This series investigates the problem of integration in Neuroscience. The essence of this problem is that there is a clearly understood division of mind and brain. This division manifests in fundamentally different approaches to the investigation of mind and brain as well as the languages of the respective research communities. Many studies in Neuroscience make an attempt to bridge the gap between mind and brain. There are countless functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies with tailored methodologies which investigate correlations between neural activity and conscious experience.
This subject is all-encompassing as it has relevance to every area of human endeavour. Thus it is all too easy to lose direction unless the line of enquiry is structured so as to achieve a definable end-point. I have written previously about the possibility of a rich exchange between philosophical enquiry and the principles used by the scientific community (‘In Support of Method’ – See Appendix). To this end I propose a three structure model which delineates the proposed relationships between constructs discussed in the series to date. Further inquiry can lead to a refinement of this model.
A Three Structure Model of Neural Activity in Relation to Consciousness and Language
The model states that neural activity leads to conscious experience and that conscious experience is required for the generation of language. The arrows relating these concepts imply a relationship which is either temporal and causal or simultaneous and correlative. To clarify this further it can be argued that conscious experience arises directly from neural activity – for instance that conscious experience is an epiphenomenon of neural activity. In this case we can see that conscious experience and neural activity may occur simultaneously. Therefore the arrow in this instance which leads from one to the other does not necessarily imply there is a flow of time between one phenomenon and the next. With language however we can be more certain about temporal correlations. In most instances, language generation is much slower to emerge than our conscious experience and we may more easily say that the arrow here demonstrates a flow of time in relation to some causal process.
The reason that I have included language is that this is an important medium for communicating information about our conscious experience. Whenever we talk about conscious experience as in phenomenology, we are mainly using language to communicate this conscious experience. This language is further interpreted by various means when we make inferences about a person’s conscious experiences or when we use psychometric tools for instance. This model applies to the relationship between mind and brain in an individual. The model can be further extended by incorporating the researcher or other person who will interpret or deconstruct the first person’s language so as to understand their conscious experience.
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