View Full Version : BRAIN

08-02-1996, 02:26 AM
copyright - alexander savitzky - 1996.
This article presents a realistic description of the brain's task in the
psychophysiological process. The brain is considered as a physiological
intensity-processing, modulating and relaying mechanism and not as a
psychological-information processor. Knowledge about objects and events is not
received by sense organs and processed, represented and stored in the brain,
but is experienced by means of the effector systems of our organism.
Experience is regarded as an effect of the integration of cognition with
feelings. The cognitive and the affective processes are distorted or
abolished, if deprived of this integration. This is proved by experiments,
although the common interpretation of them has been varied.
Neither the ancient dualistic soul-body philosophy, nor Kant's escapism to
transcendental metaphysics, or the countless theories of mind-brain
interaction do explain psychophysio- logical phenomena. Encouraged by modern
technology, contemporary scientists developed a neuropsychological dualism
instead.The mysterious entity, by account of which contemporary scientists try
in vain to explain psychophysiological processes is the brain.
The current conjectures are based on the correlation between instances of
brain damage, of stimuli, and electrical or chemical neurophysiological
processes on the one hand, and psychological or behavioral events on the
other. Most work on the cognitive and the psychophysiological sciences is
grounded on the notion that we receive information about objects and events
by sense organs. The information is coded and transmitted by neurons to the
brain, where it is processed, represented and stored. Psychological
operations, such as perception, thoughts, emotion etc. are, according to this
suggestion, performed by the brain. But no code or process has been found, by
the means of which information about any object is passed on to the brain or
by which it is processed, represented or stored there. The reason for this
failure does not derive from the lack of technological means, but, in the view
of this article, from a misleading conception of the psychophysiological
Mind is regarded by this article as a dualistic-metaphysical or a literary
entity. Psychological phenomena are instead considered as cognitive and
affective activities, which are the effects of certain physiological
processes. We cannot reduce psychological phenomena to physiological
processes, or identify the one with the other, because they are of totally
different categories of logical combinations, as causation and effects usually
are. We also cannot define feelings or experiences of phenomena. We can only
feel or experience them. We may try to describe and even influence
physiological processes and observe their correlation with cognitive and
affective effects. The latter are not just other terms, or substitutes for
"mind"."Mind", being a metaphysical entity is itself a substitute for an
explanation of psychological phenomena, whereas mental and affective
activities are psychophysiological processes. This attitude does not
contradict the recognition of human attributes, such as uniqueness,
spontaneity, emotionality, wisdom or any other "raison d'etre".... .
This work will be based on the following assumptions:
The properties of objects cannot be absorbed and transmitted by sense organs
or by neurons, but are experienced by our organism. Hence environmental
phenomena cannot be processed, represented and stored in the brain. The
cognition of objects is the effect of learning the sequences and combinations
of proprioceptive, meaning tactile, kinesthetic and vestibular sensations,
which may, but must not be extended by additional sensory modalities.
Affective events are effects of certain autonomic system's activities.
According to this postulate any model of the psychophysiological system must
discriminate five categories of logical combinations: Stimulating agents,
trigger mechanisms, activating agents, effectors and behavioral psychological
effects.The physical environmental factors are the stimulating agents. The
sense organs are triggers. The neuronal and the hormonal
systems are the modulating and activating agents. The motor and some of the
autonomic system's organs are the effectors. Some effects of effector arousals
are considered by us as psychological, meaning cognitive and affective

Let us examine some of the conjectures mentioned above. A slight pressure on
the trigger of a rifle causes an explosion in the cartridge and the ejection
of the bullet. Can we regard the pressure of the finger on the trigger as the
input of information about the finger? Is this information transferred to,
processed by, or represented in the mechanism of the rifle? Do the various
stages of the process belong to the same category? Is every stage a coded
version, or the representation of the previous stage? These questions are odd.
But aren't they similar to those asked and considered as appropriate in the
description of psycho-physiological processes?
The conventional postulate that information is received by sense-organs and
passed by neurons to the brain disregards the possibility of a simpler
account: that (as with the rifle),each stage is only triggered by the previous
activity and triggeres the following one. In this process stimulated sensory
cells trigger neurons which in turn induce motor and autonomic effectors,
which stimulate afferent neurons and vice versa in feedback loops. In this
case the terms receptor and neurotransmitter are misleading. Receptors do not
receive and transmitters do not transmit any psychophysiological knowledge
about phenomena. Neither the physical stimulants, such as photons, vibrating
particles or air waves, nor psychological phenomena, such as sensations of
light, smell, taste or voices are transferred by neurons to the brain. Sense
organs are triggers and not receivers of environmental information. Moreover,
in spite of their specificity "receptors" of all kinds may be stimulated by
different stimulants. The survival value of sense organs can be understood
only by their contact (via neurons) with reacting effectors. The "information"
received by sense-organs and passed by neurons may be reduced to two physical
factors: frequency and intensity; and as revealed by Plank's equation,
frequency is virtually a function of intensity. Neurons fire at a greater
frequency if activated by a greater frequency or a greater intensity. Due to
their physiological properties sense organs and neurons may sum up or moderate
and relay these intensities of excitations evoked simultaneousely by neurons
from variouse parts of the organism. These neuronal processes relay the course
of excitations to the relevant effectors.
Piaget regarded sensory-motor operations as the basis of perception, the
cognition and recognition of objects and object relationships and the creation
of cognitive schemata (Piaget and al. 1969). It is learned by means of
reafferent palpation and locomotion evoking combinations and sequences of
proprioceptive sensations. Touching the surface of an object is not
sufficient to cognize a table and to distinguish it from a piece of wood, a
chair or another phenomenon. To cognize a table we must palpate it. The
combinations and sequences of muscle stretch sensations are learned as the
length, weight, hardness, thickness etc. of the various objects. From tactile
sensations we learn to infer, that objects are cold or hot, rough or smooth
etc. By the vestibular sensations we learn to know the orientation, the
position and locomotion of ourselves and of other objects.The combination of
all these proprioceptive stimuli creates in us facilitated or potentiated
organic feedback loops, which include the relevant effectors. The arousal of
combinations and sequences of all these sensations is the process of
cognizing, of creating new perceptions, or of recognizing, of "retrieving"
them by evoking the learned cognitive schemata. By learning, these processes
may be facilitated to such an extent, that the motor activities will be evoked
to a minimal intensity. But they must be evoked. Disconnection of
sensory-motor effectors from effectors of other modalities may distort or even
deprive us of cognitive abilities, as will be described in the next lines.
Hubel and Wiesel detected, among others, cells which are excited when we see a
bar at a specific orientation (Hubel and Wiesel 1962). But , according to the
theory presented in these pages, what they virtually found are cells which
relay arousals to the relevant motor-

vestibular effectors and not "orientation-sensitive cells". Searching for
features or other properties of objects in the central neuronal system or in
some codes of its activity seems strange, if inferred by scientists who know
the properties of neurons. The process of cognizing objects and events does
not represent features or other properties of objects, but the cognition of
them. Cognition cannot be considered as the derivative of retinal stimuli, or
of the appearence of retinal images, or retinotopic correlations in the
lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus, or in "visual" cortices. For we
cannot by optic means learn the meaning of hard, soft, heavy, thick, long,
hot, distant, rough, wet, deep or other properties of phenomena. The optic
ability is an extention of the proprioceptive basis of cognition. A blind born
child may learn to cognize an object by palpation only. But neonates deprived
of proprioceptive sensations cannot cognize phenomena (eg. Held and Hein
Proprioceptive sensations may, but need not be enriched by optic and other
One hundred years ago Stratton wore goggles with inverting prismas (Stratton
1896). Thereby he virtually changed the combinations of retinal loci
stimulated by the environmental stimulants. Nevertheless he adapted to his new
"visual environment" not by changing the "retinal images", but by learning the
new correlations between the sensory-motor and the vestibular sensations with
the stimulation of different retinal loci. In other words, it is not important
which area of the retina is stimulated. If we have learned, that we must raise
our hand to reach an object we will see it above and not below.
And as to "abstract" psychological conceptions, let us consider some examples.
Striatum neurons' discharge normally precedes the onset of specific movements.
>From this observation neuroscientists inferred, that the intention to move
should be ascribed to the brain. Lesions of basal ganglia may be accompanied
by akinesia, by disorders of movements-initiation. The conjecture that
voluntary movements are initiated and induced by the brain, or, as dualistic
philosophers infer, by a psychological entity, such as the "mind" does not
contribute to an explanation of these psychophysiological phenomena. In order
to remain in the realistic domain of psychophysiology we might rather infer,
that activities of the sensory-motor feedback loops (which include neuronal
junctions, such as the basal ganglia and others) are induced by neuronal
activators and by motor-vestibular effectors and by the effects of their
arousals. The cognitive effects of these physiological processes and the
learned, facilitated or potentiated schemata may be regarded as one part of
the relaying and guiding activities of the voluntary responses.
Various experiments do indeed indicate, that initiative, as also thoughts
expectations and other psychological processes are characterized by motor
activities. For example, some specific minor changes in muscular activities
characterize particular psychological processes, such as imagining, "silent
language processing" and others (Cacioppo and al. 1981). And Pavlov's
experiments leave no doubt, that salivation and other physiological activities
characterize the dog's expectation for food, or the imagination of such an
"Emotions" have been identified by William James with certain activities of
the autonomic system. James claimed, that "we feel sorry because we cry, angry
because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike or
tremble because we are sorry, angry or fearful..." (James 1890). In other
words, contrary to Cannon (1927) James considered emotions as effects of
physiological processes. This view must be accomplished, explained, but also
partly challenged by introducing the task of learning and memory in
psycho-physiological processes. Since such an explanation is beyond the scope
of this epitomized article, it will be presented in my next work:"Learning,
Memory, Cognition and the Brain" (in preparation).
What we may remark at this stage is, that many physiological processes are
performed without our knowledge of their mental effects. But no mental
operations can be performed without their physiological basis. We may
dissociate physiological processes from mental effects, but we cannot
dissociate mental experiences from their physiological basis. The
psychophysiological mechanism functions as a feedback system. Each

behavioral effect may influence or determine the involvement of the other
categories of processes, including its physiological effectors.

When Olds and Millner discovered groups of cells, the stimulation of which,
(by pressing a pedal) seemed to cause pleasure to the mouse (Olds and
Millner1954) they actually must have found neuronal relay junctions
interconnected to some autonomic system's activators, such as neurons of the
autonomic system and hormone glands, which induce visceral constrictions or
other reactions evoking pleasure in the mouse. The conclusion that
pleasure-centres have been discovered in the brain is an overstatement based
on an imaginary conception which cannot be logically accepted.
Since the autonomic system is involved in the metabolism, the conversion,
accumulation and use of energy and in maintaining homeostasis, stimuli, if
strong enough, must induce the autonomic system (via the limbic system and the
hypothalamus). And since some of the autonomic system's activities evoke in us
feelings, we may infer that every stimulus, if
strong enough, may evoke feelings, which are considered in this article as
affective, meaning good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant effects. This
psychophysiological feedback-mechanism is the second agent guiding our
voluntary operations.
Autonomic processes become physiologically meaningful if integrated with
visceral or other effectors activities. Feelings become psychologically
meaningful when integrated with cognitive processes.
The integration of the affective and the cognitive dimensions is necessary for
our awareness of phenomena, an effect considered in this work as experience
(Savitzky 1989,1991).
Unlike feelings, emotions, such as envy, hatred, grief, love etc. are
experiences, since they contain not only the affective, but also the cognitive
dimension. On the other hand we cannot cognize phenomena if the perception of
them is not integrated with feelings, which award the cognition of objects and
events with vital qualities. This attitude is supported by countless
experiments and observations, mainly of disconnections of effector systems
from each other.
Surplus of inhibitory "neurotransmitters" or neurohormones, atrophy of
nerve-cells in the
brain, tumors and other kinds of damage or the pharmacological intervention of
anesthetists or scientists in certain brain areas disonnecting or distorting
the connections between the physiological systems may create anesthesia,
analgesia, anamnesia, the various agnosias and other psychological distortions
and insufficiencies.
A few of many examples: Superfluous quantities of dopamine (an inhibitory
"neuro- transmitter")in the nigrostriatic pathway may result in delirium in
schizophrenic patients. By a decreased activity of GABA and cholinergic
striatal neurons in Huntington's disease some patients become euphoric, others
are irascible and violent. Damage to the cingula of the limbic system,
inferotemporal loss (Wilson 1957), removal of both temporal lobes (Kluver and
al.1937) or any other kind of disconnection of the optic system from the
proprioceptive or from the autonomic system may cause "psychic
blindness"(Kluver and al,1937) or "visual agnosia"(Kolb and al.1985). The
destruction of particular areas or even particular cells in the inferior or
the superior temporal cortex, the striate, or the associative cortices may
also cause various specific visual deficiencies (Desimone and al.1979;
Kendrick and al.1987; Livingstone and al.1988;Phillips and al.1984).
All these and many other correlations tempt us to regard defined brain areas
as centres that are responsible for specific psychological functions and the
motor, the autonomic and other organic systems as mere peripheral
physiological agents. These theories derive from metaphysical ideas
considering the brain as the "core" of the psychophysiological process and all
the rest as the periphery of it , which is in the view of this article a
mistaken and misleading conception.The brain does not feel, perceive, think,
represent or perform any psychological or behavioral processes. The brain is
a physiological intensity modulating and relaying unit and not a
psychological-information processor (Savitzky 1993). The so called "brain
centres" are groups of neuronal relay junctions. Hence my conclusion from the
mentioned instances is, that the psychological process may become distorted or
abolished, because the relevant physiological effector systems are damaged or
disconnected from each other and not because functionally specific mental and
affective brain centres are damaged.
I believe that the views expounded in this theory, which is based on a
realistic consideration of the brain's function in the organic feedback
system, will provide a better explanation of the psychophysiological aspect
of cognitive and affective processes.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my dear friends Dr. Eli
Shezen, Dr.Eli Daryn, Prof. Josef Tagelicht and Prof. Dov Zipori for their
generosity in supporting and encouraging me along the "Via Dolorosa" of
accomplishing and publishing this work.

Please send commentaries, questions or suggestions to email:

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