has 302 neurons involved in movement, avoiding pain, finding food, eating, mating, etc (recently, a couple more neurons were discovered in males). While this worm can be trained to some extent, recognizing itself as an individual seems to be beyond its capabilities.

Quote from: tkadm30 in another thread
Artificial intelligence cannot reproduce the metaphysical experience of reality;
I am puzzled about why you suggest that a single neuron can be conscious, but artificial neural networks containing many more neurons can never be conscious (even though they are used today in applications like handwriting recognition and image processing).
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #4 on: 18/12/2015 23:22:09 »
Any offers for a definition of consciousness?
 

Offline chris

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #5 on: 19/12/2015 10:55:58 »
Consciousness is what Australian thinker David Chalmers dubs "the hard problem"...

I think that just about sums it up!
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #6 on: 19/12/2015 14:38:35 »
While this worm can be trained to some extent, recognizing itself as an individual seems to be beyond its capabilities.
Intriguing. How do you test that?
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #7 on: 19/12/2015 14:39:41 »
 

Offline tkadm30

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #8 on: 19/12/2015 21:00:46 »
Any offers for a definition of consciousness?

The ubiquity of consciousness is a universal phenomenon in all living organisms.

Thus, neuronal sentience is an evidence of the unity of the mind.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-mind/#3.4
 

Offline RD

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #9 on: 20/12/2015 08:11:32 »
The ubiquity of consciousness is a universal phenomenon ... 

You used that phrase here six days ago, and I pointed out to you it's tautological, but yet you repeat it :( . If something is ubiquitous then it must also be universal.

Quote from: thefreedictionary.com/tautological
tautological [definition]
1.
a. Needless repetition of the same sense in different words; redundancy.
b. An instance of such repetition.
2. Logic An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false ...
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tautological
« Last Edit: 20/12/2015 08:19:23 by RD »
 

Offline tkadm30

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #10 on: 20/12/2015 11:52:37 »
The ubiquity of consciousness is a universal phenomenon ... 

You used that phrase here six days ago, and I pointed out to you it's tautological, but yet you repeat it :( . If something is ubiquitous then it must also be universal.

Quote from: thefreedictionary.com/tautological
tautological [definition]
1.
a. Needless repetition of the same sense in different words; redundancy.
b. An instance of such repetition.
2. Logic An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false ...
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/tautological

Thanks, I appreciate your inputs.   :P
 

Offline puppypower

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #11 on: 20/12/2015 13:20:58 »
Neurons expend the lion's share of their ATP energy; 90%, pumping and exchanging sodium and potassium ions. What this action does is create a dual potential; energy and entropy potential, in the membrane. The energy potential is connected to the concentration gradient and the membrane potential, while the entropy potential is connected to the ionic order induced by segregating these two cations, that would blend if left to their own devices. Blending of ions in water will maximize entropy via the second law.

The net affect is the neuron will use energy to induce its membrane to go in the opposite direction of universal energy and entropy. The value of this is the firing of neurons conforms to the direction of universal energy and entropy. The firing of neurons was an inevitable development once ion pumping appears. Brain waves reflect the constant firing of neurons in response to the induced global potentials, which are running contrary to the two universal potentials.

Our sensory systems such as sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing, etc., all cause neurons to fire. These all reflect the side of the universal potentials, attempting to lower the dual potential created by neurons. In a world of relative motion, whether the stimulus come to you or you go to the stimulus, both have the same impact on the neurons. Going to the stimulus further helps the universal potentials by creating conditions that maximize the impact of the universal potential. Natural learning potential is connected to the need to lower energy and increase entropy among the neurons. After the dual potential is lowered, neurons expand energy to restore the dual potential; always learning.

A dynamic analogy is a water fountain.  The pumping action increases the potential of the water opposite gravity. The universal potential of gravity causes the water to reverse path and cascade down the fountain back to the pool, splashing and gaining entropy relative to its containment in the pipe. The fountain constantly pump the water and gravity constantly reverses, to create a dynamic steady state we call consciousness. The active fountain is always slightly different, splashing and learning, yet  the flow of water down the contours of the fountain creates an average shape; memory. 

To get the full picture we need to add the impact of water. Sodium and potassium ions, although both have a single positive charge, impact water in totally different ways. Sodium ions are kosmotropic or will add order to water, while potassium ions are chaotropic and will add chaos or disorder to water.  This is because sodium binds tighter to water than water binds to itself, while potassium binds weaker to water than water to itself. The state of the water, in turn, impacts the state of organics structures.

When neurons are at rest, full of dual potential, the impact of the external sodium ions is to create order outside the neurons. When the neuron fire and potassium appears on the outside, this creates chaos in the order allowing change to occur that reflects the increased entropy. As the neuron restores the dual potential and segregate the cations, sodium based order is restored, but now in the context of the change. Change is good because it helps the brain conforms to universal potentials.

Since the neurons axons help a neuron to reset itself, while the neurons dendrites make a neuron more vulnerable to firing, axons reflects the needs of the dual potential, while dendrites reflect the needs of the universal potentials. Based on the ratio of dendrite to axons tells us something of the relative strength of the competing potentials.   
« Last Edit: 20/12/2015 13:25:04 by puppypower »
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #12 on: 20/12/2015 21:08:48 »
Quote from: alancalverd
Quote from: evan_au on 18/12/2015 22:00:12
While this worm can be trained to some extent, recognizing itself as an individual seems to be beyond its capabilities.
Intriguing. How do you test that?
C.Elegans is able to remember (and be trained) in several ways, for example: to prefer the temperature at which it had previously been fed, and to avoid chemicals like garlic that had previously been associated with an adverse experience.
See "Behavioral Plasticity in C. elegans: Paradigms, Circuits, Genes"

Creating, remembering and responding to a name seems to be far beyond its range of abilities, with its 300-odd neurons.

The Drosophila fly, also popular with biologists has around 5000 neurons, and exhibits far more flexible behavior. However, I expect that social constructs like individual recognition will also be beyond their abilities.

I see that species which display imprinting have some form of individual recognition - such as how emperor penguins locate individuals months later among a flock of thousands, after a brief encounter. This suggests a mechanism to quickly record identifying characteristics, and then apply that learned identification at a later date.

I suggest that this is a lower bar for assessing consciousness than the traditional "mirror test". (Again, while assiduously avoiding any definition of "consciousness"!)
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Why are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #13 on: 20/12/2015 21:36:36 »
My rationale for defining a base level of consciousness is as follows (making this up on-the-fly, so to speak):

Even a single-celled organism like an amoeba can exhibit basic self-satisfying behavior like finding food. I also apply this level of behavior to a Roomba robot returning to its charging point when its batteries run low.

I include sexual behavior in this self-satisfying category; it does require locating and interacting with others, but the goal is to pass on the owners genes.

I suggest that for an individual to be conscious of itself as a distinct individual, it must be able to recognize other distinct individuals, at least within its own species.

Recognizing individuals allows more complex behaviors such as recognizing different preferences in other individuals and in oneself, and then to optimize outcomes for oneself (and/or the group) given the preferences of the individuals.

This is one aspect of consciousness - to dynamically modify one's own behavior as an individual, based on interactions with other individuals (behavioral plasticity).

This complex behavior can be seen most clearly in species with a social hierarchy (while not implying that the capability is absent in solitary species).
 

Offline tkadm30

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Re: Are neurons conscious entities?
« Reply #14 on: 13/01/2016 13:22:19 »
More evidences that neurons exert conscious activity through orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR). Quantum vibrations in neuronal microtubules may explain why neurons are conscious entities: Quantum channels in microtubules are mediating consciousness.

http://phys.org/news/2014-01-discovery-quantum-vibrations-microtubules-corroborates.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orchestrated_objective_reduction

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25714379
« Last Edit: 13/01/2016 13:51:08 by tkadm30 »
 

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Re: Are neurons conscious entities?
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