Where Religious Belief And Disbelief Meet


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lamminium
The problem is, what i tried to explain, is that it is not sure the areas that light up are the areas that are the cause of a certain observed activity.

Since the software that makes sense out of the enormous signal noise to discover a pattern is based on observations made it only shows that you can reproduce the observations with that software.

Which is as circular logic as you can get.

Furthermore since the largest activity observed will be in the after the fact processing of the brain of earlier incoming data you stand a more than even change you're looking in the wrong direction.

Until we can get a much higher resolution, and can make out between suppressing and strengthening activity it's anybody's? guess what it shows.

Which goes to show that if you start out looking for a certain confirmation you're quite likely to find it but need not reflect what actually happens.

Worth a read

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petrossa

Indeed:

Image Processing: An image processing facility has been developed as a stand-alone system outside of the scanner system. This facility provides the computational capability required to reconstruct the large numbers of images and provides the statistical analyses that identify the anatomical regions that are active during specific tasks.

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lamminium
Indeed:

Image Processing: An image processing facility has been developed as a stand-alone system outside of the scanner system. This facility provides the computational capability required to reconstruct the large numbers of images and provides the statistical analyses that identify the anatomical regions that are active during specific tasks.

The key phrase here is "statistical analysis". All of the studies you have read and cited in your life rely on an agreed statistical significance of p < 0.05 (which is random but it is a good standard). No difference here whatsoever. People agree on a standard value and use it (mind you, it's not as random as it sounds).

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petrossa
The key phrase here is "statistical analysis". All of the studies you have read and cited in your life rely on an agreed statistical significance of p < 0.05 (which is random but it is a good standard). No difference here whatsoever. People agree on a standard value and use it (mind you, it's not as random as it sounds).

Sure. But the signal to noise ratio of the data is more like noise to signal ratio.

There's a vast sea of noise which needs to be cleaned to get a pattern. It's actually quite like climate modeling.

There are so many variables to consider that all outcome can only be a guestimate.

And that the guestimate reflects the assumption is quite likely, since the whole setup is biased towards giving the answer you look for.

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lamminium
Sure. But the signal to noise ratio of the data is more like noise to signal ratio.

There's a vast sea of noise which needs to be cleaned to get a pattern. It's actually quite like climate modeling.

There are so many variables to consider that all outcome can only be a guestimate.

And that the guestimate reflects the assumption is quite likely, since the whole setup is biased towards giving the answer you look for.

Artifacts exist but there are ways to minimise them.

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petrossa
Artifacts exist but there are ways to minimise them.

Obviously, else the image on the computer screen would resemble a badly tuned tv set.

But think how many processes are needed to give 'clean' image which consists mostly of random spikes .

The detection of signal given of by the oxygen reduction is a very interpretable one. You need to determine what is 'standard' and than discover minute changes along a timeline in a massively noisy signal.

Because the brain uses oxygen all the time, not just when it's active. So all over the place the brain will be active, it's a parallel processing neural network. And all over the place there will be spikes of more intense activity just sitting still and daydreaming.

All this has to be filtered out. A gargantuan task, which can only be done in real time by assuming fixed levels of oxygen use as being standard to find a deviation, plus filtering out signals from area's where you don't expect activity. Hence the method is certainly interesting and useful, but is absolutely inadequate to determine higher thought processes.

That there is a success rate with control by the brain only means the brain is very adaptable and can activate with biofeedback certain area's of the brain which result in the desired result like the famous ball on the screen you can move about by just thinking.

It doesn't mean that the equipment 'reads' you mind, it means that your brain has discovered how to influence the equipment.

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lamminium
Obviously, else the image on the computer screen would resemble a badly tuned tv set.

But think how many processes are needed to give 'clean' image which consists mostly of random spikes .

The detection of signal given of by the oxygen reduction is a very interpretable one. You need to determine what is 'standard' and than discover minute changes along a timeline in a massively noisy signal.

Because the brain uses oxygen all the time, not just when it's active. So all over the place the brain will be active, it's a parallel processing neural network. And all over the place there will be spikes of more intense activity just sitting still and daydreaming.

All this has to be filtered out. A gargantuan task, which can only be done in real time by assuming fixed levels of oxygen use as being standard to find a deviation, plus filtering out signals from area's where you don't expect activity. Hence the method is certainly interesting and useful, but is absolutely inadequate to determine higher thought processes.

That there is a success rate with control by the brain only means the brain is very adaptable and can activate with biofeedback certain area's of the brain which result in the desired result like the famous ball on the screen you can move about by just thinking.

It doesn't mean that the equipment 'reads' you mind, it means that your brain has discovered how to influence the equipment.

For instance, when you perform a motor task, the neural activity in the motor and motor-associated regions escalates because they require more oxygen than usual to meet the demand. You pointed to the background oxygen level and made no reference to the task-specific scenario. But oxygen is just part of the story. It's also glucose that the working neurons need. The more activity they need to produce, the more glucose they require. Increased blood flow is the only way the extra glucose can be delivered. fMRI makes use of that fact.

The Oxford guys answered some of your criticisms: link.

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petrossa
For instance, when you perform a motor task, the neural activity in the motor and motor-associated regions escalates because they require more oxygen than usual to meet the demand. You pointed to the background oxygen level and made no reference to the task-specific scenario. But oxygen is just part of the story. It's also glucose that the working neurons need. The more activity they need to produce, the more glucose they require. Increased blood flow is the only way the extra glucose can be delivered. fMRI makes use of that fact.

The Oxford guys answered some of your criticisms: link.

I am aware of all the ramifications of fmri studies, i've followed it intensely as i posted on my blog a thesis concerning religion being a brain function. Your OP is quite old news, which i read some time ago.

At the time of reading i already discarded the theory as being flawed on the basis it just shows activity in the general area assumed to be important in high order thought processes and just shows (imo) the brain painting the picture ready for making it 'aware'.

The whole problem with this method is it presumes that high activity is needed to make things happen, which i don't agree with. The brain being a distributed, flexible neural network it is capable of reassigning temporarily inactive parts of the brain, which normally have nothing to do with cognitive functions, to become part of a on the fly reconfiguration. In so doing the brain can perform tasks most efficiently.

It does what any parallel computing device does, distribute. So its quite likely you're just seeing the taskmanager at work rather than the actual task being effectuated.

To this explains why focusing the mind intensely makes you incapable to perform other tasks well.

Or just being able to read a book and listen to music at the same time.

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lamminium
it presumes that high activity is needed to make things happen, which i don't agree with. The brain being a distributed, flexible neural network it is capable of reassigning temporarily inactive parts of the brain, which normally have nothing to do with cognitive functions, to become part of a on the fly reconfiguration. In so doing the brain can perform tasks most efficiently.

It does what any parallel computing device does, distribute. So its quite likely you're just seeing the taskmanager at work rather than the actual task being effectuated.

If you could back this up, I'll be very interested in reading the sources.

First, what is a neural activity?

Second, how is a function carried by neural communication?

The detailed answers to the two questions above should help you realise why the current knowledge of neurophysiology is the way it is.

Third, in a study of subjects at rest such as fMRI, would you think that the unrelated activities are reasonably suppressed so that the brain can focus on the imposed task and hence the distinct signal is picked up by the scanner?

Fourth, the fact that the brain can compensate for inactivated (lesioned, necrotic, etc.) regions does not mean it always does so. Think of the physiological level. While it is not perfect to compare the brain to a computer, the similarity between the brain and a computer is striking: the brain uses biochemical agents to work while the computer relies on subatomic particles to do the job. Instructions are coded and sent to be interpreted and effected. You wouldn't find a packet with the information going off to another domain and depositing the information there unless it is instructed to do so. The brain is conservative in utilising its resources: what it does not need, it disposes; what it can use again, it recycles. Your model does not work in that sense because of the wasteful demand for resources. These specified areas for functions serve as an integrated map for the most efficient use of resources. In cases of brain damages, the brain activates its stress responses and starts remodelling itself. It does not mean that's what it always does due to reasons already mentioned.

And I must pre-empt your argument that we should not dwell into the molecular level: if you don't look at the nature of the system, you miss out completely on how it works and is designed to do. Philosophy and physiology are in totally different realms.

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petrossa

I'll take some time to go through my notes and files. However a lot of my info comes from proper books so i can' t give internet links other than referrals to a bookstore

Just of the cuff i can positively state that the brain is indeed capable of reconfiguring on the fly idle resources to aid a current problem that needs resolving.

Whilst there are definite areas allocated to certain tasks, when those tasks run idle, the brain can and will use these area's to extend it's computing power;

Thinking about it further, i consider making it into a new blog entry, in which case it'll take me a couple of months.

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lamminium
Just of the cuff i can positively state that the brain is indeed capable of reconfiguring on the fly idle resources to aid a current problem that needs resolving.

That's neural plasticity and it's already a familiar topic.

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petrossa
That's neural plasticity and it's already a familiar topic.

So what are you on about with your earlier post??

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lamminium
So what are you on about with your earlier post??

The fact that it can adapt doesn't mean that's its primary mode. Even though the modern neuroscience is still young, it is considerably advanced because it integrates anatomy, biochemistry and physics into its framework. It is conventional and clinically observable that a high neural activity is underlay by an increased metabolic demand (meaning that the metabolite's concentration exceeds its basal level).

A very nice model accounting for a plethora of experimental data from neuroimaging studies can be found here. It's just a model but the point I'm illustrating here is that when neurons are activated, blood flow towards the region of their residence increases per previous data used by the model.

EDIT: fixed up the link.

Edited by lamchopz
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petrossa
The fact that it can adapt doesn't mean that's its primary mode. Even though the modern neuroscience is still young, it is considerably advanced because it integrates anatomy, biochemistry and physics into its framework. It is conventional and clinically observable that a high neural activity is underlay by an increased metabolic demand (meaning that the metabolite's concentration exceeds its basal level).

A very nice model accounting for a plethora of experimental data from neuroimaging studies can be found here. It's just a model but the point I'm illustrating here is that when neurons are activated, blood flow towards the region of their residence increases per previous data used by the model.

All nice and proper, Lam. But the whole structure you are referring to is build pretty loose sand.

An observation is made using invasive technology

A computer model is designed to conform to the observed phenomenon ?

After that all other not observed but inferred information is taken as observation of a real event.?

So the whole structure of science depends on the fact that a computer model arrived at mimicking a true observation.

Climate Modeling Revisited. The images are only as good as the software that creates them. They may, or may not reflect actual events.

Comparing to radioactive isotope imaging does nothing to clarify that. All it shows is bloodsugar oxidation.

The assumption that increased oxidation has a direct connection to observed events is just that, an assumption. The increased activity may well be of a suppressant nature and as such not a proof that the given brainarea is directly involved in the original action.

With simple things, like limb movement and such it's more likely, but with advanced cognitive functions it becomes just a guessing game since it is clear that cognitive functions have no fixed place. There's no place in the brain where 'consciousness' resides.

There are fully functional conscious people with only one hemisphere, be it right or left.

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lamminium
All nice and proper, Lam. But the whole structure you are referring to is build pretty loose sand.

An observation is made using invasive technology

A computer model is designed to conform to the observed phenomenon ?

After that all other not observed but inferred information is taken as observation of a real event.?

So the whole structure of science depends on the fact that a computer model arrived at mimicking a true observation.

Climate Modeling Revisited. The images are only as good as the software that creates them. They may, or may not reflect actual events.

Comparing to radioactive isotope imaging does nothing to clarify that. All it shows is bloodsugar oxidation.

The assumption that increased oxidation has a direct connection to observed events is just that, an assumption. The increased activity may well be of a suppressant nature and as such not a proof that the given brainarea is directly involved in the original action.

With simple things, like limb movement and such it's more likely, but with advanced cognitive functions it becomes just a guessing game since it is clear that cognitive functions have no fixed place. There's no place in the brain where 'consciousness' resides.

There are fully functional conscious people with only one hemisphere, be it right or left.

First thing first, this is not the same as climate modelling. The analogy is not valid. In climate modelling, the number of factors that need to be taken account is enormous and often hard to reconcile them all because they interact at three levels: systemic, macroscopic and microscopic (my own terminology for expressive convenience). Systemic level occurs at the model level when you reconcile the various systems that affect climate change. Macroscopic level occurs in the individual effects of each system. Microscopic level occurs at the molecular scale when each component of each reaction is studied. The most perplexing thing is that the climate systems aren't uniform and the underlying mechanisms of climatology are considerably diverse.

The brain, however, is built on a finite set of systems that are more less similar in their structural and functional principles (with a few certain exceptions that are still not well understood). The brain is a set of neuronal systems whose components (neurons) possess similar structural and functional characteristics (first uniformity: systemic level). The interactions within each system are regulated by an almost uniform collection of biochemical agents and structures (second uniformity: macroscopic level). The chemical and electrical transmissions underlying the interactions are based on chemical and physical principles coupled with anatomical connections (third uniformity: microscopic level, which also applies to the climate model). You don't see this full set in the climate model.

Second, we've spent years (think: centuries) on studying biochemistry by which the neurons and glia function. Unless you can propose an alternative process which lies outside the existing scope of knowledge, I find it unreasonable to reject current understanding.

Third, let me give you one final example: try lying down and rub your hand against the mattress. Does it get hot? That's an indication of increased blood flow due to vasodilation. Physiological settings are uniform in that sense: an increased activity is indicative of functional operations.

Last, it is your choice to believe or not. You're entitled to your personal opinion. It only matters if you choose to pursue research.

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petrossa
Last, it is your choice to believe or not. You're entitled to your personal opinion. It only matters if you choose to pursue research.

Thank you, that's very kind.?

It's the same as climate modeling because there's a mathematical model giving a simulacrum of events.

Climate's parameters are limited too, obviously.

The analogy is therefore perfectly sound, a mathematical model representing a collection of data in a form we can understand.

Both suffer the same defects. The assumption of the base lines and the limited scope of the model.

Tweak a baseline and suddenly what was an inactive region of the brain becomes active.

Sugar oxidation takes place all of the time, it's the arbitrary line we draw in the sand which determines if a region is more active.

As such the images reflect what we want it to reflect. Which by pure coincidence may be correct. Laws of change make them right half the time, so anything more than that is extra.

But to generate your OP's thesis on the basis of that is to me rather unscientific and reflects more the researchers bias then anything else.

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lamminium
Thank you, that's very kind.?

It's the same as climate modeling because there's a mathematical model giving a simulacrum of events.

Climate's parameters are limited too, obviously.

The analogy is therefore perfectly sound, a mathematical model representing a collection of data in a form we can understand.

Both suffer the same defects. The assumption of the base lines and the limited scope of the model.

Tweak a baseline and suddenly what was an inactive region of the brain becomes active.

Sugar oxidation takes place all of the time, it's the arbitrary line we draw in the sand which determines if a region is more active.

As such the images reflect what we want it to reflect. Which by pure coincidence may be correct. Laws of change make them right half the time, so anything more than that is extra.

But to generate your OP's thesis on the basis of that is to me rather unscientific and reflects more the researchers bias then anything else.

The climate isn't exactly contained like the brain. The weather is affected by influences from outer space. I don't hope to make you see the solid scientific tools that we're currently utilising. It will help if you read about biochemistry, physiology and physics. Then all of these will make sense to you.

Your consistent criticism of neuroimaging techniques is that we have no standard baselines. Here's how it works: when you study a subject, you get the basal values of the parameters of interest on the subject then conduct your real experiment. The values due to treatment are then statistically analysed against the control (the basal values).

So while the brain is dynamic, the fact it is subjected to the same physical and chemical principles that regulate the universe does not give it a distinct difference from anything. Like you always muse, the difference you're clinging to is in the mind.

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petrossa
So while the brain is dynamic, the fact it is subjected to the same physical and chemical principles that regulate the universe does not give it a distinct difference from anything. Like you always muse, the difference you're clinging to is in the mind.

True. Well put. So to conclude you concur that the interpretation of the brainimaging using present day technologies is just that, an interpretation.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In your OP beauty was trying to prove that religion isn't different from other forms of belief. In my view he only succeeded in showing his bias.

His whole assumption is completely wacky. The area lighting up can be as much the 'belief' just because it lights up when you are busy believing something as it is the brain being busy to build a conscious presentation of other processes in the brain which don't get past the baseline but are in fact the origin of the belief.

Neurosurgery has conclusively shown that religious belief is governed by a specific area. Damage it and weird beliefs start to form. That afterwards the brain processes the religious experience in the same area were all other beliefs are made conscious is than perfectly logical.

So all your OP shows is that there is a neural network which processes all forms of belief to become an awareness compatible with previous personal data.

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lamminium
True. Well put. So to conclude you concur that the interpretation of the brainimaging using present day technologies is just that, an interpretation.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In your OP beauty was trying to prove that religion isn't different from other forms of belief. In my view he only succeeded in showing his bias.

His whole assumption is completely wacky. The area lighting up can be as much the 'belief' just because it lights up when you are busy believing something as it is the brain being busy to build a conscious presentation of other processes in the brain which don't get past the baseline but are in fact the origin of the belief.

Neurosurgery has conclusively shown that religious belief is governed by a specific area. Damage it and weird beliefs start to form. That afterwards the brain processes the religious experience in the same area were all other beliefs are made conscious is than perfectly logical.

So all your OP shows is that there is a neural network which processes all forms of belief to become an awareness compatible with previous personal data.

No, no, you're reading too much into the OP.

The group does not suggest that religion is not different from other forms of belief. What was found was that the same brain region is involved in religious and nonreligious modes. What and how this occurs and what implications exist are up to future research and conclusions. Data from surgical studies will very likely be incorporated. Like the Oxford website's answers to common criticism already state, neuroimaging identifies the different areas for different tasks but interpretation from the data is critical. For instance, when you're exposed to certain fear such as spider, your amygdala lights up. One interpretation is that the amygdala is responsible for arachnophobia. Another interpretation is that the amygdala is the centre for emotional memory such as fear (which is the better one with more supporting evidence). A better study design yields a better interpretation. Also, raw data are meaningless if you don't read what they mean (i.e. interpret them).

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petrossa
No, no, you're reading too much into the OP.

The group does not suggest that religion is not different from other forms of belief. What was found was that the same brain region is involved in religious and nonreligious modes. What and how this occurs and what implications exist are up to future research and conclusions. Data from surgical studies will very likely be incorporated. Like the Oxford website's answers to common criticism already state, neuroimaging identifies the different areas for different tasks but interpretation from the data is critical. For instance, when you're exposed to certain fear such as spider, your amygdala lights up. One interpretation is that the amygdala is responsible for arachnophobia. Another interpretation is that the amygdala is the centre for emotional memory such as fear (which is the better one with more supporting evidence). A better study design yields a better interpretation. Also, raw data are meaningless if you don't read what they mean (i.e. interpret them).

You see, we agree all the time.?:pp

The OP has popped up in several locations at the time it was first published with the distinct inference that religion was actually the same as reasoning. At the time i read that, i said ********. a position i maintain today on imo good grounds.

Which leads me to pose that neuroimaging is surely a handy noninvasive tool, but at present day way too interpretative to hang far reaching conclusions on such as put forward in the OP.

A neurosurgeon lifting a skull and poking a needle in the brain and observing the results is more down to earth and less open to interpretation. Poke and you suddenly can't say the word Kitchen but can say all other words tells you something about the way the brains works.

Poke, see that the arm twitches and hear the patient 0.5 seconds later say that his arm twitched tells you something definite.

Taking an ocean of neurons digesting sugar and determining which eats more than another is very far away from what happens. To then construct a mathematical model which analyses all the different levels of sugar consumption and have it form an image which is consistent with what the brain is busy doing is far reaching to say the least.

To take that and draw a conclusion of which cognitive functions are active is in the realm of speculation.

Another decade and a higher resolution might yield something interesting. So keep up the good work, one day it'll be useful.?(Y)Y)

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lamminium

Well, if you look at my second post in this thread, I already stated what I said in my previous post. Somehow we managed to drag on for three pages...

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petrossa

Quite a feat isn't it :laugh:

Ah, we make a good couple Lam. We should get married, we can misunderstand each other all the time like married people do :p

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FloatingFatMan
There's a vast sea of noise which needs to be cleaned to get a pattern. It's actually quite like climate modeling.

But unlike climate modeling, there's no incentive to fake the data. ;)

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petrossa
But unlike climate modeling, there's no incentive to fake the data. ;)

today:

the dutch minister of environment when questioned in the house of parliament stated is was a scandalous invasion of privacy and the emails were obvious forgeries. Oh, and we should sign the copenhagen treaty fast, because the Netherlands will be swamped by 6 meters high waves

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DJ-Light

petrossa and lamchopz, great thread! I read all the pages and was very interesting.

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