Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. San Antonio, TX (2009)

Introduction & Objectives: Norwich’s Entropy Theory of Perception (1975 [1] -present) stands alone. It explains many firing-rate behaviors and psychophysical laws from bare theory. To do so, it demands a unique sort of interaction between receptor and brain, one that Norwich never substantiated. Can it now be confirmed, given the accumulation of empirical sensory neuroscience? Background: Norwich conjoined sensation and a mathematical model of communication, Shannon’s Information Theory, as follows: “In the entropic view of sensation, magnitude of sensation is regarded as a measure of the entropy or uncertainty of the stimulus signal” [2]. “To be uncertain about the outcome of an event, one must first be aware of a set of alternative outcomes” [3]. “The entropy-establishing process begins with the generation of a [internal] sensory signal by the stimulus generator. This is followed by receipt of the [external] stimulus by the sensory receptor, transmission of action potentials by the sensory neurons, and finally recapture of the [response to the internal] signal by the generator” [4]. The latter “recapture” differentiates external from internal stimuli. The hypothetical “stimulus generators” are internal emitters, that generate photons in vision, audible sounds in audition (to Norwich, the spontaneous otoacoustic emissions [SOAEs]), “temperatures in excess of local skin temperature” in skin temperature sensation [4], etc. Method (1): Several decades of empirical sensory physiology literature was scrutinized for internal “stimulus generators”. Results (1): Spontaneous photopigment isomerization (“dark light”) does not involve visible light. SOAEs are electromechanical basilar-membrane artefacts that rarely produce audible tones. The skin’s temperature sensors do not raise skin temperature, etc. Method (2): The putative action of the brain-and-sensory-receptor loop was carefully reexamined. Results (2): The sensory receptor allegedly “perceives”, experiences “awareness”, possesses “memory”, and has a “mind”. But those traits describe the whole human. The receptor, thus anthropomorphized, must therefore contain its own perceptual loop, containing a receptor, containing a perceptual loop, etc. Summary & Conclusions: The Entropy Theory demands sensory awareness of alternatives, through an imagined brain-and-sensory-receptor loop containing internal “stimulus generators”. But (1) no internal “stimulus generators” seem to exist and (2) the loop would be the outermost of an infinite nesting of identical loops.
Keywords Cybernetics  Information Theory  loop  sensory  receptor  uncertainty
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On the Fundamental Nature of Perception.Kenneth H. Norwich - 1991 - Acta Biotheoretica 39 (1):81-90.
Physical Entropy and the Senses.Kenneth H. Norwich - 2005 - Acta Biotheoretica 53 (3):167-180.

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