Brain-Mind
Posted: 29 August 2007 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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There has not been found a way in which our mental life influences our physical bodies, though it seems very intuitive. The body, even though it seems to be related with our thoughts and emotions in ways that inanimate onjects are not, functions on the physical micro and macro level just as other physical objects do.


But, as far as I know, research shows that meditation effects the state of the brain.  Meditation is something that takes place in one’s mind - one sits still and mentally repeats a mantra, for example. Yet, the brain is changed.  In general, psychotherapy chages the brain, and many other things we do “mentally” - meditation is just a good example since it is an action that is quite specific, distinct from others, and occurs “within one’s mind”.


How would you explain that? If not explaining this as “meditation, a mental action causes physical changes in the brain” - how would you?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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wandering - 29 August 2007 04:20 AM

There has not been found a way in which our mental life influences our physical bodies, though it seems very intuitive. The body, even though it seems to be related with our thoughts and emotions in ways that inanimate onjects are not, functions on the physical micro and macro level just as other physical objects do.


But, as far as I know, research shows that meditation effects the state of the brain.  Meditation is something that takes place in one’s mind - one sits still and mentally repeats a mantra, for example. Yet, the brain is changed.  In general, psychotherapy chages the brain, and many other things we do “mentally” - meditation is just a good example since it is an action that is quite specific, distinct from others, and occurs “within one’s mind”.


How would you explain that? If not explaining this as “meditation, a mental action causes physical changes in the brain” - how would you?

I don’t understand the question, wandering. “Mental life” is just neural firings in the brain. That is, mental life is a physical thing. When you think a thought, that’s because certain neurons in your brain are firing.

Meditation and psychotherapy involve certain sorts of thinking. That is, they stress or reinforce certain neural pathways. Meditation and psychotherapy are essentially physical processes of the brain.

The distinction between brain and mind is illusory. Brain states—patterns of neural firing—is all that there are. And of course, physical states of the brain can cause physical changes in the body. Just like when you get frightened (= have a certain strong emotion) your heart starts beating faster (= causes a physical change in the body). The neural firings of fear cause the release of adrenaline in the bloodstream, which increases heart rate. See for instance the fight-or-flight response.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t quite get your question either, but depression doesn’t just affect the mind, it affects the body too and vise versa- the body affects depression.  There are other examples of this too, like meditation.  It can help the mind as well as the body and vise versa.  You can’t separate the brain from the body.  It just doesn’t work that way and Doug has pointed out a very good example of how they both affect each other.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 29 August 2007 10:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I agree with Doug and Mriana.  The brain controls much of the body, often through feedback.  When CO2 levels in the blood increase, the brain signals the appropriate muscles to cause the lungs to open and take in more air and expel more CO2.  When glucose levels drop, you get hungry.  Under appropriate stimuli, the brain causes release of endorphins. 

I think we have to be careful not to assume there’s some metaphysical portion of our thinking.  While the analogy is not too accurate because of the difference in complexity, brain is to mind as computer hardware is to program.  We get programed all through our lives by our experiences; we use those programs to define our internal and external behavior; and we use those programs to respond to external and internal stimuli.  If we decide to meditate, we are introducing an internal set of stimuli, and they trigger certain responses. 

I don’t see that we have to introduce any supernatural component to our brains by using “mind” as a shorthand for that.

Occam

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Posted: 29 August 2007 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Well, I wasn’t using mind in the metaphorical sense.  I was using it to actually mean brain.  When I say mind, I mean brain and nothing more.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 02 September 2007 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I don’t understand well your position.

By “mind” and “mental processes” I mean thoughts, emotions, dreams, memories, fantasies.Do you consider these as metaphysical or mysterious?  Or metaphorical?

Next, do you view our mental processes as

(1) non-existing
(2) identical with the brain
(3) caused by the brain
(4) something else

?

The three options are mutually exclusive. If something is non-existing, it cannot be the brain because the brain exists, and it cannot be caused by the brain (if A is a cause of B, it must be that A exists, otherwise how can you say it is an effect that is caused ? ).  And, if something is identical with the brain, it cannot be caused by the brain since something cannot be the cause of itself (A cannot be the cause of A ).

If our mental proccesses are caused by the brain, they are not the brain but existing things that are different from the brain. I don’t think you can escape the logic.


Then I can argue for dualism :
Iff you agree with the logic, so far, then I can ask “if we agreed that a dream is caused by the brain, but not identical to the brain, what stuff is a dream made of? “. If you say “it is made of atoms”, I will ask “is it made of the atoms of the brain, or of other atoms” ? If you answer “of other atoms”, you have to show which atoms is a dream made from if not from brain-atoms. If you answer “of brain atoms”, you contradict yourself, since you already agreed that a dream is not identical with the brain, only caused by it.  Then it leads to the conclusion that a dream is not made of atoms (though it might be caused by them), and according to most definitions of material, would not be material (since it is not made of atoms).  (Though, I wouldn’t say that it is “supernatural” ).


I think that dualism is a defendable position.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_(philosophy_of_mind)


(I did not mean to go into it, when posting, but these are the assumtions my question is based upon).

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Posted: 02 September 2007 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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One standard position in philosophy is called “supervenience dualism”—that is, that the mind just is mental properties, and that these “supervene upon” the physical substrate of the brain. That is, they depend upon the brain ontologically. No brain, no mental properties, no mind. But the mental properties aren’t literally identical to the brain (nor are they “caused by” the brain). The philosopher Jaegwon Kim is one of the people who is best known for this theory.

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