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Brain and Consciousness - The Resonance Model

The biggest mystery of nature has to do with that which is always with us, working for us, and making us who we are. It is our functioni...

The biggest mystery of nature has to do with that which is always with us, working for us, and making us who we are. It is our functioning brain. How can this handful matter create the immaterial mind, our feelings, thoughts, awareness, attention, will, and ultimately, consciousness?

We know a lot about how the brain works. We know in detail how the neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain, work. We recognized that it has an “all or nothing,” a threshold kind of firing. We understand that a neuron is never turned off, but only its firing frequency is changing according to its environment, according to the connecting neurons’ firing cycles. We know that the connecting neurons create distinct groups with specialized functions. We have a detailed map of the brain, of what region is responsible for what task. We even know how these areas are connected, and how they communicate with each other.

As it seems, however, all our knowledge is concerned with the parts of the functioning brain. The mysteries, the functions that we do not understand have global effects on the brain, and not just simple consequences of the working parts. These functions must be high level, self-organizing, integrative processes of the cooperating parts. The cooperation and function as a whole must be the key to create mysterious, emerging properties. We know and understand the low-level processes, but we have no idea about how a high-level organized system can arise from them. We do not know the integration process.

The brain is an incredibly complex structure. The human brain may be the most complex structure in the universe. However, the basics that create mysterious functions must be simple. It can be a result of an already known simple process. (The simplicity mentioned here is in the sense of function. For example, the functions of a neuron are relatively simple, easy to model. The processes of, meaning the biology of, the chemical reactions creating these functions are complex.) The brain's case may be similar to the snowflake effect. Billions and billions of simple water molecules create a kind of emergent property and form the all-different yet still similar snowflakes. The mind is an emergent property of the billions and billions of simply working and interacting neurons.

Because the mind is emergent, it is hard to grasp, hard to materialize, hard to connect to matter. The mind looks like something immaterial, something beyond the matter. Finding and understanding the self-organizing, integrative processes in the brain could prove to be the explanation of the mysterious properties and could free us from the immaterialness of the mind.

What would be that basic, simple, yet the general organizing effect of the working blocks, of the neurons that can create this emerging property through interaction? This effect might be what is called resonance.

The neurons are working in an ever-oscillating fashion. They are continuously firing. However, a neuron's firing cycle, its frequency, is not independent of the connecting neurons, of their firing cycle. They are interacting with each other, modifying each other's activity. By reinforcements and inhibitions, they ultimately create resonance groups, resonances where the individual firing cycles of the neurons are synchronized to support each other. Even the resonance groups are not independent of each other, and these effects create self-organized, higher-level, synchronized groups. The same neuron can be the member of multiple resonance groups, contributing to and connecting each resonance. The combinations are practically infinite in our finite brain.

The resonances can act as self-organizing processes, which may be able to create emerging properties of the brain. If the resonance is spread on the higher-level brain structure, it can create the mysteries of the brain: Thoughts, feelings, awareness, attention, and will. It could even create the biggest mystery of the brain: Consciousness.

The resonances inside the brain are not independent of the outside world. Our sensors are wired into our brain and create firing cycles according to their sensory receptions. In this way, our brain is in a resonance state with the outside world. Primarily, the outside world creates and forms the resonance groups using our sensors. We start to learn the use of our sensory inputs right after our brain begins to function. Our brain is an empty notebook at the start. The outside world of the brain stimulates neurons, causes, and modifies its firing cycles. Activities of the neurons create and prune synapses. They create and modify connected neuron groups through simultaneous and synchronized firings. The connecting active neurons can establish self-affirming resonance groups built on synchronization. These imprints are the memories. This is the functioning brain, which is conditioned and formed by the outside world. This is the world inside.

For example, pattern recognition and perception can work based on resonance too. Learning creates resonance groups and multiple levels of complex integrative resonances. These are self-organizing processes in the brain. After learning, we can utilize these resonances for recognition and perception even on limited, partial sensory inputs. And these procedures are available for the less enhanced brains. Functions based on self-organizing resonances are basic, general, evolution made processes.

An adequately developed brain can build self-structuring hierarchies of these resonances, can build integrative groups, and can create concepts.

Resonances are induced by outside causes but can be induced by inside causes too. An active resonance can stimulate other resonances or resonance groups; it can activate memories. Interacting and integrating resonances can form feelings, a kind of subjective experience that enables memories without the corresponding sensory inputs. Connected resonance groups can activate each other, and in this way can activate complex, connected, situated memories, and create thoughts.

Ultimately, the interacting, self-organizing resonances could activate and form a global resonance. If a global resonance is established, it can become a self-sustained, dynamic resonance by itself. Dynamic, because lower-level resonances can join and release from it,  and can couple to or decoupled from the global resonance dynamically. Self-sustained, because if it is formed, it can stay without constant reinforcement from the lower level. This global resonance supposedly is what we experience as consciousness.

How does the "I am" feeling, the subjective experience of existence appear by this global resonance? The global resonance is not just induction of the lower level resonances but can stimulate back to the lower level too. The global resonance does not just connect and integrate lower-level resonances by synchronization, but induce and reinforce them as well, through the connected and conditioned neuronal structures, without the necessity of outside stimulation. It can create an inner cause of stimulation; it forms an inside sourced stimulus. When the global resonance stimulates back to the lower levels, it creates the experience of "existing." It creates the experience of "me," and forms the feeling of subjective existence.

Global resonance exists only in one instance in a well-connected, healthy brain. This is why it is global. A healthy brain can have only one consciousness. If connections become damaged in a mass in the brain, in extreme cases the brain could form more than one global resonance on the part of the brain where the connections are normal. This brain can have more than one consciousness, and with it, a brain can have more personality.

After the global resonance forms and creates the subjective experience of consciousness, it also lowers the thresholds of the creation and extends the station of the lower level resonances by providing an extra, inside sourced stimulus to them. Global resonance can keep the existing resonances alive if they would cease due to not enough stimulation from the lower levels or the outside world. It lowers the threshold to form new local resonances. If the global resonance is formed, it can create a higher-level sensibility. As it would regularly be defined: Consciousness creates awareness.

Experiments and experiences show that the brain has an extra structure related to awareness. This structure can modify awareness, and has a significant effect on the global resonance, on consciousness too. The brain has a neuronal center and can connect neuronal circuitry to raise or decrease the excitement of the global resonance according to this center's activity. It can even turn consciousness on or off. The function of this evolutionary developed, specialized subsystem is to modify consciousness directly. According to the resonance model, this center can directly modify intensity and can reinforce, inhibit, and block global resonance. This center gives us useful functions and can be used to affect consciousness as well.

Consciousness can be modified globally, can be focused, and can change its focus too. What is the focus of consciousness? An example is when we encounter a new or raised level of stimulus. It is able not only to turn on consciousness, but it will also focus our consciousness on that specific stimulus. It means, according to the resonance model, that a stimulus will raise the synchronization level of a local area, and this raised local resonance gives a relatively raised contribution to the excitation of the global resonance, and the global resonance gives positive feedback to that area too. This process reduces and inhibits resonance level with other regions by synchronizing the global resonance with the new or raised local level resonance and desynchronizing (lowering) the resonance with the other regions. This effect is called attention.

The focus of consciousness, the attention can be modified. It can be driven externally, internally and artificially too.

Attention from outside:
Attention can be generated by an outside stimulus. If the stimulus is relatively strong compared to other stimuli that take place at the same time, it will not only create a rise of the global resonance level by raising synchronization with the global resonance, but it will also get higher feedback from the global resonance too. By getting higher feedback (getting extra stimulus), the given local neural circuitry can provide additional excitation for the connected neuronal structures. Thus, positive feedback is created, and a focus of the attention is formed or refocused.

If attention arises, it usually inhibits other focuses created by the attention. We cannot focus our attention on several things at once. Even if we think we can, it is more like a quickly changing focus of attention rather than parallel, simultaneous attention. The resonance model can explain this naturally. Resonance is a unique phenomenon. If it forms, it provides positive feedback to itself and negative feedback to other, non-synchronized waves that are present. In special cases, synchronization can form from and can include different resonances, but in the case of the brain, the different sensory inputs create very different lower-level resonances so only one lower-level resonance can dominate in the synchronization with the global resonance. The other lower level resonances’ contribution, even if they are present, is limited. However, synchronization can shift easily between resonances so attention can change focus quickly. The resonance model can give a simple, self-explanation to the phenomenon of the focus and inhibition of the attention.

Attention from inside:
The focus of the consciousness, the attention, can be modified by inside causes too. For example, when we read an interesting book, our attention is focused on the text, and we are not bothered by other stimuli such as noises. Although the visual stimulus, such as watching the letters in a book is weak, it is still able to modify attention, and able to create a focus for the consciousness. The reason for this is the precondition of the brain. Reading can create focus only if it is interesting. Interesting means that the brain is already preconditioned, having extensive connections; there is preconditioned neural circuitry to other areas related to the area where the information of the reading is activated in the brain. This setup and precondition enable resonances to form with high synchronization, through self-supporting ways. An interesting reading brings up that activating memories extensively provides a strong low-level resonance that can weight dominantly in the global resonance. This means our attention can be driven by inside reasons. These can be the cause of the precondition. According to the resonance model, activating preconditioned neural circuitry provides extra flux, extra resonance, and extra synchronization to the formerly low-level stimulus and resonance, which is then able to synchronize on a higher level with the global resonance, creating focus, the attention of the consciousness.

Will, programming the brain:
Will is the effort to reach a goal. What goal? Who defines the goal? We could say, we select our goals. Our consciousness selects it, and so it is "I," the driver, who creates the will. However, this approach has difficulties because it requires an inside existence, an independently working intention. This problem is deeply discussed in the science of psychology, and even in philosophy and religion. The problem with this approach is that it requires a somewhat independent, spiritual being. This "spirit" may be created by matter (the brain), but at the same time, it is somehow independent of it too. Alternatively, if the will is not created by matter, it may be a kind of spirit that is living in the brain or even in our body, with its existence independent of the matter. These spiritual approaches are driving us to a result that it is over the matter, and towards a dead end, from where it is difficult to reach understanding.

However, there is another approach to originate and to understand will. Here, we must consider the brain's driving, direction-defining function: Pain.

The goal for all living creatures that are driven by a brain is to avoid pain. These "feelings," the pain related states of the brain, are determined genetically. Evolution built them into the brain. For example, the brain has specified receptors and specific neural circuitry to handle stimuli that it needs to avoid. This circuitry is mostly made up of simple reflexes, but at the same time, they can activate a widely available sense, the feeling of pain.

We know what the neural pathways that activate to form pain are. However, we do not know how the feeling of pain forms. Pain, if it is more than a reflex, needs global connectivity of the higher-level brain structure to form a globally available feeling. It creates the motivation to avoid something. From the evolutionary side, creating a feeling of pain, a globally available sense, has advantages. It can utilize brain functions more widely than simple reflexes to avoid pain. It is able to solve a kind of problem. It can create a primitive form of intention, a primitive kind of will.

The globally available feeling of pain creates an urge to act. It motivates action, which creates a new state of the brain. This new state can result in a lower or higher level of pain. It is the feedback to the selected action, which can then be memorized by the brain. Complex action-reaction interactions form and build upon the feedback of the globally available feeling of this evolutionary determined state: Pain. As we experience and learn to live in the world, complex, multi-layered actions and behaviors can form on the foundation of the basic and primitive sense of pain.

Because of learning, pain is not necessary to be present for driving our behavior. Our past experiences help to evade, prevent pain to appear. However, our behavior is still connected to it even if only indirectly. All of our will, even the most complex, even if it looks like freedom of our choice, is still rooted in these evolutionarily determined, deeply buried, mostly concealed states of pain.

The globally available feeling of pain can create attention, which is related to consciousness. The feeling of pain is probably an earlier achievement of evolution than consciousness is. However, both use global connectivity. Stating speculatively, the brain structure creating consciousness might originate from the brain structure that creating pain as a globally available feeling.

In a simple brain, the goals are set, and the effort and acts to achieve the goals are automatic. In a simple brain, goals, and efforts can be preset, wired into the brain, wired by evolution. In this case, will appears to be a pure reflex guided by the evolution-based instinct. An ant acts like it has the will to search and find food, but the ant is doing it in a preprogrammed way, like a machine. However, even the ants' simple brain's neural structure can be driven by "pain." A simple disturbance can override the food searching behavior and switch to a state of “escape.” This action can be seen as wired, determined behavior, but the stimulus that determines this behavior is widely changeable. Even the stimulus-reaction pair is condition-able. This simple brain structure can have globally available pain functions, and the "will" to ease, to satisfy it.

In a more complex brain, additionally, to the preprogrammed neural circuitry, the actions look like they have choices to reach their preprogrammed goals. We can see different levels of "freedom" in the behavior of some animals; they can act differently in the same situation. How does the resonance model work in this case?

A more complex brain has memories that are more complex; it can have imprints of many different situations. As these memories form in the brain, they originally associate with the feeling of pain. However, as new associations are built, they can inherit the avoidance of pain from the earlier memories without actually triggering the original pain. This is how complex behaviors, with the sense of will, originated from the elementary functions of pain. For example, to make a choice to establish a family as a "free will" is a complex behavior, may be rooted in early experiences of feeling and avoiding pain. Later on, by building acts layer by layer on these original experiences, and burying the original causes deeply under the layers of actions forms "choice." Psychology uses the method to unfold the layers of actions to find the original cause, which actually originates from, and triggers the evolutionarily determined pain.

Additionally, on the role of pain, a similar driving force can affect will: the feeling of pleasure. It is less examined because it creates less medical cases, (except in the case of addiction). However, the same things can be said about pleasure as it was said about pain, but with the opposite sign and effect. Having two opposing sources of motivation can create more complex behavior with the pretense of free will. This topic was discussed more deeply in the thoughts of how to create universal, autonomous, adaptive system (see the label: UAA-system).

Sensory inputs can activate the associated memories. According to the strength of the associations, according to the similarity of the situations, various memories (neuronal circuitries) get excited and enter a resonating state. Complex, connected and unconnected resonances can form with different strengths. The most excited, connected, and resonating will become dominant for the connected effects and the related behaviors. If global resonance forms, and is present in the process as well, it helps form the local resonance with its additional feedback and integrative function. As can be seen, the complex brain's behavior is a complex and dynamic effect, the result of a complex and dynamic neural resonance. However, the action is not under the control of "free will." It comes from and is rooted in the experience connected directly or indirectly to the feeling, the state of the brain of pain and pleasure. Consciousness, if it arises, has more of a helping function than control or drive. The freedom of action is a pretense, a deception of consciousness. The reality is buried under global resonance. The actuality arises from the dominant resonance what the global resonance, the consciousness administers like freedom of choice, with the effect of the "me" feeling.

It is an oversimplification to see our behavior and will as determined by pain and pleasure. However, in the evolutionary sense, it is necessarily adequate. A more complex brain can build a more complex behavior, which is determined more and more by the experiences stored in the memory instead of genetics. When we recall experiences, we recall a whole complex background of circumstances with the impact that these have on us, which can be good or bad. We must also consider the effect of society, as it can be an encouragement or a punishment. It can provide positive or negative feedback on our actual behavior. It is not a regular evolution based driving force, but an effect that we created together as a community. Our learned knowledge and our subjective experiences are affecting our decisions. It is ours. We know because we learned and experienced the effects of our actions. The acquired knowledge can affect us as an evolutionary determination, and even more. Our brain is complex enough for that.

In the case of our human brain (and maybe some other animals’ brains), some goals look like they can be set against the evolutionary imprints. We experience it as we have (would have) free will to set our goals. We are able to consciously - but maybe not freely - program our brain, to set goals for us to reach. We can imagine the consequences of our actions. We can play the act of our actions in our brain by the help of consciousness, with the help of the feedback mechanism of the global resonance. We can memorize these models, and we can condition our brains to act accordingly. We are not simply pre-programmed machines. We can program ourselves with the help of knowledge, experience, and the modeling ability of consciousness, with the self-organizing ability of the resonances.

We are able to create attention by utilizing highly abstract concepts. We are able to create artificial attention or raise our attention artificially. We are able to create a will. However, this will is not the product of a spirit beyond matter, but instead a result of a complex, hierarchical, interacting, dynamic structure of the brain.

Resonance might be the key to understanding the brain, to understand how it creates a high level, integrative functions such as consciousness. However, as one can see, consciousness is not a function of control. It does not control or drive, but integrate, and, in this way, help us. It is in the integrative function that it creates, as a side effect, the "me" feeling, the subjective feeling of existence.

Neurons, which are necessary to form the resonances could be specialized neurons for this function. If these special, widely connected neurons exist, they can create a network. This network was called a “shadow network” in earlier thoughts (see the label: shadow network).

We are in a resonance state with the outside world, complemented with and affected by the residue of earlier imprints.

Incorrectly working resonances cause faulty working mechanisms in the brain. Many of our psychological illnesses, psychoses, and consciousness-related malfunctions could be originated in the faulty of the working resonances.

If global resonance creates consciousness, it can be created in a machine. The resonance model can be implemented in computers, or other, satisfyingly complex systems, even with different working mechanisms. If this is consciousness, it can be created.

A big speculative question: is consciousness transferable? Can we transfer our personal consciousness to another brain, or even into a machine? The importance of the question lays on the fact that we identify ourselves with our consciousness. If we could transfer our consciousness to another brain or machine, we could have immortality transferring our essence. However, if consciousness created by global resonance, by an integrative process, it is not us, it is not our personality. It is just a helping process. Our personality, the information of us lays on the connections of the neurons. Consciousness is not what we are; it is just our subjective experience of our existence. Can we transfer ourselves then? Yes, it is possible. However, the method is not building on the transfer of the consciousness but creating an interpretation of the connections of our neurons. It would be us, but without consciousness yet. To make this new structure conscious, we need to build an integrative, feedback process for the active structures to create the subjective experience of existence. This process would help to utilize the information effectively of the connections, our knowledge, but still, our consciousness is an operation on those facts. The factors together are what we are.

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