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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Psychiatry, Mind-body Dualism and Sensation.

One of the greatest obstacles facing psychology is there isn't a single paradigm. You can't unite treatment and research into a single cohesive, exponentially building theoretical structure without a single paradigm. Too much information is lost between differing theoretical groups. This quandary stems from one major problem: There isn't an adequate distinction between mind and body.

This has been a thorn in the side of philosophy for thousands of years. It seems to have no solution. However, psychologist, psychiatrist and other mental health professionals need not struggle in the frame work and discipline of philosophy. They've worked themselves into a rut. We can apply philosophical style reasoning without burdening ourselves with a philosopher's baggage.

We can do this by stripping psychiatry down to it's core conceptual features, by narrowing our scope of inquiry to what we must assume to do valid and reliable scientific work. There is a point where even our methodological assumptions demand metaphysical assumptions. Psychiatric work demands one major assumption: the physical changes the mental.

In every case, a counselor, psychology or psychiatrist, is using the material/causal world to change the mental world. A counselor speaks to the client, and the client's ears pick up sound waves that impact chemical and neuronal brain structures; and a psychiatrist provides the obvious physical influence of chemicals in a readily tangible pill.  Though this may seem obvious, it's not insignificant.

It reveals a relationship between consciousness and matter, mind and body.  For this relationship to exist, between mind and body, there are 3 choices: Matter causes consciousness; matter is in lockstep with consciousness and matter and consciousness are both separate from each other; or matter and consciousness are exactly the same thing from different perspectives.

In order to know which of the three is the correct answer, consider what happens when we have a visual experience. When we see something, we don't see that something; instead it strikes our retinas and a cascading reaction begins. Instead we have an experience. The brain changes because of that pattern of stimulation, and it causes a patterned experience. Neurons fire, they release transmitters and the physical structures of the brain changes. That pattern of change that specific experience.

The brain's experience is of the pattern. However, consider that the consciousness qua consciousness--consciousness without pattern and simply as presence---is completely different. It is purely perspectival, receptive and necessarily first person.

Matter and Consciousness would be incapable of creating one another. They have nothing in common. However, consciousness always has shape and quality. It is either red or blue, happy or sad, square or circle---it is always something. Consciousness isn't caused matter (causal things), it is the form of consciousness that is caused by the shape of matter. So thought, the form of consciousness, has something in common with matter---namely its shape.

So the shape of matter changes the shape of consciousness. And, we are still left with the same problem. How does consciousness interact. They don't. They are two aspects of the same thing. Consciousness is matters perspective of itself. However, saying this seems to make no sense because there is allot of my body, and only a little of it is conscious. This problem can be solved by considering sleep research.

When a person shaken awake, they remember what they were dreaming about, but if they weren't, then they may consider themselves unconscious all night. The reason they think they were unconscious is because they don't remember.  Memory is inhibited in sleep states. They were feeling and thinking, but long term potentiation (memory) was suspended. Everything may be consciousness, like us during sleep, but  not everything has memory.

Memory of other states is necessary for considering one's own consciousness. You must remember consciousness in the past to consider it.

But, it's more than memory because the brain is the same shape. Its shape should be conscious of itself. However, what its not remembering is its change. Change is required for cognition and memory. There is a constant change of brain states. We're always in one state, that one moment of consciousness, but that one moment contains traces of the past. It has sensory echoes. Like an after image in the eye, we always have the past connected with our present, one vivid experience overlaying a weaker impression of the last one---but still leaving trace recognition of it. Our past experience is in our present experience.

To further this point, consider habituation. If you look at the same image for long enough, you no longer see it. Your nerves become habituated and no longer "see" that stimuli. What cognition provides that is different from other bits of matter is that it is in the right ratio of change and stability. Neurons, physical units, remain mostly the same---in the same position or shape---but have a electrical charge change it slightly. It retains a shape, only slightly changing. While, at the same time, it is rapidly changing.

This doesn't just happen on the micro aspect of the brain---where neurons change and do not change---it occurs on the macro level. Different parts of the brain change at different rates. Many parts of the brain change far faster  than others. The faster changing parts of the brain, like the hippocampus, access the slower changing parts of the brain where it indexes information.

There is a constant flux of change and stability. There is contrast. It is in this contrast between memory, fading experience and brighter fresh experience that is causes us to remember our own consciousness. Consciousness is matter's perspective of itself. Memory and change allow us to remember our previous consciousness through a delicate balance of change and stability.

It is in reconciling this change and stability with modern theory, that we will discover how to unite our psychiatric theories.  This is a start. In order to build a cohesive paradigm, you must start with a firm foundation. Psychiatric theories must build from the smallest units, piece by piece, so that the rest of a staggering large network of theoretical information can find unity. The beginning piece is reconciling Mind and Matter. Matter and Mind do not interact. They are two of the smallest aspects of our universe that are only conceptually distinct. All matter is probably "conscious," but it doesn't have the right ratio of change to stability that allows it to recognize its own consciousness. We do. It is in our highly associative, interconnected brains that this ratio is found in its perfection. Change and stability are united in some golden ratio.

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