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Neural origins of higher brain functions

 Higher brain functions, such as volition or consciousness, typically do not have well-defined brain regions, and therefore are necessarily ...

 Higher brain functions, such as volition or consciousness, typically do not have well-defined brain regions, and therefore are necessarily the result of the neurons that construct the brain. As a consequence, higher brain functions are necessarily a communal, emergent property of the cooperation of neurons located in a larger area, typically the brain regions of the frontal lobe.

How do higher brain functions emerge from neural operations? These are the basics:

Neurons are cells that exhibit periodic electrical activity.

The brain is constructed by a genetically determined, evolutionarily formed network of neurons that are specifically connected to each other, even at a distance, by cellular spines called axons and dendrites.

The interconnected neurons can modulate each other's electrical activity in a one-directional excitatory or inhibitory manner, meaning that when a neuron is stimulated beyond a genetically defined threshold, the electrical activity response of that neuron is triggered.

If a neuron is close enough to another neuron that the activity of one affects the activity of the other, then the simultaneous activity produces changes that increase the efficiency of the connection that produces the activity. (There may also be a biochemical process that does the opposite, so that in the case of neurons in an excitatory connection, if the activity of one is not associated with the activity of the other, then it produces changes that decrease the activating efficiency of the connection).

Neural connections are continuously degraded in a genetically determined manner, at the rate developed during evolution.

As a result of the latter two processes, the neural connectivity structure of the brain is constantly changing based on the activity of neurons. The result of the effects of these processes is called brain plasticity.

How do higher brain functions arise from these basic operating mechanisms?

During the initial development of the brain, building neurons create an extensive structure of connections.

The spontaneously activating neurons of the brain, uninfluenced by external stimuli and without preconditioning, generate random, unmodulated neuronal activity and activity waves of a frequency characteristic of their activity cycles, and propagate them on the existing connectivity structures when the activation conditions are met.

The external world influences the activity of the brain's neurons through the sensory organs from the time the brain is formed, in such a way that the sensory organs transform the environmental stimuli into the activity level corresponding to the brain's neural operating mechanism. These stimuli from the sensory organs to the brain, which have the signalling structure specific to the external environment of the brain, affect the activity of the associated neurons, specifically modifying their activity frequency, which also affects the activity frequency of their connected neurons. The specific activity of the sensory organs coming from the environment specifically modulates the activity frequency of the connected neurons.

In addition, the pattern of neural activity generated by the activity of the sensory organs also affects the neural connectivity structure, modifying it through the brain's plasticity mechanisms.

Specific conditioning processes result in the formation of unique neural structures from neural connections that are specific to the pattern of stimuli, and result in modulated activity waves that are specific to the structures generated by neural activity.

Continuous but ever-changing patterns of sensory activity specific to the environment form increasingly specific and complex neural circuit structures specific to the sensory model of the environment, which, when active, generate modulated waves of activity specific to that structure. The activity of these structures can activate and, in a feedback-like manner, further specify, together with the sensory activity, the emerging connectivity structures. 

As a result of incoming sensory experiences and internal activity, increasingly complex and unique relational structures and generated activity waves are created. The area of the brain suited to these functions is continuously conditioned by the activities, forming an increasingly specific internal model of the environment.

What happens when a conditioned nervous system is exposed to a stimulus? A given stimulus action acts on the activity of an already conditioned neural network as if a specialized neural circuit structure at a specific location were poked with a pattern of activity corresponding to the stimulus, creating activity waves corresponding to the structure and modulated activity resonances corresponding to the stimulus, resulting in activity in the conditioned neural pathways, i.e., resulting in modulated activity of the structure formed by previous experience.

The patterns of activity create waves of neural activity and resonances based on internal feedback that extend across brain areas depending on the nature of the generating stimulus and the conditioned structure. This brain state can be identified as a feeling, an inner sense, the appearance of resonance-like activity of a neural structure caused by a specific external or internal activation, and what is unique to the activation, on a structure conditioned by previous experience. 

Resonances can also interact and trigger each other in ways that are consistent with conditioning, leading to the formation of complex resonant structures and resonance cascades, which, like the mapping of the modeled environment through conditioning, result in a sense of the presence of the given environment modified by experience, creating a personalized sense of the environment.

The resultant of the resonances can form a self-sustaining dynamic state that is self-excited by feedback, resulting in a sense of the existence of an external and internal state. This is consciousness. Consciousness is the state of the resultant of the resonances of the waves formed by individual neuronal activities, stably maintained but dynamically modified by feedback, which creates the sense of the feeling of existing experience, the existence.

The interacting resultant of the resonances generated by the neural activity waves is the personal state that represents the will. The constantly forming and resulted brain state can then be translated into action by the brain's genetically determined motor neurons, which are activated by the brain's internal activity, coupled with the body's actuators and movement-producing muscles, which are genetically determined by evolution. The classical, independently existing free will does not exist, but the individual will, which determines the individual action as a result of the resonances of the individually conditioned brain, generated by external and internal stimuli and manifested in action, does exist.

The resulting resonant activity from the combined action of a sufficient number of networked neurons are emergent properties of the brain's operating mechanisms, which consequently produce higher brain functions such as volition and self-awareness. Therefore, all higher brain functions, including volition and consciousness, can be understood and should be explained by the model of brain resonant neural activity.

Consciousness, the ability to sense a state of being, combined with the possession of a complex, abstract language capable of communication and malleable modeling, creates the thinking human being, and that, in turn, creates human civilization.

And as a generalization, a system that implements the above neural functions by emulation or simulation, and is built according to the above principles, will have emergent higher properties, will become volitional, and will have consciousness. Supplemented by linguistic capabilities, an artificially intelligent civilization similar to that of humans could be created. 

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