What if

It is very easy to get stuck in thinking ruts where we interpret new information in terms of what we already know. We have a model, firm or vague, and the things we encounter get fitted into the model, often shoe-horned in. If we cannot make them fit then they are jettisoned and forgotten. It is a constant fight to keep an open mind. Further, in reality, we do not want to be too open minded. We do not want to throw out a ton of evidence on the basis of an ounce opposing it.

In a recent post (here) about the genetics of intelligence, I tripped over an idea and finally recognized it. What I now want to do is form a habit of occasionally turning things inside out and seeing if they make any sense. I have made a start with some ‘what if’ examples.

There is a trickle of new results about the function of glial cells (those ignored cells that outnumber the neurons by factors like 10). What if: more of less all the work in the brain was actually done by very local groups of glial cells and neurons functioned like a kind of telephone system between groups of glia.

Mammalian brains are similar in structure. Even all vertebrate brains are fairly similar. The main difference is in the predominance of the forebrain. What if: all the perceptual, motor, emotional, memory etc. etc. functions of the brain are carried out by the more ancient parts of the brain and these lower parts use the higher parts of the brain as a kind of on-line computer to improve (rather than replace) their functioning.

Memory has been thought of as about the past but lately it seems that the same mechanism is also about imagining the future. What if: there was only one mechanism for awareness of images/perceptions/feelings and it included the present as well as the past and future; the metaphor for consciousness would be the monitor checking on the storage of audio or video tape. First make a memory and then immediately ‘recall’ its as consciousness.

There are others that come to mind but I don’t think they are worth a mention now. I am not trying to convince anyone of these particular models. Instead I am trying to convince you to have a go at occasionally look at your models upside down, inside out, back to front or other way around.

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