Psychiatry and the Computational (Modular) Model of Mind and Brain (Functional Phrenology)

When you go to your car mechanic, one minimally expects that these experts have a theoretical and systematic understanding of a car engine and all the other systems required to operate a vehicle. One does not anticipate that they are merely credentialed and certified tinkerers, positing one trial and error solution after another until it fixes the problem. Or that they are the equivalent of first line, technical support workers, who read from a computer screen to match the symptoms described by the end-user to a list of canned solutions. We expect an intimate and intuitive comprehension of the logic that connects one component and system to another by these professionals.

Therefore, it amazes that members of the public and civic officials should entrust the welfare of their minds and brains to a discipline, in which there is no credible philosophical model of mind, which can long sustain rational inquiry. I have endured the scripts by those who have advocated successive speculations since the downfall of behaviourism; Eliminative materialism, Epiphenomenalism, Identity theory – Type Physicalism, Non-reductive physicalism, Functionalism; too name the major ones. I say endure; because as much as my few family members, friends and acquaintances lecture me about toning down my language, wading through these philosophical dissertations, was cause for personal migraines.

But after these contending advocates have disabused the models of each others postulations, I need not add my two cents. Indeed, one senses that there is an unacknowledged realization within the field, of the deep flaws and deficiencies in each of these contending theories. They all seem to be waiting for the next best thing into which to barrel their approvals; regardless of underlying merit of the new speculation. I will spare the technicalities of these various speculations in this blog entry. It is a larger project down the line, in my attempts to discredit the physiological (medical) model of mind and construct a Logic-Level Ideological Foundation for Psychology.

Indeed, in comparison to the knowledgebase that we have devised in relationship to inner workings of computer and network systems, neuroscientists and psychiatrists are but toddlers, playing in the sandbox of our brains. One will read top-line boasts, in the documents propagated to the public, that the consensus of credentialed opinions in the field consider such and such mental disorder to be caused by such and such chemical imbalance etc. If one actually wades to the second or ensuing pages, there will be weaseled admission that there is no actual incontrovertible evidence to support the contentions. Proof of these dogmatic assertions of medical model of mind is by promissory note.

Indeed, since Thomas Szasz’ book “The Myth of Mental Illness”, written in 1960, in which he notes that there are no physiological markers, which can be directly linked to psychological disorders; that situation has not changed. And if one actually peruses the scientific journals and conversations that psychiatrists have amongst themselves, one observes a continued befuddlement. There is adage about insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (Einstein)

Despite the “colored lights that hypnotize” in MRIs, functional or otherwise, so much of the workings of the brain are unknown. We presume that the inputs and outputs between brain and the rest of body and processing within the brain involve transmission of messages through neurons.  Presuming our assumptions are correct, we do not know if the neuronal channels are dedicated, shared or a combination of the two or something other. We do not know if the same messaging agents that are used in transmission travel from start to finish (and back) or if message relay is involved (messaging agent transfers message to next neuron which transfers to messaging agent etc).  We do not know the basic unit of information used in neural systems (i.e. in computer systems, the bit) nor the manner by which the basic unit is devised. In computer systems, it is digital and binary (on/off switch) using one of various kinds of signaling methodologies.  Unlike computer systems whereby we give syntactical meaning to a series of 8 bits based on language set etc, we have no idea what is involved in a syntactically meaningful unit of information.  We do not know how a transmission would know how to go from point A to point B especially in the brain where there are millions of circuits.  We do not know, presuming that a sustained thought process requires a stream of units of information, how those units would identify themselves in an orderly coherent stream.  Compared to the computer system which has one basic unit of information, it becomes interestingly complicated when there are so many different kinds of neurotransmitters which we presume to be the different means by which the brain communicates with itself and the body.  The logic and protocols involved in a computer system is numerous and on many levels.  Each component and peripheral can have their own linguistical syntax with translators between components and between component and central processing unit.  This is all presuming that our assumption that human thought, mood and conduct involve transmission of messages through neurons. We know nothing about this. And I have listed the reams of problems and issues that we would need to overcome.

And we are still only scratching at the surface of the operations of the brain (presuming in fact that all that takes place in our minds, takes place in our brains).  Indeed, the further I contemplate and envision the workings of the brain and mind of man, one can appreciate Shakespeare’s exaltation of humanity…

“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2)

… or the Scriptures query “What is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)

I once conversed with a person who feared that the psychiatric community and their associates were conspirators who were brainwashing his mind. I had to convince him that the problem of psychiatrists, besides being one of the most psychological obtuse groups of professionals, was that they are, with a few exceptions, arrogant morons and charlatans. And their psychological ignorance is their training. By dismissing qualia (psychological phenomena) as being merely manifestations of underlying physiological events, they neglect any inculcation of the psychological. As I observed in one clinician at a Mississauga hospital, she was listening to the psychological symptoms only in order to literally perform a mental lookup of the rolodex of DSM entries in her mind. It is no wonder that my local general GP presumed to have the qualifications to give psychiatric assessments.

Apparently, U.S. President Barack Obama recently pledged to raise $3 billions for a “Brain Activity Map”, whereby the project seeks to map the functions of different areas of grey matter. Apparently, to question the underlying foundational premises of this dogma is to invite academic derision. Even Jerry Fodor, who in succession to Hilary Putnam developed the philosophy of mind (Functionalism) which underpins this theory, has been lampooned for doubting a full-scale massive modularity of mind.

In the 19th Century, a science was born, called phrenology, which purported that scratching different parts of the outer brain would cause different psychological reactions. To quote from Wiki: certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. And by studying the certain “bumps on the cranium”, we could understand the patient’s psychological attributes. Needless to say, after a couple of decades, phrenology was discredited as pseudoscience. But it is apparent that in modern scientists’ myopic neglect of history, they do not perceive that this brain mapping is just a theme and variation of this discredited theory.

One of the delights in listening to these obtuse empiricists is their belief that the location of the greatest neuronal activity occurs in the brain is the decisive point that influences the behaviour. And thus we will be presented with MRIs and fMRIs brain scans, with “colored lights that hypnotize” the gullible. MRIs and fMRIs do not actually measure brain activity. After brain activity occurs, there is a localized starving for more oxygenated blood in the area of previous activity, it is presumed. These MRIs and fMRIs measure the blood oxygenation as a proxy for neuronal activity. There is a problem with time studies. The replenishment of oxygenated blood does not work like clockwork. Furthermore, there are no systematic protocols in the field of interpretation; a problem I beheld in the early years of computerization. Therefore, a judicial waxing of the test results can easily occur. Furthermore, in the photos that claim that such and such psychological activity matches to this part of the brain, there is disingenuity. The photos are composites of many brains, with darker areas signaling a collective probability of neuronal activity associated with a psychological phenomenon. Therefore, what might be good for many might not be valid for some.

However, the biggest fallacy is in the association of a psychological activity with the physical point of the brain that initiates it. In my night courses at Centennial College on computer studies, there were human monitors, made necessary just to prevent reams of printouts from occurring as a consequence of neophyte programs with infinite logic loops, which included print or page eject commands. Now if one was to map the actual electronic activity of the event, one might see considerable traffic feeding into and flowing out of the printer ports. There might be very little traffic registered at the CPU processing the 2 or 3 line infinite loops. That additional might not add significantly to the normal CPU activity necessary just to keep the computer system alive. Would not a simple-minded and superficial observation of electronic activity not misdirect a complete stranger, with no knowledge of the inner workings, as to what caused the reams of print outs?

Another amusing irony of massive computational model of mind is that, as denoted in the label, the model takes its cues from one of man’s inventions, which was largely created to mimic human functions. (Thus, instead of man being created in the image of a creator, it is now suggested that we are created in the image of one of our creations, the creation of the creation being creator eons after the creation of the creator.) To be exact, a theoretical analog computer machine (Turing) was later proposed (originally digital) as the model by which human minds/brains operated. A maxim in computer technology is that the software drives the hardware. However, despite the modeling of the human organism upon the computer, they have inversed the order. The hardware (physiological) purportedly drives the software (psychological). The miraculous idea of inert physical entities having a mind of their own to drive the psychological begs a convincing explanation. But such trivialities are glossed over by these materialist dogmatists; even if an amateur grunt like myself, might think therein lies an essential crux of the matter to prove the model/theory.

And the criticisms go on and on and on… But that is for another day.

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