How Do Theories of Cognition and Consciousness in Ancient Indian Thought Systems Relate to Current Western Theorizing and Research?
ABSTRACT: Unknown to most Western psychologists, ancient Indian scriptures contain very rich, empirically derived psychological theories that are, however, intertwined with religious and philosophical content. This article represents our attempt to extract the psychological theory of cognition and consciousness from a prominent ancient Indian thought system: Samkhya-Yoga. We derive rather broad hypotheses from this approach that may complement and extend Western mainstream theorizing. These hypotheses address an ancient personality theory, the effects of practicing the applied part of Samkhya-Yoga on normal and extraordinary cognition, as well as different ways of perceiving reality. We summarize empirical evidence collected (mostly without reference to the Indian thought system) in diverse fields of research that allows for making judgments about the hypotheses, and suggest more specific hypotheses to be examined in future research. We conclude that the existing evidence for the (broad) hypotheses is substantial but that there are still considerable gaps in theory and research to be filled. Theories of cognition contained in the ancient Indian systems have the potential to modify and complement existing Western mainstream accounts of cognition. In particular, they might serve as a basis for arriving at more comprehensive theories for several research areas that, so far, lack strong theoretical grounding, such as meditation research or research on aspects of consciousness.
Project description:Modern scientific theories of emotional behavior, almost without exception, trace their origin to Charles Darwin, and his publications On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). The most famous dilemma Darwin acknowledged as a challenge to his theory of evolution through natural selection was the incomplete Sub-Cambrian fossil record. However, Darwin struggled with two other rarely referenced theoretical and scientific dilemmas that confounded his theories about emotional behavior. These included (1) the origin of social instincts (e.g., altruism, empathy, reciprocity and cooperation) and the reasons for their conservation in evolution and (2) the peripheral control of heart rate vis-à-vis emotional behavior outside of consciousness. Darwin acknowledged that social instincts are critical to the survival of some species, but had difficulty aligning them with his theory of natural selection in humans. Darwin eventually proposed that heart rate and emotions are controlled via one's intellect and cortical mechanisms, and that instinctive behavior is genetically programmed and inherited. Despite ongoing efforts, these two theoretical dilemmas are debated to this day. Simple testable hypotheses have yet to emerge for the biological mechanisms underlying instinctive behavior or the way heart rate is controlled in infants. In this paper, we review attempts to resolve these issues over the past 160 years. We posit that research and theories that supported Darwin's individualistic brain-centric and genetic model have become an "orthodox" Western view of emotional behavior, one that produced the prevailing behavioral construct of attachment as developed by John Bowlby. We trace research and theories that challenged this orthodoxy at various times, and show how these challenges were repeatedly overlooked, rejected, or misinterpreted. We review two new testable theories, emotional connection theory and calming cycle theory, which we argue resolve the two dilemmas We show emerging scientific evidence from physiology and a wide variety of other fields, as well from clinical trials among prematurely born infants, that supports the two theories. Clinical implications of the new theories and possible new ways to assess risk and intervene in emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders are discussed.
Project description:Many psychological theories posit foundational links between two fundamental constructs: (1) our ability to produce, perceive, and represent action; and (2) our ability to understand the meaning and motivation behind the action (i.e. Theory of Mind; ToM). This position is contentious, however, and long-standing competing theories of social-cognitive development debate roles for basic action-processing in ToM. Developmental research is key to investigating these hypotheses, but whether individual differences in neural and behavioral measures of motor action relate to social-cognitive development is unknown. We examined 3- to 5-year-old children's (N = 26) EEG mu-desynchronization during production of object-directed action, and explored associations between mu-desynchronization and children's behavioral motor skills, behavioral action-representation abilities, and behavioral ToM. For children with high (but not low) mu-desynchronization, motor skill related to action-representation abilities, and action-representation mediated relations between motor skill and ToM. Results demonstrate novel foundational links between action-processing and ToM, suggesting that basic motor action may be a key mechanism for social-cognitive development, thus shedding light on the origins and emergence of higher social cognition.
Project description:Working memory is a temporary storage system under attentional control. It is believed to play a central role in online processing of complex cognitive information and may also play a role in social cognition and interpersonal interactions. Adolescents with a disorder on the autism spectrum display problems in precisely these domains. Social impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive interests and activities are core domains of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and executive function problems are often seen throughout the spectrum. As the main cognitive theories of ASD, including the theory of mind deficit hypotheses, weak central coherence account, and the executive dysfunction theory, still fail to explain the broad spectrum of symptoms, a new perspective on the etiology of ASD is needed. Deficits in working memory are central to many theories of psychopathology, and are generally linked to frontal-lobe dysfunction. This article will review neuropsychological and (functional) brain imaging studies on working memory in adolescents with ASD. Although still disputed, it is concluded that within the working memory system specific problems of spatial working memory are often seen in adolescents with ASD. These problems increase when information is more complex and greater demands on working memory are made. Neuroimaging studies indicate a more global working memory processing or connectivity deficiency, rather than a focused deficit in the prefrontal cortex. More research is needed to relate these working memory difficulties and neuroimaging results in ASD to the behavioral difficulties as seen in individuals with a disorder on the autism spectrum.
Project description:A computational theory of consciousness should include a quantitative measure of consciousness, or MoC, that (i) would reveal to what extent a given system is conscious, (ii) would make it possible to compare not only different systems, but also the same system at different times, and (iii) would be graded, because so is consciousness. However, unless its design is properly constrained, such an MoC gives rise to what we call the boundary problem: an MoC that labels a system as conscious will do so for some-perhaps most-of its subsystems, as well as for irrelevantly extended systems (e.g., the original system augmented with physical appendages that contribute nothing to the properties supposedly supporting consciousness), and for aggregates of individually conscious systems (e.g., groups of people). This problem suggests that the properties that are being measured are epiphenomenal to consciousness, or else it implies a bizarre proliferation of minds. We propose that a solution to the boundary problem can be found by identifying properties that are intrinsic or systemic: properties that clearly differentiate between systems whose existence is a matter of fact, as opposed to those whose existence is a matter of interpretation (in the eye of the beholder). We argue that if a putative MoC can be shown to be systemic, this ipso facto resolves any associated boundary issues. As test cases, we analyze two recent theories of consciousness in light of our definitions: the Integrated Information Theory and the Geometric Theory of consciousness.
Project description:Tests of social cognitive theories provide informative data on the factors that relate to health behavior, and the processes and mechanisms involved. In the present article, we contend that tests of social cognitive theories should adhere to the principles of nomological validity, defined as the degree to which predictions in a formal theoretical network are confirmed. We highlight the importance of nomological validity tests to ensure theory predictions can be disconfirmed through observation. We argue that researchers should be explicit on the conditions that lead to theory disconfirmation, and identify any auxiliary assumptions on which theory effects may be conditional. We contend that few researchers formally test the nomological validity of theories, or outline conditions that lead to model rejection and the auxiliary assumptions that may explain findings that run counter to hypotheses, raising potential for 'falsification evasion.' We present a brief analysis of studies (k = 122) testing four key social cognitive theories in health behavior to illustrate deficiencies in reporting theory tests and evaluations of nomological validity. Our analysis revealed that few articles report explicit statements suggesting that their findings support or reject the hypotheses of the theories tested, even when findings point to rejection. We illustrate the importance of explicit a priori specification of fundamental theory hypotheses and associated auxiliary assumptions, and identification of the conditions which would lead to rejection of theory predictions. We also demonstrate the value of confirmatory analytic techniques, meta-analytic structural equation modeling, and Bayesian analyses in providing robust converging evidence for nomological validity. We provide a set of guidelines for researchers on how to adopt and apply the nomological validity approach to testing health behavior models.
Project description:Public health research often focuses on gender differences within certain diagnoses, but so far research has failed to explain these differences in a satisfactory way. Theoretical development could be one prerequisite for moving beyond categorical thinking. The aim of this paper was to analyse how gender theories have been used in public health research in relation to various methodological approaches.Six special issues of gender research with public health relevance (comprising 33 papers in total) were identified from a search of PubMed and Web of Science, spanning a 10-year period. The papers were analysed inductively through posing questions to the text.Gender theories were used in eight different ways: 1. to test hypotheses, 2. integrate theories, 3. develop gender concepts and models, 4. interpret findings, 5. understand health problems, 6. illustrate the validity of other theories, 7. integrated into a gender blind theory, as well as to 8. critique of other gender theories. The strategies applied seemed independent of the health aspects of the papers. However, the methodologies were of importance, indicating that both theoretical papers and papers using qualitative methodologies used almost all available strategies, while papers using quantitative empirical research used a limited number of strategies.This study contributes to identifying how gender theories are used in contemporary public health research, which can help researchers move beyond a categorical understanding of gender in health research.
Project description:Prominent theories of consciousness emphasise different aspects of neurobiology, such as the integration and diversity of information processing within the brain. Here, we combine graph theory and dynamic functional connectivity to compare resting-state functional MRI data from awake volunteers, propofol-anaesthetised volunteers, and patients with disorders of consciousness, in order to identify consciousness-specific patterns of brain function. We demonstrate that cortical networks are especially affected by loss of consciousness during temporal states of high integration, exhibiting reduced functional diversity and compromised informational capacity, whereas thalamo-cortical functional disconnections emerge during states of higher segregation. Spatially, posterior regions of the brain's default mode network exhibit reductions in both functional diversity and integration with the rest of the brain during unconsciousness. These results show that human consciousness relies on spatio-temporal interactions between brain integration and functional diversity, whose breakdown may represent a generalisable biomarker of loss of consciousness, with potential relevance for clinical practice.
Project description:A comprehensive bibliometric analysis was conducted on publications for yoga therapy research in clinical populations.Major electronic databases were searched for articles in all languages published between 1967 and 2013. Databases included PubMed, PsychInfo, MEDLINE, IndMed, Indian Citation Index, Index Medicus for South-East Asia Region, Web of Knowledge, Embase, EBSCO, and Google Scholar. Nonindexed journals were searched manually. Key search words included yoga, yoga therapy, pranayama, asana. All studies met the definition of a clinical trial. All styles of yoga were included. The authors extracted the data.A total of 486 articles met the inclusion criteria and were published in 217 different peer-reviewed journals from 29 different countries on 28,080 study participants. The primary result observed is the three-fold increase in number of publications seen in the last 10 years, inclusive of all study designs. Overall, 45% of the studies published were randomized controlled trials, 18% were controlled studies, and 37% were uncontrolled studies. Most publications originated from India (n=258), followed by the United States (n=122) and Canada (n=13). The top three disorders addressed by yoga interventions were mental health, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease.A surge in publications on yoga to mitigate disease-related symptoms in clinical populations has occurred despite challenges facing the field of yoga research, which include standardization and limitations in funding, time, and resources. The population at large has observed a parallel surge in the use of yoga outside of clinical practice. The use of yoga as a complementary therapy in clinical practice may lead to health benefits beyond traditional treatment alone; however, to effect changes in health care policy, more high-quality, evidence-based research is needed.
Project description:One of the greatest challenges of consciousness research is to understand the relationship between consciousness and its implementing substrate. Current research into the neural correlates of consciousness regards the biological brain as being this substrate, but largely fails to clarify the nature of the brain-consciousness connection. A popular approach within this research is to construe brain-consciousness correlations in causal terms: the neural correlates of consciousness are the causes of states of consciousness. After introducing the notion of the neural correlate of consciousness, we argue (see Against Causal Accounts of NCCs) that this causal strategy is misguided. It implicitly involves an undesirable dualism of matter and mind and should thus be avoided. A non-causal account of the brain-mind correlations is to be preferred. We favor the theory of the identity of mind and brain, according to which states of phenomenal consciousness are identical with their neural correlates. Research into the neural correlates of consciousness and the theory of identity (in the philosophy of mind) are two major research paradigms that hitherto have had very little mutual contact. We aim to demonstrate that they can enrich each other. This is the task of the third part of the paper in which we show that the identity theory must work with a suitably defined concept of type. Surprisingly, neither philosophers nor neuroscientists have taken much care in defining this central concept; more often than not, the term is used only implicitly and vaguely. We attempt to open a debate on this subject and remedy this unhappy state of affairs, proposing a tentative hierarchical classification of phenomenal and neurophysiological types, spanning multiple levels of varying degrees of generality. The fourth part of the paper compares the theory of identity with other prominent conceptions of the mind-body connection. We conclude by stressing that scientists working on consciousness should engage more with metaphysical issues concerning the relation of brain processes and states of consciousness. Without this, the ultimate goals of consciousness research can hardly be fulfilled.
Project description:Providing objective metrics of conscious state is of great interest across multiple research and clinical fields-from neurology to artificial intelligence. Here we approach this challenge by proposing plausible mechanisms for the phenomenon of structured experience. In earlier work, we argued that the experience we call reality is a mental construct derived from information compression. Here we show that algorithmic information theory provides a natural framework to study and quantify consciousness from neurophysiological or neuroimaging data, given the premise that the primary role of the brain is information processing. We take as an axiom that "there is consciousness" and focus on the requirements for structured experience: we hypothesize that the existence and use of compressive models by cognitive systems, e.g. in biological recurrent neural networks, enables and provides the structure to phenomenal experience. Self-awareness is seen to arise naturally (as part of a better model) in cognitive systems interacting bidirectionally with the external world. Furthermore, we argue that by running such models to track data, brains can give rise to apparently complex (entropic but hierarchically organized) data. We compare this theory, named KT for its basis on the mathematical theory of Kolmogorov complexity, to other information-centric theories of consciousness. We then describe methods to study the complexity of the brain's output streams or of brain state as correlates of conscious state: we review methods such as (i) probing the brain through its input streams (e.g. event-related potentials in oddball paradigms or mutual algorithmic information between world and brain), (ii) analyzing spontaneous brain state, (iii) perturbing the brain by non-invasive transcranial stimulation, and (iv) quantifying behavior (e.g. eye movements or body sway).