A serious crisis is identified in theories of neurocomputation, marked by a persistent disparity between the phenomenological or experiential account of visual perception and the neurophysiological level of description of the visual system. In particular, conventional concepts of neural processing offer no explanation for the holistic global aspects of perception identified by Gestalt theory. The problem is paradigmatic and can be traced to contemporary concepts of the functional role of the neural cell, known as the Neuron Doctrine. In the absence (...) of an alternative neurophysiologically plausible model, I propose a perceptual modeling approach, to model the percept as experienced subjectively, rather than modeling the objective neurophysiological state of the visual system that supposedly subserves that experience. A Gestalt Bubble model is presented to demonstrate how the elusive Gestalt principles of emergence, reification, and invariance can be expressed in a quantitative model of the subjective experience of visual consciousness. That model in turn reveals a unique computational strategy underlying visual processing, which is unlike any algorithm devised by man, and certainly unlike the atomistic feed-forward model of neurocomputation offered by the Neuron Doctrine paradigm. The perceptual modeling approach reveals the primary function of perception as that of generating a fully spatial virtual-reality replica of the external world in an internal representation. The common objections to this picture-in-the-head concept of perceptual representation are shown to be ill founded. Key Words: brain-anchored; Cartesian theatre; consciousness; emergence; extrinsic constraints; filling-in; Gestalt; homunculus; indirect realism; intrinsic constraints; invariance; isomorphism; multistability; objective phenomenology; perceptual modeling; perspective; phenomenology; psychophysical parallelism; psychophysical postulate; qualia; reification; representationalism; structural coherence. (shrink)
The World In Your Head: A Gestalt View of the Mechanism of Conscious Experience represents a bold assault on one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science: the nature of consciousness and the human mind. Rather than examining the brain and nervous system to see what they tell us about the mind, this book begins with an examination of conscious experience to see what it can tell us about the brain. Through this analysis, the first and most obvious observation is (...) that consciousness appears as a volumetric spatial void, containing colored objects and surfaces. This reveals that the representation in the brain takes the form of an explicit volumetric spatial model of external reality. Therefore, the world we see around us is not the real world itself, but merely a miniature virtual-reality replica of that world in an internal representation. In fact, the phenomena of dreams and hallucinations clearly demonstrate the capacity of the brain to construct complete virtual worlds even in the absence of sensory input. Perception is somewhat like a guided hallucination, based on sensory stimulation. This insight allows us to examine the world of visual experience not as scientists exploring the external world, but as perceptual scientists examining a rich and complex internal representation. This unique approach to investigating mental function has implications in a wide variety of related fields, including the nature of language and abstract thought, and motor control and behavior. It also has implications to the world of music, art, and dance, showing how the patterns of regularity and periodicity in space and time--apparent in those aesthetic domains--reflect the periodic basis set of the underlying harmonic resonance representation in the brain. (shrink)
The Gestalt principle of isomorphism reveals the primacy of subjective experience as a valid source of evidence for the information encoded neurophysiologically. This theory invalidates the abstractionist view that the neurophysiological representation can be of lower dimensionality than the percept to which it gives rise.
The very idea of a retinal pattern-sensation that can be impressed on the neural tissue of the brain is a misconception, for the neural pattern never even existed in the retinal mosaic. There can be no anatomical engram in the brain if there was no anatomical image in the retina. The retina jerks about. It has a rapid tremor. It even has a gap in it (the blind spot). It is a scintillation, not an image. An engram impressed on the (...) brain would have to be divided into two changing parts in the two halves of the brain, which is impossible. The whole idea stems from the persistent myth that there has to be something in the brain that is visible, and from Johannes Mueller's assumption that the nerves telegraph messages to the brain. (shrink)
To avoid endless and futile debate, critics of an alternative paradigmatic hypothesis cannot simply state their own paradigmatic assumptions as if they were plain fact while dismissing those of the opposition as self-evidently absurd, because it is exactly those initial assumptions that are brought into question by the paradigmatic proposal. Perceived incredibility is no valid ground for rejection of a paradigm whose alternatives are at least equally incredible, and arguably more so.
Neurophysiological investigations of the visual system by way of single-cell recordings have revealed a hierarchical architecture in which lower level areas, such as the primary visual cortex, contain cells that respond to simple features, while higher level areas contain cells that respond to higher order features apparently composed of combinations of lower level features. This architecture seems to suggest a feed-forward processing strategy in which visual information progresses from lower to higher visual areas. However there is other evidence, both neurophysiological (...) and phenomenal, that suggests a more parallel processing strategy in biological vision, in which top-down feedback plays a significant role. In fact Gestalt theory suggests that visual perception involves a process of emergence, i.e. a dynamic relaxation of multiple constraints throughout the system simultaneously, so that the final percept represents a stable state, or energy minimum of the dynamic system as a whole. A Multi-Level Reciprocal Feedback (MLRF) model is proposed to resolve the apparently contradictory concepts, by proposing a hierarchical visual architecture whose different levels are connected by bi-directional feed-forward and feedback pathways, where the computational transformation performed by the feedback pathway between levels in the hiararchy is a kind of inverse of the transformation performed by the corresponding feed-forward processing stream. This alternative paradigm of perceptual computation accounts in general terms for a number of visual illusory effects, and offers a computational specification for the generative, or constructive aspect of perceptual processing revealed by Gestalt theory. (shrink)
Psychology was originally formulated as the science of the _psyche_, i.e. the subjective side of the mind / brain barrier. However time and again it has been diverted from this objective in the supposed interest of scientific rigor. The Behaviorists proposed to transform psychology to a science of behavior, and today the Neuroreductionists propose to transform it to a science of neurophysiology. In the process they attempt to deny the very existence of conscious experience as valid object of scientific scrutiny. (...) However the subjective conscious experience is a primary source of evidence for the nature of the representation in the brain. I propose a quantitative phenomenolgy to express the dimensions of conscious experience in information theoretic terms. This approach leads to interesting observations of the properties of phenomenal perspective, that clearly reveal the phenomenal world as an internal rather than external entity. (shrink)