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GENERAL MECHANISM 

 

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See supplementary material:

definition of the ´box`

the three bodies

evolutionary development of brain memory

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the ´hippocampal loop`

the prefrontal cortex sliding switch mechanism

See link to influences -  emotional system

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See link to influences - attentional system

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See supplementary material:

brain waves

controversial side of hippocampal function

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working memory state

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neurotransmitter secondary effects

structural changes with long-term memory

housekeeping changes with long-term memory

neurotransmitter control points

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See supplementary material:

diagram of the input mechanism

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differences between sensory pathways

different neuronal cell assemblies

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movement determination

differences between real-time information and that for memory

sequences input requirements

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See supplementary material:

storage system requirements

classification of brain memory types

circumstances for ´as is` and variable memories

diagram of storage mechanism

See links to long-term cell changes with memory formation, working memory model

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differences between informational memories and emotional

differences between  sNCA level 1 and 2

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special requirements of sequence memory

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See links to memory examples such as  episodic memory, procedural memory and conditioning. 

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types of changes seen in reconsolidated sNCA 

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See supplementary material:

psychologist categorisation theories versus ´outside the box`

proposed mechanism for categorisation

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See links to recall without processing, recall with processing and recall with further processing. 

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general features of recall without processing 

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diagram of mechanism

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See links to influences -  attentional system and emotional system. 

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psychologist theories on object recognition 

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See supplementary material:

general features of recall with processing 

diagram of mechanism

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See supplementary material:

circumstances leading to accepted magic answers

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See supplementary material:

characteristics of further processing

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biochemical interpretation of PISCO 

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See supplementary material:

points of access suggestions

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psychologist theories for reframing

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See supplementary material:

strategies for the construction of options 

construction errors

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self-interest 

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See supplementary material:

seven-stage decision-making process

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See supplementary material:

non-active decision methods 

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OVERVIEW OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

Relating to systems

Relating to firing

Relating to content

INPUT STAGE

Informational content of the iNCA

Emotional component of the iNCA

 

´AS IS` STORAGE

General properties of the ´as is` sNCA

Storage mechanism of sequences

 

VARIABLE STORAGE

Generic version

Grouping and categorisation

RECALL WITHOUT PROCESSING

General mechanism

Recognition of known objects

RECALL WITH PROCESSING

Processing stage

End stage

Recognition of similar and unknown objects

RECALL WITH FURTHER PROCESSING

Purpose

Input

Questions stage

Construction of options

End stage

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL Straight to text

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INTRODUCTION

Brain memory can be defined for example as ´the retention of information` or  ´the ability to process and retrieve information` and for human individuals it is an important brain function. Our behaviour, personal opinions, cognitive processing for example all rely on brain memory and it can be said that this ability to use our past experiences safeguards our survival and individuality.

The mechanisms by which brain memory occurs are based here on the recognised hypotheses of Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) and Baddeley and Hitch (1974) and neuronal cell assembly theory (Hebb, 1949 and Damasio and Damasio, 1992) as well as standard biochemical processes such as neuronal firing and depolarisation. They can be divided into three stages: input where information from the external environment is taken in via appropriate sensory organs and transmitted if conditions suffice to the brain cortex; storage where inputted information undergoes transformation from temporary groupings to long-term stores; and recall where information contained in these long-term stores is reactivated and can be used in ongoing tasks.

So, what makes this hypothesis about the brain memory mechanism different to the recognised views? The differences can be divided into three groups: 

  • those relating to the systems involved; 

  • those related to neuronal firing; and 

  • those relating to memory content.

Relating to systems

Brain memory results from the interaction of more than just a physiological memory system. Although not mentioned in psychological or biochemical models, two other systems are suggested here as playing important roles – the emotional system and attentional system. 

1) Emotional system involvement mirrors attentional system function and stems, according to this ´outside the box` view from two neurotransmitter-based brain systems centering around the activities of the basal ganglia, thalamus and hippocampus brain areas - the ´hippocampal loop`. The emotion, pleasure, is thought to be experienced when the dopamine neurotransmitter-based system dominates and the prefrontal cortex inhibits amygdala and thalamus activity (via action on the basal ganglian areas, the globus pallidus, putamen and caudate and lenticularis). The emotion, fear, is experienced when the noradrenaline neurotransmitter-based system dominates and the prefrontal cortex removes its inhibition of the amygdala leading to the activation of the basal ganglia and removal of its inhibition on thalamic activity. The balance of both neurotransmitter-based systems leads to the overall working level of the brain (OWL), which determines in general how information should be dealt with. OWL is stored with the ´real-time` information in the prefrontal cortex in the form of the emotional tag – a concept argued in this ´outside the box` version of the brain memory mechanism as being responsible for emotional worth of memories. The prefrontal cortex emotional function is likely to be in the form of a sliding switch mechanism with graded dopamine responses bringing about values for the information (important where the ´worth` of an event is required) and a single ´on-off` noradrenaline response (important in the stimulation of a ´fight or flight´ response). The emotional tag could reflect prefrontal cortical cell number, cell-type or specific area. Although brain neurotransmitter levels can be influenced by the sleep-wake cycle and in women, the oestrous cycle, this ´outside the box´ version suggests that these variables play minimal roles in the brain memory mechanism and the determination of emotional tag values.

 2) Attention system involvement is linked to emotional system involvement through its co-use of certain brain areas, but it has different functions in the brain memory mechanism. This ´outside the box´ version suggests that there are three attentional states: normal, where no individual object in the external environment remains in sensory system focus long enough for sensory stores to transgress to the next stage (sensory fields ´flit` from object to object) and hence no learning can take place; normal, focused where learning can take place since the attention system holds objects in the sensory field so that temporary sensory stores can be converted to more long-term stores; and fear attentional state where activation of brain areas such as the amygdala will elicit a state that can have effects on  the quality and quantity of information dealt with at that time. In general, the attention system plays three major roles in the brain memory mechanism and these are: 

  • brings about and maintains focus on objects within the sensory fields so that the sustained activation requirements of long-term storage are met for example; 

  • monitors conflict internally between incoming information and activated stored information so that alternatives can be sought out; 

  • and enforces a timing constraint on the memory processes so that the individual can initiate tactic changes in order that ongoing tasks can be solved. 

Although understated in recognised versions of the brain memory mechanism, the importance of all three functions of the attention system cannot be underestimated in this ´outside the box` version. 

Relating to firing

Basic biochemical processes relating to cell functioning and neuronal firing are assumed to be the same as those in other cognitive functions. However, there are certain aspects that ´outside the box` thinking considers as peculiar to brain memory function and these are: 

1)connectivity and synchronicity of firing.

Fundamental to neuronal cell assembly theory and brain memory are the concepts of connectivity and synchronicity of firing existing between cells, groups of cells and different brain areas. Physical evidence of connectivity between brain areas is well-documented so that transmission of signals is clearly observable. However, physical connectivity between cells within a neuronal cell assembly representing an event or many events and maybe stretching across many brain areas cannot be observed in all cases and is considered an example of ´hypothetical connectivity`. Explanations for such binding include laser-directed growth (Erhlicher, Dixon, 2002), tunnelling nanotubes (Ananthaswamy, 2008) as well as quantum strings (Wen, Merali 2007). Synchronicity of firing between groups of cells is an important issue in brain memories in order to maintain the integrity of the event in any one time-frame. Therefore, the topic of time and timing is introduced into the brain memory mechanism. Synchronised firing is observed in the form of brain waves with beta waves associated with thinking and analysis and alpha with long-term memory storage. This ´outside the box` version suggests that the hippocampus, considered to be important for brain memory storage and reactivation, acts as a relay station and holds the key to synchronisation and timing issues observed in the brain memory mechanism. Time constraints hypothesised for specific memory tasks are probably the work of an ´internal mental clock` hypothesised as involving the striatum and/or the action of the ECTO-NOX family of prions in the cells themselves (More, Westphal, 2004).

2) working memory state

Working memory was suggested by Baddeley and Hitch as part of their brain memory theory. In this version, working memory is considered a ´state` observed as a result of brain area activity resulting from cellular firing representing inputted information and reactivated stored information. These circumstances arise in both variable storage and memory recall. Working memory state appears to be monitored by the attentional system, which responds to conflict signals. 

3) ´electrical image` formation.

An ´electrical image` is a hypothetical ´outside the box` concept representing the information contained within the neuronal cell assembly and hence, the event. It arises in both input (´real-time` sensory processing) and in the last stage of recall and is synonymous with recognition or the acknowledgement that the event/action is known.

4)      biochemical mechanism of storage.

Recognised brain memory theories have shown that gene modulation is associated with long-term memory storage. This ´outside the box` version suggests that there are multiple cellular changes associated with converting the temporary stores to more permanent ones.  Phosphorylation appears to be the first stage as a result of ion channel opening and phosphatases etc. This leads to gene modulation, which can be linked to changes relating to cellular structure (e.g. dendrite density), normal cellular ´housekeeping` (e.g. oxygen, PDH), and neurotransmitter function (e.g. LTP). The end-result is that cells associated with long-term memory storage demonstrate strengthened firing and connectivity. Strengthened firing could mean more efficient firing, greater firing through the use of glutamate receptors, cells less prone to run out of vital substrates, efficient removal of products and delay of refractive period instigation for example. Strengthened connectivity could mean more chance of firing with more glutamate receptors, i.e. LTP or a greater number of dendrites for example.

 Relating to content

The brain memory mechanism means that ´real-time` information can be stored and used at a later date. Therefore, the information stored within the storage units, the neuronal cell assembly, must be accurate and easy to use. This ´outside the box` version suggests how and what determines the content. 

1)      Information.

Information is considered to be stored in the neuronal cell assemblies in units. The most efficient brain memory unit is the smallest size possible, but large enough for identification of the event. In this version, event features are given priority, e.g. movement greater than still, colour over black and white for visual characteristics and within the units features are considered ´core` (greater firing strength and connectivity due to repeated firing and used as reference points or in generic versions and categorisation) and ´variable` (more susceptible for contention, less important for identification). All information is stored in first level NCA, sNCA1 and neuronal cell assemblies reach from low-level cortical areas (more general features) to higher-levels representing more discerning features and complexity of visual image. Language can also be considered as an informational feature of the neuronal cell assembly.  In this version, language plays two roles: provider of extra information (extra details etc, stored as sequences and a prioritised feature); and provider of ´cues` (reference points, stimulus).

 2)      Emotional component.

As stated above, the emotional system plays a significant role in the brain memory mechanism advocated here. Memory units contain not just information, but also records of the emotional state of the individual at the time of informational storage or reactivation. This emotional component, the ´emotional tag` is suggested as being located in the prefrontal cortex and is important in how information is dealt with.

 

INPUT STAGE

Bearing in mind that all brain memories are learnt, the input of sensory information is a vital step in the recording of events and the overall mechanism for this stage can be seen in Figure. The input stage begins with the presentation of the information in the ´field` of the sensory organ concerned. Movement of the individual or the object can alter the information presented. Transmission of the signal representing this information occurs from the sensory organ to the higher brain areas following well-documented pathways. In the higher brain areas, according to Atkinson and Shiffrin`s multi-store model (1968), a temporary sensory store is formed, so that the event in the external environment has been translated into an internal event. Continued activation of the same traces leads to the conversion of the sensory store to a short-term memory store, designated in this version as the iNCA.

 Informational content of the iNCA

 The informational content of the iNCA under normal circumstances represents features of the event from all modalities concerned. According to this version of the brain memory mechanism, the quality and quantity of it is dependent on the attentional state at the time (perceptual load theory). The quality reflects the positioning of the sensory field, the priority given to certain features over others, and the level of detail. For example with visual information, only that information placed in the visual field will activate the cones and rods of the retina and begin the appropriate paths to the higher brain areas; priority is given to certain visual features compared to others, e.g. movement over stationary, bright colours over dark; and less detailed to more detailed, more complicated characteristics is reflected in the activation of the visual cortices from the lower general V1 to higher areas such as the V4 or V5. Quantity of information inputted at any one time reflects the attentional state and the constraints imposed by perceptual load theory, which states that there is a limit to how much information any one modality can process at any one time. Information is inputted in ´chunks` - small units of information representing the whole event or parts of the event at any one time. Sustained activation of the same cells representing the continued presence of those features in the sensory fields ensures that this information is represented in the formed sensory store and converted to the iNCA. Both quality and quantity factors has the indirect effect of dividing features of events into core and variable characteristics. Core features represent those important to the discernment of the event at a later date, as well as being used for processing such as categorisation. Variable features represent the ´wobble`: those features differing between time frames, but giving additional information about the event.

Sequences of sensory events can also be handled by the brain memory mechanism in one of two ways depending on whether features between consecutive time frames are common, or if for each time frame there are new characteristics presented. For example, many features of an event where a person running is observed will be the same between multiple time frames, e.g. colour of hair, clothing. This can be compared to listening to a piece of music, where every time frame will introduce new sounds. In those cases where features are common, the continued presence of those characteristics in the sensory field will ensure that firing of the appropriate cells and pathways to the cortical areas is sustained. Therefore, the condition of the conversion process from the temporary sensory store to the iNCA is met. In those cases where new characteristics are presented in every time frame, continued presence in the sensory field is not possible. ´Outside the box` thinking in this case advocates the dissociation of internal firing from the external event. Internal firing for important core features is ´held` by excitatory feedback mechanisms of lower brain areas by higher ones, e.g. in the case of visual information, the excitatory feedback from the visual striate cortex to the LGN. In this way, the higher cortical areas representing the event in a single time frame will continue to fire thus satisfying the condition of sustained firing to convert the initial sensory stores to the iNCA. The refractory periods of those cells (plus features like priority to the unattended and lateral inhibition) provides the opportunity to input new information concerning the ´real-time` event and this information is linked to the core features. Therefore, a sequence of iNCAs are formed linked in order of changes in the event characteristics.

Emotional component of the iNCA

The emotional component of brain memories represents the overall working level of the brain (OWL) at the time of the informational input into the sensory store or iNCA (it is a slower-reacting system in comparison to the fast-track sensory systems).  OWL reflects the workings of the hypothesised ´hippocampal loop` and the dominance of either the dopamine-based brain system, characterised by the emotion, pleasure, or the noradrenaline-based brain system, characterised by the emotion, fear. The action of the prefrontal cortex in emotional state is recognised, but this ´outside the box` version of  brain memory suggests that this function is elicited through a ´sliding switch` mechanism, where the pleasure response is graded, hence value or worth of events can be judged and the fear response is a single ´on-off` switch. The status of the ´sliding switch` is recorded in the form of an ´emotional tag` at the site.

 

STORAGE 

The storage stage represents the conversion of the iNCA to permanent memory stores, designated here the sNCA. In Atkinson and Shiffrin`s 1968 memory model the long-term stores have unlimited capacity and require rehearsal or sustained activation of participating cells for their formation and the mechanism advocated here supports their view. This type of storage where incoming information is stored ´unadulterated` is termed ´as is` memory or ´pure` memory and includes new events, emotional tags, fear memories and procedural-type memories. The long-term storage mechanism consists of cellular changes evoked by the sustained activation from neurotransmitter binding. ´Outside the box` thinking that the temporary cellular changes brought about by phosphorylation are converted to long-term changes through gene modulation, which can lead to structural, ´cell-housekeeping` and/or neurotransmitter changes. The end-result of such cellular changes is that they help the cells within the sNCA to fire (i.e they increase the likelihood to fire, increase synaptic firing strength) and they link cells together (i.e. increase connectivity). Sleep has been suggested as playing a role in the stabilisation of the long-term memory formation (restoration/recovery theory – Oswald 1980).  

However, not all storage begins with new incoming information and ends with permanent neuronal cell assemblies representing purely that information. For some information the situation is more complicated since for example storage of certain characteristics has already taken place (explaining how past experience can influence current events) and for other information, post-input processing may be required. This type of memory is termed variable memory and includes the formation of the generic version and categorisation. In this case, Baddeley and Hitch`s working memory model provided the necessary development to the iNCA conversion process, although cellular changes in the long-term process remain the same. The proposed ´working memory state`, akin to the Baddeley and Hitch`s episodic buffer with their other working memory components as tools, provides the conditions in which previously stored material relevant to the task can be active and that firing combined with active cells consistent with the new incoming material. The result is the formation of new temporary neuronal cell assemblies, termed here transitional NCA (tNCA).

 Both types of storage process result in the information in the iNCA being stored in long-term stores (the sNCA) by the same biochemical process, but the route taken is slightly different. The advantage of such a model means that all types of brain memories are explainable, e.g. ´as is` memories for first-time information recorded as episodic memory and autobiographical events recalled in order and content, and ´variable` for ´own view of the world` fact-type ´snippets` of memories processed and categorised according to previously stored information.

 

´AS IS` STORAGE

General properties of the ´as is` sNCA

In general, the characteristic property of ´as is` memory is ´what is experienced is what is stored` with no extra processing and no changes in timing or order. This makes this type of storage ideal for episodic memories, which ´outside the box` thinking proposes as being the basis of all other types of memories.  ´As is` memories consist of two components: information and the emotional tag.  As far as information goes, the result of the firing of the sensory organ cells, the relevant pathways and the unique pattern of fired cells in the end-point regions of their respective pathways is converted from the temporary iNCA into the more permanent sNCA, providing storage conditions are met. This type of storage means that events are recorded in an almost ´robotic/childlike` way. The other component of the ´as is` sNCA, the emotional tag, is recorded in the same way, with the tag reflecting the overall working level of the brain at the time of information storage.

Although the long-term memory stores of Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) appear to be single entities, ´outside the box` thinking proposes that the single neuronal assembly is split into two levels based on structure and function. Level 1 (sNCA1) consists of the basic level recording of ´still-like` images (similar to ´freeze-frame`), e.g. ´what something is` (shapes and colour), where something is (relative location) and emotional tag. Level 2 (sNCA2) consists of the advanced level recording of ´video-like` images with movement, timing, order and function (´what something does`). ´Outside the box` thinking can only surmise that the structure of the single neuronal assembly then appears ´wall-like` with the sNCA1 appearing as the bottom layer and representing the lower levels of the brain and/or lower levels of particular areas and consistent with common features of an event. Level 2 sNCA is then layered over top, representing the higher levels of the brain and/or higher levels within areas. Just like the ´wall` synonym, sNCA2 cannot exist without its foundation, the sNCA1 and this mechanism can explain the complexity and order of information held within the sNCA as a whole.

Storage mechanism of sequences

The ´as is` storage mechanism must be adapted to cope with the special requirements of sequence brain memory. Outside the box` thinking suggests that there are two types of sequence storage mechanism dependent on the similarity between the content of the time unit frames. For situations where the event has a large number of shared features between frames of successive time units, e.g. episodic memories (autobiographical) like a birthday party, the mechanism emulates input and storage conditions seen in movement. Many features or reference points of the objects remain unchanged between successive time frames often the result of the object remaining unmoved in the visual field, whether intentionally (body/head movement) or not (stillness of external object). For these features, sustained activation required for long-term storage is achieved by continual input at the sensory level to the higher brain areas resulting first in the formation of the iNCA. This information is then converted with continued activation into the more permanent sNCA at level 1. Core features are recorded as reference points and firing occurs in a forward sweep to the representative higher brain levels. However, the continual activation of these cells due to continued exposure to the sensory event in the external environment (known as rehearsal) means that they are susceptible to refractory periods. This blocking of firing for these features can be overcome by saccades in the case of visual information. In the second time frame of the sequence, therefore, the core features will be in the refractory period, and the new firing cells equivalent to the ´alternative view` provided by the saccade will dominate (lateral inhibition). These are also recorded in the sNCA1 for that time frame and the two are linked via the sNCA2 ´overlayering brick` described above. Storage assemblies will be continued to be formed in this manner until the core feature cells recover and can be re-affirmed.

 In situations where there are few common features of the sensory fields in successive time units, e.g. learning to tie a bow, the required sustained activation is achieved by internal mechanisms, i.e. ´holding the event` just like that for memories formed in a fear attentional state. This occurs because in this case there is no repetition of events and rapid changes in sensory field content means that sustained activation by continual external stimulus (rehearsal) is not possible. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests ´holding` internally occurs when the synchronicity between external stimulus and internal representation is changed as result of amygdala, prefrontal cortex (fear response) and/or hippocampus action. It may be the reason for the excitatory feedback action of the V1 on the LGN for visual information (or other sensory system equivalents). The consequence of the action is that the appropriate cells of the iNCA achieve the required conditions necessary for their conversion to the long-term storage form. A disadvantage to this is that not all information in every time frame is processed beyond the ´now` and some features are dismissed. Therefore, the sNCA1 content of successive time frames can be likened to images under strobe lighting.  

Whether the sNCA formation involves few or many shared features, the overall amount stored in each frame, just like other memory, is guided by perceptual load capacity dictated by attentional and emotional states. The attentional state switches between focused and fear depending for example on the position in the sequence and learning success. This controls the changes in perceptual load capacity and switches between external and internal mechanisms for the required sustained activation. ´Chunking` the information can increase the apparent amount of information recorded at any one time, i.e. three or four steps may be joined together to form one unit and this will aid recall and use at a later date.

´Cues` appear to be stored within the long-term sNCA formed from the sequences, which aid recall and timing. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the cues reflect instances of widened sNCA content, i.e. high number of reference points correlating to large changes in features between successive time frames. It is logical that a cue would represent points in time within a sequence where there are low numbers of shared features, i.e. where external change has been seen.

Circumstances where ´as is` storage mechanism is followed are sequential episodic memory, procedural memory , and conditioning.

 

VARIABLE STORAGE 

Variable storage is where input information is processed in some way before long-term storage conditions are met and it requires attention, conscious awareness and previously stored memories. The starting point is just like that for ´as is` memories, with the formation of sensory stores and short-term memory stores, iNCA, so that a ´sensory representation` of the external stimulus is created internally. Activation of the cells is sustained by either continual exposure to the external stimulus, or by internal methods. 

However, in the case of variable storage, ´outside the box` thinking proposes that a ´working memory state` is elicited by two contesting ´forces` existing simultaneously in the higher brain areas. These forces relate to the firing of ´end-of-the road` cells of the relevant sensory pathways responding to the external stimuli in ´real-time` and the firing of cells representing previously stored memory groupings (the sNCA) initially incited by the former. The firing of ´end-of-the road` cells as a result of stimulus results in a iNCA, which represents the external event and consists of actively firing cells in the cortex with the higher the level of cortex reached, then the greater the complexity of the representation. Common features may be shared by many objects or events, but the finer details are more exclusive to the image so the firing of the ´end-of-the road` cells of all these features constitute the iNCA at that time. In the case of variable memory, it is possible that one incoming event leads to iNCA formation, where certain features of that event have been experienced before. These ´end-of-the road` cells have already been primed by the gene modification of the long-term storage mechanism and have a higher likelihood to fire due to their strengthened connections (the so-called LTP). Firing of these cells can then initiate firing of other cells within that same sNCA grouping. Therefore, within the working memory state, two contesting forces of firing cells exist: cells representing the incoming ´real-time` information; and the firing sNCA cells representing the previous experience. In this ´outside the box` version of the brain memory process, this ´mixed` firing is termed the transitional NCA (tNCA) and represents the grouping of fired cells in this working memory state. Two scenarios can then occur, depending on the strength of one or the other participant.

The first possible scenario is that the new incoming information complements the existing information contained within the sNCA, e.g. in the learning of motor sequences. Each pass leads to the common features between the ´real-time` event and stored event being activated and hence, those memory traces are strengthened. In addition, complementary new information is also fired and therefore, the tNCA formed at this time consists of the two types of firing cells: strengthened firing and connections between shared known features and less strong groupings representing the new information. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that some form of processing (formation of the generic version or categorisation for example) can then take place, which shifts the permanent memories formed from a copy of the external event to something that is variable, dependent on external and internally sourced information. Once this processing has occurred then the tNCA converts to the long-term memory store, sNCA.

The processing stage appears to initiate a change in ´awareness` (or ´consciousness`) from one of automatic processing/low awareness to one where conscious processing has to take place. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this is the result of the two contesting activated cell forces (the iNCA and the sNCA) present in the tNCA. Heightened attention perhaps to even the fear state results and this involves the action of the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and possibly amygdala areas. The limited capacity shown to occur in working memory is therefore explained by this prefrontal cortex involvement and perceptual load capacity restrictions dictated by the attentional system.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the second scenario is where some of the new incoming information conflicts with that from the previous experiences. In this case, the iNCA is formed representing the external event as normal. Some features will be shared with those stored in the sNCA so that the tNCA results from the culmination of commonly fired cells as described above. However, activation of the cells within the sNCA may stimulate cells that ´conflict` with the firing ´real-time` neurones representing the event in the external environment. This conflict will occur at the highest level of storage cells and the resulting tNCA will activate the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala areas leading to a heightened attentional and awareness state, that of fear. Changes in perceptual load capacity and content associated with such a condition then result and also, language and speech centres may be activated to help. The iNCA formed from the altered conditions will be dealt with as described and hence, new or different information will be presented in the tNCA with consequences on the firing sNCA. The incoming conflicting information can be dealt with in one of three ways: the incoming information is ignored, firing of these cells dies out and the old active sNCA version remains; the incoming information is given priority over the stored since this information is stronger or more prevalent than the active stored information; or the differences between new and stored are deemed as acceptable, forming ´wobble` in the representation. Continued activation of the newly fired cells and re-activated sNCA will lead to the phosphorylation actions, gene modulation and physical changes described necessary to form long-term storage of the entire grouping.

Not only can the informational content of the sNCA be affected by the working memory state and the formation of the tNCA, so can the attached emotional tag. Previously stored emotional responses to the information can be altered positively or negatively to reflect the new experience. Incoming information will initiate the firing of previous events including the emotional tag and this information will be compared in the tNCA to the emotional experience occurring at the time. Alterations to the experience can then take place and ultimately recorded in the re-consolidated sNCA. This explains how emotional responses dim or are heightened on re-encounter and it is extremely important in dictating behaviour.

Influences on the working memory state can be either physical or organisational. 

Generic version

´Outside the box` thinking defines the generic version as a long-term brain memory of a frequently encountered event that is agreed by the individual as representing the ´essence` of that event (the ´core` features) and allows variation of the event (´wobble` features) within limits of expectations (predictions) without initiating conflict signals. It is a way in which humans can deal with large amounts of slightly varying information and can free the brain`s cognitive capabilities to do other things during events, in a similar manner to learnt motor sequences. 

The generic version begins just like all memories with an episodic event. An ´as is` brain memory is stored of the initial encounter (or part of an event) and re-encounter of the event leads to formation of the tNCA and the working memory state with the two contesting firing groups: the incoming input representing the ´real-time` event (the iNCA) and the sNCA firing representing the event seen in the previous encounter. The process followed at this point to form the generic version of the event is dependent on the extent of the similarity between the past and present event providing long-term memory storage conditions are met. For most features (the ´core` features/ those features indicative of the event), firing occurs along the same pathway as the original event. This leads to the cortical ´end-of-road` cells firing consistent for iNCA and sNCA. For the iNCA, the rule of ´higher the cortical firing, the greater the complexity` still applies. According to long-term storage, the stored sNCA cells demonstrate a higher firing strength as a result of LTP and these are then said to be in a ´labile` state. The firing of these ´primed` cells, with appropriate synchronicity and connectivity strengthens the connections between them making them less prone to decay and thus, re-encounter is advantageous to brain memory permanency. Therefore, for those features, the brain memory process proceeds as ´as is` memory with the iNCA matching the sNCA and the generic version formed in this case is an exact version of present and past events. Attentional and emotional states reflect the lack of conflict between the two sets of information.

However, not all re-encounters are precise matches of their predecessor. In some cases, there are differing features, where conflict between incoming and stored features will cause a shift in the brain memory process since the level of expectation of the sNCA to the incoming information is not attained. In the case of the formation of a generic version, the new incoming information is stored alongside the old information to provide variation, termed here ´wobble`. When new information re-activates a sNCA representing a generic version then the new information can be treated in one of three ways: it can be ignored so that the previously formed generic version stays; priority can be given to the incoming information and hence, this becomes the new standardised version; and it can be stored alongside, then these features become part of a generic version, which may have more than one informational unit for the same characteristic. This third scenario reflects the true value of the generic version, where a memory consists of core features of an event, where there is no discrepancy between encounters and a number of variable or ´wobble` features where a certain level of difference to the expected is regarded as being acceptable. An emotional tag is stored alongside the information in the generic version to reflect the ´value` of the event to the individual.

Grouping and categorisation

´Outside the box` thinking defines grouping and categorisation of information as associations between events, items or parts of events in stored brain memories according to certain criteria. The process is post-input and requires the modification of iNCA and labile sNCA information whilst in the tNCA form in the working memory state. The importance of it, like the generic version, cannot be over emphasised, since the use of memories restricted to only repetition of real events in order and form is limited. Use of brain memory is widened if the information of an event can be split into units and the units grouped according to criteria other than time.  Essentially the process involved in categorisation or grouping time-unrelated events begins with the acknowledgement of the fundamental unit of an event. This is then associated by various means to others in such a way that appropriate recall and further use is possible. If choice of association is free, then the whole process is highly individual.

´Outside the box` thinking defines the basic brain memory unit as consisting of ground-level sensory information, e.g. for visual system shape and movement, with the unit size large enough to make it identifiable, but small enough so it is manageable and offers the highest numbers of possibilities for later use. Therefore, two criteria define the unit – size and content. Size is determined by the nature of the event or object itself. In biochemical terms, the maximal size of the unit is likely to be the size of the whole sNCA and at a minimum is a representation of the strongest firing cells within it, the core features. Content of the unit is defined by the generic version consisting of core features and the more variable, ´wobble` features. Whereas ´chunking` reflects grouping of features in ´real-time`, brain memory units can reflect the grouping of features perhaps gathered over multiple encounters and it is this characteristic, which makes brain memories more usable in recall.

The biochemical mechanism for categorisation has to explain two things: what constitutes the basic component of a category and how links and associations are made between these units.  ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the mechanism for grouping and categorisation uses rules already attributed to other brain memory situations. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the formation of associations between informational units comes under the realm of the storage stage of the brain memory process involving the working memory state and tNCA formation. Incoming information corresponding to the sensory fields form temporary iNCA when sustained activation occurs. Just like in the case of the generic version formation, fired cells at that time correspond to cells already part of a sNCA complex for an event/object from a different time period. These cells exhibit a higher firing strength owing to LTP brought about by the long-term gene modification that took place at the initial storage of the event. Therefore, the tNCA formed consists of a mixture of different firing cells including strongly firing cells from ´real-time` input for new information, strongly firing cells of incoming information that has been seen before as is part of a sNCA, strongly firing cells due to activation by internal means from complementary sNCA cells and an indeterminate number of weaker firing cells corresponding to ´real-time` off-focus sensory field information and weaker firing cells from all sNCA activation. Sharing of features strengthens the connections between those relevant cells, independent of which sNCA they belong to or which level of complexity, just like in the case of the generic version. Therefore, a link is formed between two pieces of information not related in time, but related in strength and this forms the association. This is in a similar manner to the mechanism seen in sequences and movement where whole NCA are linked according to consecutive time units.

The nature of the physical link can only be guessed at although the tunnelling nanotubes (Anathawamy, 2008) described to connect cells lying in close proximity or the vibrating strings hypothesis for more distant cells (Merali, 2007) may in the future be found to be involved. The result of the tNCA is that providing sustained activation occurs then the input information as it now stands is stored with the applicable links. This is why categorisation can only take place in the working memory state, because the sNCA must be ´labile` in order that the new links and content modifications can occur. 

The whole mechanism of how categorisation can occur is only conjecture and requires a huge leap in faith to accept that the strength of connections of the features dictates the formation of a link, just like it does in the formation of the sNCA itself. Also, if strengthened connections are the key to the formation of categories then the multiplicity of such possibilities means that categories would be formed all over the place in every event. If conjecture is in order, then a solution to this problem can be suggested. Working memory state has a limited capacity forced upon it by the action of the prefrontal cortex controlling attentional and emotional ´real-time` states. Therefore, in the case of categorisation, attention and awareness, which are shown to be required, would actually limit the number of links and associations that could be made in any one instance to that of the extent of perceptual load capacity. The number of links and associations would rise provided attention remained on the task and this of course increases the value of the information. Strength of firing would dictate which association would take priority during the sNCA re-activation in the working memory state or perhaps the number of shared features between the real-time event and the stored. This also provides an explanation for the ´spontaneous` associations made without conscious involvement.  

In the fear attentional and emotional states with the domination of the noradrenaline-based system there is probably less categorisation and reduced associations formed than in the case of dopamine-based system domination. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in the fear situation, amygdala activation and the fear attentional state leads to a change in quality and quantity of input. There is a switch to ´gist` input  in preference to details, which is probably not advantageous when similarities in information between the iNCA and sNCA are being searched for. Lower basic level associations probably can be made (e.g. basic shape as seen in the case of the fear of shadows), but higher ones have to be consciously sought after and probably at the expense of other incoming information.  However, categorisation in some cases can cause a shift from the emotional fear state, when for example, an unknown object is identified roughly by association to other known objects using the working memory state.

 

RECALL

Brain memory recall situations share common features such as:

  • they occur in ´real-time`.
  • involves multiple brain areas and pathways.
  • a level of expectation exists between ´real-time` events and recalled past events with the similarity between these sources influencing the process itself.
  • language may affect the process.
  • attentional and emotional states play roles.
  • safeguards exist and there are changes in activity, which all affect the level of performance.

However, although there are common features between recall situations, there are also differences in the mechanism and so ´outside the box` thinking has divided brain memory recall situations into three major groups dependent on the level of processing of the recall material made before the appropriate responses (whether for example actions, facial expressions etc.) take place. For all situations, the ultimate goal is the formation of the ´electrical image`, which is the biochemical representation of the knowledge of what something is (recognition and identification) or what action should be taken. The major recall groups are:

1)      recall without further processing  – effectively summarised by ´ start to end` type events with no processing, low-level monitoring with the desired level of expectation achieved. In this case, stimulating information leads to sNCA activation in an exact replication of a previous event (can be a part or a whole event) and responses if necessary are made according to previous experience. 

2)      recall with processing  – effectively summarised by ´start to questions to end`. In this case, the incoming information and/or the stored information are not exactly compatible and the desired level of expectation is not achieved. The resulting conflict means that processing of material, either incoming or internally stored, must occur before the end responses can be initiated. Attentional and emotional systems play important roles. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the answer then appears as if by ´magic` or an answer is ´accepted` and the ´electrical image` is formed. 

3)      recall with further processing  – effectively summarised by ´start to questions to………end`. Here the processing stage before the end responses are made may be several steps, including the elucidation of options. Psychologists would include in this type the most common forms of thinking, such as problem-solving, decision-making and reasoning. Biochemically, this type is reliant on the emotional and attentional systems as well as the usual memory systems and involves more than just incoming input firing. Conflict and values play important roles. 

   

RECALL WITHOUT PROCESSING

´Outside the box` thinking defines brain memory recall without processing roughly as a ´start – end` type process. This means that it is initiated by internally or externally originating cues and the activated stored memories ´run` as stored, independent of storage method. This type of recall can be conscious or subconscious, but the key point to such a process is that the past events are recalled without conflict, alteration or compliancy, essentially ´as is`. This makes them important to survival, because actions then reflect knowledge gained from previous experience and therefore, does not have to build from first principles each time, an advantage invaluable in a constantly changing, highly demanding environment. 

Circumstances for its use are various and include recognition of known objects, performing motor sequences such as shoelace tying and facial recognition.  

General mechanism

Recall processes whether with or without processing occur in ´real-time` and involve neuronal cell firing. Recall without processing begins with ´cues` coming from three sources:

1) the external environment - sensory information from the external environment leads to firing along sensory pathways, sensory focus is held, perceptual load capacity criteria are met, and movement is registered if appropriate leading to temporary sensory store formation followed by short-term memory stores, the iNCA, if the required sustained activation occurs.

2) from the internal environment - spurious firing of one or more neuronal cells from the sNCA matching previous events, or along the sensory pathways or firing instigated from other sNCA such as found in for example, day dreaming or ´mind wandering`.  

3) from language in its role as a ´tool`– cues can come from the external environment (auditory and/or visual sensory information) or from the internal environment (´inner speech`) and these will cause firing of the appropriate sNCA to which the auditory and visual information is linked. In this case, sensory information of the external environment can be part of the recall event or be ignored.

Independent of the source of the cue, the next stage of the recall process is the firing of appropriate sNCAs. If we consider that each ´end-of-the-road` cell is part of one or many sNCAs representing past events, then activation of just one cell will act as a signal and lead to the activation of many more cells, part of that group or part of many more. The idea of the sNCA is that cells are connected to others representing the same experience. Sustained activation of these cells during the storage process meant that gene modulation modified these cells to exhibit LTP so that firing strength would be increased and connections between relevant cells is strengthened. Therefore, firing of one or many cells in one sNCA will lead to the preferred firing of others in the same grouping. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that firing within the sNCA may occur by internal means via action by the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala as seen in fear memory formation or sequence memories or it could represent depolarisation instigated by cellular pre-synaptic and post-synaptic neurotransmitter receptor binding.  

The result of the sNCA firing, independent of its instigation, is another ´outside the box` hypothesis, albeit supported by evidence from visual imagery studies. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that firing of the sNCA in recall will result in the formation of a single ´electrical image` depicting a ´feeling` of something remembered or a ´meaning` and representing the cells showing the strongest firing and connectivity. This is not just a visual image, but more like a representation of all sensory capabilities (could possibly include those more ´esoteric` senses such as temperature or air pressure not normally considered). In recall without processing, the ´electrical image` formed is an exact representation of a previous event. A condition of ´no conflict` is said to occur; the content of the ´electrical image` matches the information stored within the sNCA and the links to other sNCA. Therefore, the importance lent to reference points and event characteristics in the storage stage is not unjustified.

Although in recall without processing it is assumed that the sNCA is fired and the resulting ´image` is an exact representation of the previous event without any conflict, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that there is still leeway and manoeuvrability within the concept. For example, there must be some level of favouritism shown for certain sNCA and features above others, otherwise a cacophony of recall images would be formed on each and every characteristic cued. Certain visual features are preferred storage characteristics, e.g. shape, colour and movement and recall without processing follows probably the same principle with these features given priority over others in the recall image and subsequent action. In much the same way, strength of firing and supplementation perhaps according to sensory firing from external sources (the iNCA) can dictate which characteristics are more ´noticed` and play a more important role in the ´electrical image` formed on recall. This would give some sNCA and characteristics priority over others. Self-experience shows that recall of an event can be dominated and overshadowed by one particular aspect of that event and it is very difficult for the ´track` to be changed, e.g. ´tunnel vision`.

Another way in which there is leeway in the recall process under these conditions is that the one or a small number of characteristics can lead to a wider ´electrical image`. Self-experience shows that recognition of one object for example, can lead to the recall of a whole range of events and experiences that have taken place over a vast period of time. In fact this is the key to brain-storming and autobiographical memory recall for example. This is where generic version and categorisation play a role – they add more detail to a previously ´narrow image` since sNCAs are linked to others. In brain memory recall without processing there is no conflict and therefore, everything that is a part of the ´electrical image` is uncontested by the external or internal cues and is an exact representation of past events. Again the characteristics favoured are those that show strength of firing and the ´electrical image` seen is that which reflects those strengths or reflects ´real-time` events.

The recall of sNCAs and the formation of an ´electrical image` also applies to sequence-type circumstances. Order and timing have been inbuilt in the storage mechanism of such memories with sNCA1 levels storing basic characteristics overlaid with the timing and order in the level 2 sNCA. Recall of sequences means that the cue for one stage, fires the appropriate sNCA1 and sNCA2 linking it to the recall of the second stage sNCA and so on. Synchronisation is in this case important with recall of shared characteristics dominating and altered to reflect the changes seen with time. Whether each sNCA creates an ´electrical image` is debatable, because of the timing issue. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that it is more likely that only cued images are formed at important steps within the sequence, i.e. those representing change. Therefore, the image appears more like ´strobe` pictures. However the image is recalled and the order of the sequence is maintained.

Just like in storage, the ´real-time` event of recall is subject to time restraints in the absence of sustained firing. Therefore, the end of recall for a particular ´electrical image` comes about by the dying out of the instigating signal and the firing within the sNCA. This can be the result of feedback mechanisms, neuronal cell refractory periods or deficits in neurotransmitter mechanisms at the chemical synapse. The result is that without further activation, the ´electrical image` is lost and the relevant sNCAs lose their labile state, returning to the stored state, with any adjustments made through the process of recall recorded within them. For example, certain connections may be strengthened and hence, this information will dominate at a later date, others will be weakened and new information will be added in just like in normal storage. Loss of the labile state means that the system is then ready for the next brain memory recall opportunity.  

The attentional and emotional systems appear to have roles in the recall without processing mechanism as well as the input and storage stages. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the attentional system in brain memory recall without processing is in the normal focused state and has at least three functions

  • it is involved in monitoring the stimulus information (whether from internal or external sources) against stored information from the sNCA for conflict (i.e. the level of expectation), not observed with recall without processing;
  •  it keeps the focus on relevant information; 
  • and thirdly, it enforces a time constraint on the ´start-end` recall process.

The emotional system mirrors the attentional system and personal experience shows that current emotional state, reflected by the OWL, can affect the efficiency of the recall process just like it can for other brain memory stages. Emotional tag re-activation can also affect the recall process. Since emotional state alters the way in which information is inputted, stored and recalled in ´real-time`, the recall of a past emotional state, stored in the form of the emotional tag, can have the same effect. The emotional tag information appears to take priority over the emotional state existing at that time through the incoming information, e.g. a fear of spiders takes priority over the ´real-time` visual information, and it dictates how the incoming information should be dealt with. It also allows new information to re-write the emotional tag so that learning can bring a new perspective to old information, e.g. a fear of spiders beginning as a child can be overcome by frequent less disturbing encounters.

Both positive and negative emotional tags have their uses in recall. Positive tags (i.e. those that induce the dopamine-based system, thalamus inhibition and normal or normal focused attentional states) are required to give an individual his personal values, drives as well as determining what gives him pleasure. Therefore, recall allows previous experiences to determine the value (´emotional worth`) of the event being encountered in ´real-time`. Fear tags need no explanation when considering recall. The incoming information itself does not indicate a pain response, but the emotional tag reactivation by activation of the stored memory does. Self-experience shows that an event that leads to the activation of a fear emotional tag will induce a series of ´fight or flight` responses built in to secure the safety of the individual, independent of the ´real-time` emotional state. This type of automatic response is behavioraly easy to recognise, e.g. heart leaps at a shadow or pulse races at a noise, and just like pleasure tags, these tags can also be adjusted either positively (fear lessened) or negatively (fear heightened) to match ´real-time` events. In fact, this capability is used to counteract fear tags, which are emotionally and physically draining on an individual.

Recognition of known objects 

´Outside the box´ thinking proposes that the classification of brain memory types describes all human memories as having their roots in episodic memories. The personal experience of events leads to some information being ignored, some acted on and some learnt in its entirety or in part. The brain memory process relating to objects is an example of the latter. An object is selected from a multitude of other information available in the ´real-time` external environment and presenting itself to the individual and it then forms the focus of the appropriate brain memory process. Re-encounter of objects learnt at a previous encounter will lead to recognition and this recall process can be carried out without processing. Self-experience knows that the mechanism is fast and experimentation has shown that coarse features, such as groups of large objects, can be processed within 50 milliseconds of onset, with finer details like edges taking longer at 100 milliseconds (Huang, 2007).  

The general mechanism begins with the stimulus (either sensory input firing the nerve pathways from the sensory organs to the cortex or internally from language cues) beginning the process. Visual input dominates most object recognition cases and therefore, an alteration in visual input by changing the visual field and focus can play an important role in recognition success. Incoming input fires pathways representing the characteristics of the external event until the ´end-of-the-road` cortical cells equaling the complexity of the event are reached. Those cells that are part of a previous encounter and therefore part of an sNCA exhibit LTP and hence, show strengthened firing and strengthened connections. Thus, the incoming information and the information from the previous encounter share the same neuronal ´tracks. Firing of the sNCA would lead to the formation of an ´electrical image` representing the event and hence, in this case the object would be recognised. Appropriate action would then ensue and the sNCA would change back from its labile state to the storage state encompassing any changes necessary. Conditions relating to which information forms the ´electrical image` follow the same general rules, i.e. strength of firing and number of cells fired demonstrate matching efficacy of incoming and stored cell firing and feature dominance.  

Since in the case of recall without processing there is no conflict between incoming information and stored information, the process continues without problems (i.e. conflict) until object recognition occurs. Top-down processing models of the psychologists show that hypothesis testing and other cortical interference is not required since recognition is easily carried out. Hence, the attentional system remains in a normal, focused state and carries out its matching, focus and timing functions. The emotional state reflects the attentional state and success of the process and reactivation of the encompassed emotional tag occurs as the relevant sNCA are fired in response to the incoming information. Emotional state changes can result if indicated by the emotional tag reactivation as the ´value` or worth of the object is re-discovered at the same time as the informational content is recalled.  

Certain hypotheses can be made about this recognition type of firing and brain memory recall:

1) recall creates a ´marriage` between incoming information and information stored in ´end-of-the-road cells`. These latter cells, representing the selected features characteristic of the object and selected during the storage process, are distributed in the cortical cell columns and linked to one another according to connectivity hypotheses. These cells fire when ´cued` and are mixed with newly firing cortical cells that represent new incoming information. However, object recognition can be dominated by past events so much so that the incoming information is ignored or instructions are sent to the sensory organs to change the sensory field (i.e. focus changed to something else). This occurs because of the top-down processing and importance of sNCA information as indicated by the psychologists in their models on processing control (Helmholtz, 1866; Gregory, 1970; Allport, 1954). In general, the psychologist models support NCA theory in that memory, expectation and categories play a major role in object recognition.  

2) the goal of the process is to recognise the object in the external environment and therefore, some incoming information is more ´valuable` in the achievement of this aim than others, especially at the earlier stages. In the case of brain memory storage, the most complex information is dominant and hence, the storage process leads firing from lower to higher complexity as the cortical cell columns are ascended – the better the storage, the better the recall. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that recall, however, appears to descend because for object recognition purposes, finer details are ignored until the more basic features are recognised. Once this has occurred, the process proceeds to the higher cortical areas until accurate recognition is achieved. Favouritism of certain features and firing has been described for the general recall scenario and this is seen in object recognition, too. In this case, the preferred features represent those visual characteristics specialised by the physiological visual pathways. For example, shape is more important over colour (silhouettes) and moving objects  (i.e. those demonstrating function/affordance) are favoured over stationary.  

3) incoming information may not be sufficient for object recognition to occur. Therefore certain techniques are available to increase the chance of success. At the basic level the sensory fields may be altered by head turning for example, or even attentional systems changed to increase perceptual load capacity so that more information is taken in. Information is ´filled in` by top-down processing or categorisation (encoding specificity principle by Wiseman and Tulving, 1976), with the sNCA firing itself so that past event dominates over present. The various techniques are used until the ´electrical image` is formed and the object identified. Therefore, the better the details at input, and the better the storage, the better the recall and the better the use of information. This indicates that the wider the informational content of the unit then recall will activate not only those cells matching incoming ´real-time` information, but will also activate related cells within the group, hence widening the level of detail in the ´electrical image` formed. Once object recognition is achieved then the brain is freed to pursue other activities and appropriate action can be taken.  

RECALL WITH PROCESSING

Recall with processing is an extension of recall without processing since it deals with the situation where there is conflict between stimulus and stored information firing, but at a manageable level. The process includes a question stage in the middle (´Start – question – end`), which reflects the non-similarity between the two ´forces` determined by the level of expectation and conflict exhibited. At the end of the process, just like with recall in the absence of processing, an ´electrical image` is formed and action occurs, if appropriate. Possible scenarios for this type of recall include unexpected changes to normal sequences and alterations in features in object recognition.

Recall with processing begins in the same manner as for recall without with either sensory pathways being stimulated by external or internal events. In the case of incoming sensory information, sensory stores and then iNCA are formed corresponding to the external event. Just like in recall without processing, the activated cells may be part of a sNCA formed from a previous encounter. These cells exhibit firing characteristics consistent with long-term memory storage, i.e. higher firing strength through LTP and greater connectivity and synchronicity. Unlike recall without processing, where the recall stage proceeds until an ´electrical image` is formed (i.e. recognition and action), in recall with processing conflict is at this stage registered since the level of expectation required for continuance is not reached. This can occur because either the incoming iNCA cells instigate one form of action and the fired sNCA cells instigate another (low similarity between iNCA or sNCA), or the incoming information fires only a very small number of cells participating in the one sNCA so that there is a big difference between the firing strengths of the sNCA cells and the other fired cells from the ´real-time` event. Therefore, there is some similarity between incoming information and stored information, but not enough to give a definitive answer.  

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the ´conflict` signal initiates appropriate changes in the attentional and emotional systems so that the situation is addressed and a remedy found. The attentional system, which acts as monitor not only of intake, but also of time, shifts to the normal focused or if necessary the ´fear` state and instigates physiological and sensory system changes, e.g. sensory focus is changed or held and volume of information increases (prefrontal cortical action increasing perceptual load capacity). Changes to the emotional system follow suit. The result is that an extra ´stage or two` of information processing must be undertaken before the coveted ´electrical image` is eventually achieved. This represents the ´question` stage of the process. 

Processing stage 

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the changes in stimuli brought about by the attentional system`s shift in response to the conflict signal result in what is broadly termed the ´processing stage`. Successful conclusion of such a stage satisfies the neuronal firing requirement, which leads to the formation of an acceptable ´electrical image` and appropriate action – the ultimate goal of any recall process. In recall with processing, the stimulating pathways are relatively similar to the fired sNCA representing past events so the processing stage involves only a small amount of manipulation before the ´electrical image` appears. Extensive processing shifts recall to a further level and a more involved mechanism.

In recall with processing, manipulation of the neuronal firing patterns is likely to occur in the working memory state, which also plays a role in variable memory storage. In storage, working memory state represents the ´meeting point` of two contesting information sources – the ´real-time` incoming information and the relevant stored information. Temporary neuronal cell assemblies (the tNCA) result, which on sustained activation lead to the permanent sNCA being formed. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the same area and contesting forces also apply to the recall process in this case and that the tNCA content can be manipulated in one of two ways in order to achieve the required ´electrical image`. They are:   

  • the scope of the current electrical information in the tNCA is widened, e.g. by filling in or by using the generic version, or
  • the viewpoint of the sensory input is changed  (i.e. accidental frame change occurs, where ´frame` represents the ´real-time` view), e.g. by changing the field of focus, chunking smaller or different information parts together or using categories.

A time constraint is placed on both options by the attentional system, just like in recall without processing so that the brain activity does not become ´fixed` and continues searching until an acceptable solution is found.

Widening the scope of the ´real-time` electrical information present in the tNCA resulting from the stimulus and the activated sNCA can be brought about by either ´filling in` missing information using the sNCA formed from a similar previous encounter, or by using a generic version in order to expand the ´image` using the less common features. Even in recall without processing, a certain level of ´filling in` of the information can occur before the ´electrical image` is formed, but activation must reach an acceptable level otherwise the recall process shifts to one including this more deliberate processing stage. ´Filling in` requires the attentional system to act to increase the information volume, but this occurs at the cost of detail. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in this case, processing is brought down from the higher cortical areas responsible for the more complicated aspects of the ´image` such as pattern to the more basic core features such as shape, colour and movement. Consideration of the core features in preference to others in the recall process reduces the complexity of the possible representation, but increases the chance of recall, since basic core features are shared by more objects and events, e.g. many things are round and red – tomato, cherry, ball, ruby. The same rules applied during storage regarding the sNCA1 and sNCA2 representation, e.g. Gestalt laws are used in recall, so that stimulus information and stored information act together.  

´Filling in` of information can result in the use of the generic version, although this can be used on its own in recall if sufficient information is available. Generic version was defined as the long-term memory of an event (or object) agreed by an individual as representing the core features of that event and including variation of that event (the ´wobble`) within acceptable limits. Application of information stored in the generic version here in recall with processing means that common core features are determined by the lower brain area firing described for ´filling in`, but then incoming information fires within the variable ´wobble` area, which allows discrepancy between features, e.g. a ball is always round (shape and a core feature), but colour would be regarded as variable (wobble). Variation in features attributed to ´wobble` in the storage process are essentially equivalent to the ´change in shape` seen with movement and recall would demand the same priority as storage for features – core features first then variables. Cross modal systems and the recall of generic version spanning the different sensory information widen greatly the chance of finding an appropriate similarity between the stimulus and sNCA in the working memory state`s tNCA. Acceptable levels of activation would then push the process to the last stage of the recall process, which is the formation of the ´electrical image`.   

Another method for manipulating the tNCA information when there is a lack of information sufficient for the formation of a clear ´electrical image` is by initiating a viewpoint change. This has been termed here as ´accidental frame change`, where frame denotes the viewpoint or sensory focus and the word ´accidental` is used because the process occurs either subconsciously or accidentally (e.g. by distraction) in the absence of conscious instruction by the individual. Conscious frame change comes under the remit of recall with further processing. The spontaneous change is brought about by the upgrading of the attentional system initiated by the ´conflict` signal caused by the contesting information in the tNCA. As described before, the attentional system reacts by causing changes in information quantity (perceptual load capacity increases) and viewpoint (i.e. sensory focus alterations such as the LIP effect) for example as well as any other physiological effects. This results in a change in neuronal firing and presentation of core features (i.e. different reference points) available for comparison to the activated sNCA information. The changes in viewpoint may range from major (completely new view, e.g. by moving head around) to minor (focus on what was considered before as in inconsequential corner or pattern), but both can have major effects on recall success.  

The effect on recall success results from the brain memory storage practices adopted at the time of the previous encounter. These practices were either ´as is` and important for exact recall of repeated events or variable for information likely to be used in parts in the future. Information in the latter case formed either generic versions, or was grouped and categorised according to individual requirements, but based on core and variable features. Presentation therefore, during the recall process of alternative information due to a change in the viewpoint, would result in firing of the generic version or possibly different groupings or categories.  

Firing of a generic version would lead ultimately to an ´electrical image` so long as the variable features were within acceptable limits. If this were not possible, the chunking of information during storage and the search for similarity to ´real-time` firing would ensue within the previously formed groups and categories. Interpretation of this firing would follow the same rules applied during storage with organisation based on the psychologist theories, e.g. template theories, feature theories, Marr`s (1982) computational theory such as the primal sketch, geons (recognition by components theory, Biedermann, 1987) for features and organisation of units based on the hierarchy theory of Collins and Quillian, (1969), spreading activation theory of Collins and Loftus (1975), use of inferences (Collins and Quillian, 1969), use of semantic relatedness (Collins and Loftus, 1975) or schemes (Bartlett, 1932). In the case of recall with processing, since there is a clear case of activation and ´electrical image` formation there is no doubt about the interpretation of the incoming information. Although many of the features are probably shared between the contesting informational sources, rationalisation (the adjustment of features of the incoming event to the past event) as well as disregarding certain features or changing the priority of others can take place in order that the requirements for recall are fulfilled. In this way, distortions between fact and stored information recorded at the time of the original event are carried on with the repeated event. Change in grouping and categories may also flip characteristics to another grouping altogether, e.g. shape features flipped to movement or according to Case`s theory (1974) figurative scheme (internal representation) to operative scheme (function) or less specifically and based on the ´outside the box` version advocated here from ´own view of world` (more factual) to ´own view of self` (more emotional).   

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that viewpoint change is particularly important when the stimulus is from an internal source. Reframing would provide the necessary ´tweaks` to result in the response, otherwise the recall process would run forward ´as is` with direct repetition of previous events. The adjustment of the firing, just like with incoming information would take place in the working memory state with the formation of the tNCA and the introduction of the processing stage would mean that what is stored is used as a basis of something that can be re-worked/tweaked before action finally takes place. Again, there is no conflict since the input is essentially ´not real`, but conflict can occur after ´tweaking` and then recall would follow the same generic version/grouping changes as dictated above for externally stimulated material. 

End-stage

The end stage of recall with processing results, just like in the case of no processing, with an interpretation of the stimulus event (the ´electrical image`) and action. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the ´electrical image` is either the result of a clear, strong activation of one event in preference to others, termed the ´magic answer` (formed in recall without processing), or it is an image merely accepted to be the right one, termed the ´accepted magic answer`. The concept of acceptance may upset our beliefs that every cognitive process is controlled and desired and it can only apply in decision-making, but experience shows us that some actions are made, e.g. in tiredness or boredom even when there is clear direction for an alternative.

In the case of the ´magic answer`, just like in recall without processing, the end result of the included processing stage is the strong activation of a single sNCA, which forms the ´electrical image` from which perception, interpretation and subsequent action and so on occurs. The attentional and emotional systems respond in most cases to the ´electrical image` with a ´relaxation` of state. In attentional system terms, focus may be released from the task at hand and the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala areas shift the state down from the fear or normal focused state to the normal state. Emotionally, self-report shows that elucidation of the ´magic answer` may lead to a ´sigh of relief` and happiness that the stimulus has been finally identified and the appropriate action according to the sNCA taken. This is brought about by the dominance of the dopamine-based system. However, if the emotional tag associated with the event is one of fear, then the attentional system and emotional system respond accordingly and a fear response is initiated.  

In the case of recall without processing, one option, the ´magic answer` is dominant because it reflects the highest similarity of the ´real-time` stimulus to the previous event, but in the case of recall with the extra processing steps this cannot be the only answer since the stimulus shows differences to any previous encounters. Two factors may determine which sNCA is chosen:

  • the number of repetitions of events or parts of events (higher the number, greater the likelihood of this option being the strongest).
  • the level of self-interest (greater the level of self-interest or involvement of those things regarded as high value by the individual, greater the chance of choice).

The first factor is clear and is the mainstay of the brain memory storage mechanism. Repetition of whole events or part (the units) will strengthen the firing and connections between the neurons within the appropriate sNCA according to the long-term storage mechanism. Therefore, such a network will be regarded as being the strongest candidate for the formation of the ´electrical image`. Level of detail will also have an effect with repetition increasing the amount of detail stored and hence, improving the chance of having the strongest activation on re-encounter. Habit, routine, even intuition will all lead to ´disguised` repetition of events thus promoting their chances of being the site of the strongest activation on similar stimulus.

The other factor important in the choice of the ´magic answer` is self-interest. Memories associated with high self-interest are likely to give the strongest activation and are more likely to form the ´electrical image` than those of similar events performed on others. The only exception is that a person may regard certain individuals or items as having a higher value than the ´self` such as a mother`s love for her child, and this may affect which memories are chosen for the ´magic answer`. The subject of self-interest is complicated and is probably more applicable for the discussion on how decisions are made and what motivates us to take the course of action we choose, but in the case of brain memory recall with processing it still plays a role. Here, the nature of the ´magic answer` means that not only is the information stored so is the level of self-interest and this has been stored during the original past encounter as either directly with the content of the emotional tag or indirectly by the organisation and priority given to the sensory informational content.  

The appearance of the ´magic answer` as the result of the greatest neuronal activation in response to the stimulus and sNCA firing, although not deliberately and consciously chosen, is indeed the option most suited to the situation and, if a decision had to be made, then this option would still be the one followed. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the ´magic answer` is merely accepted and if more effort or time was allowed an alternative would be found that would be better. In this case, although the greatest activation of the tNCA is obtained there would be other options available if perhaps the sensory focus is changed or another grouping used. In this case, the attentional system and its ´egg-timer` function which elicits timing on the activation may be important, thus providing the ´brake` to the processing stage and acceptance of a sub-optimal conclusion. Circumstances that may lead to this type of  ´accepted magic answer` are common, e.g. boredom, lack of knowledge, but whatever the method, the ´accepted magic answer` forms the ´electrical image` and the action dictated by the chosen answer follows. 

Independent of the source or answer chosen, the end-stage of neuronal firing in the tNCA state results in the ´electrical image` and the action or response detailed in the sNCA formed at the previous encounter. After the response is initiated, firing within the neuronal cell grouping dies out probably because the stimulus changes to something else, e.g. change of focus. The sNCA may reflect the changes seen with this encounter, such as new grouping or added material, but it returns from the labile state into the solid inoperative state to await the next activation in response to a stimulus.  

Recognition of similar and unknown objects

Since humans live in a constantly changing environment then the possibility of knowing all objects within it is low – in fact, humans strive for and seek out originality and strangeness. Therefore, although the biochemical mechanism of recall without processing leads to the recognition of a huge number of objects and events within the daily life of an individual, so is there also a need for a mechanism that can use previous experience to identify similar or unknown events. This mechanism uses object recognition theories and the biochemical storage mechanisms of generic version  and categorisation.  

 The biochemical mechanism begins, just like in other recall situations, with incoming sensory information. At first the object is taken as a whole within the focus of the sensory field and is processed according to ´now` sensory processing mechanisms. The reference points regarding features of the object fire appropriate pathways to the brain`s cortical levels where information from previous experiences has been stored. If the object is known then the stimulated cells form the corresponding sNCA and since the same cells are being fired as the previous experience then an ´electrical image` is formed from the strong activation and the object is regarded as being recognised. All stored information about it is then available even if not useful at the time. Even if not all the reference points are observed then using ´filling-in` techniques and the psychologists object recognition theories, e.g. binding, contour similarity, the object is still recognised.  

However, in the case of a similar or unknown object, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the sensory pathways representing the features of the observed object produce a cacophony of firing cortical cells that are the constituents of multiple sNCA. Therefore, no clear ´magic answer` is seen. The presence of conflict, registered by the attentional system, instigates a shift in the mechanism and the extra processing stage involving working memory is added to resolve it. The heightened attentional state causes a change in viewpoint so that the features within the sensory focus are altered with subsequent effects in the sNCA. The level of conflict between these and the incoming information is monitored. The shift in viewpoint may mean that instead of the object being observed as a whole, only certain features of it are and then, using the principles of generic version or categorisation, this incoming information may stimulate firing of cells of sNCA that correspond to it. In this case, the absence of conflict means that a ´magic answer` occurs and the object is then said to be identified. At the beginning it is likely that the change in viewpoint will concentrate on core features of the object, but continued conflict will lead to more and more obtuse details being used until the object is successfully identified. The attentional system monitors the situation continually and the ´egg-timer` function will dictate how much time is spent on the tasks. Therefore, for similar and unknown objects, the end result is that some form of recognition is finally obtained. Storage of the information will be carried out complete with the additions to the already present categories and generic version.

 

RECALL WITH FURTHER PROCESSING

Recall with further processing essentially means that the information obtained from the stored brain memories and cued from a stimulus requires more processing (i.e. work) before it can be successfully used in order to fulfill the task at hand. Recall without processing and recall with processing may have been carried out, but the levels of conflict are such that no definitive ending, the formation of the ´electrical image`, is achieved from the stimulus and information elicited from the brain memory stores. ´Outside the box` thinking, therefore, has led to the definition of the overall recall mechanism with further processing according to the etiquette used in other recall mechanisms as ´start to questions to ………end` with ´questions` relating to this extra work or information manipulation stage that is required. The row of dots,  ´….`,  indicates that this question/manipulation process may be more than one stage and the ´end` is as before, the formation of the ´electrical image` and action or response elicited as a result of the whole process. The rather open definitions of ´questions` or ´extra processing` used in this type of recall means that individuality, whether knowledge or capability-based, is more apparent here than in the other simpler recall processes. Both rely on the quantity (extent of the sNCA) and the quality (extent of detail and grouping) of the knowledge stored within the brain memories. However, in recall with further processing, manipulation of the information requires what the psychologist term as thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills and the more ´esoteric` terms like intelligence, creativity, reasoning and judgement. Circumstances where recall with further processing (i.e. includes a degree of ´working out` or ´extra processing`) has to be carried out in order to achieve the ´magic answer` or ´accepted magic answer` are many fold, e.g. identification of completely unknown objects, forward planning.

´Outside the box` thinking has based the biochemical mechanism for recall with further processing on the psychologists` hypotheses on problem solving. Psychologists have studied this topic over many years and methods of ´thinking` have been devised. Two of these methods in particular are believed here to mirror the biochemical mechanism of brain memory recall required to interpret circumstances where ´magic answers` acceptable to the required task do not appear directly from the incoming stimulus. These two methods are:

1)      PISCO (De Bono, 1982) - Purpose, Input (stimulus), Solutions (options), Choice (decision-making), Operation (action).

2)      TEC (De Bono, 1982) – Target (aim), Expand (options), Contract (solution and action) or Task, Explore, Conclude.

In both cases, the problem solving paths can be correlated to the biochemical path as shown, but for the purpose of this book De Bono`s PISCO method (1982) is preferred because it includes the decision-making stage, which is an important part of recall with further processing.

Purpose

The first stage of the PISCO process is defining the purpose of the overall operation. Understanding the task or defining the goal is probably the hardest part of the further processing system and if not done correctly then the brain memory recall stage ends up being fruitless. Sometimes the task is simple, such as ´What is this thing before me` for unknown object recognition, or ´What shall I do now?` for conditioning situations with extra steps. However, recall with further processing is set up to cope with situations where the stimulus does not lead directly to the ´magic answer` required to fulfill the task.  

To define purpose, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the individual has to look beyond the ´real-time` events and define where he wishes to be at the end of the processing stage, i.e. define what he wants from the ´answer`. The individual uses his experience and knowledge stored in the sNCA to ´project` himself forward in time to recognise the end-point of his endeavours and hence, the purpose or goal. The ´forecasted end` is based on sNCA activation resulting from the ´real-time` stimuli (the ´cues`) of either a real or unreal nature, running it along the sNCA sequences or single storage events according to the cue`s characteristics until the ´end` of the previously stored event. A temporary tNCA grouping is formed in the working memory state and this ´purpose` tNCA forms a benchmark for the following processing stages and can replace the original stimulus or incoming information. The ´forecasted end` is not a definitive answer since if it was then no extra processing would be necessary and the recall process would proceed according to the mechanisms described in the other recall methods. Instead it is more of a ´feeling`- an overall, general idea of the end-point to the process – an ´expectation` of what that answer should contain, e.g. in the past, this route (´clue´) led me here (´result`)`. This expectation would be based on previous experience, but would not contain exact details rather a list of ´categories`, more like for example, with an unknown object before you, experience tells you that identification of the object is expected or if cups of coffee and tea sit on the self-service table, experience tells you that you need to choose one.  

The attentional and emotional states during the definition of purpose follow that of normal recall. The attentional state is heightened at the recognition that the ´real-time` stimulus is unlike that of previous encounters or will not bring about a definitive solution and effort and extra processing will be needed. The emotional state mirrors this uncertainty, e.g. ´slight panic` feeling. As the purpose is successfully defined, there may be a slight relaxation of both attentional and emotional states, e.g. a sense of relief that the task is defined and possible, but the admission that a succession of processing stages are needed may keep the systems on ´alert`.  Just like in other recall methods, the whole process is carried out under time pressure elicited by the ´egg-timer` function of the attentional system and this can affect the efficacy of the process itself, e.g. feelings of ´panic` may lead to inaccurate hurried purpose definitions.   

Input

The second stage of further processing is the input relevant to it. This is one of the easiest stages because it reflects where the individual is in ´real-time` in relation to the task, or it is stimulated by the ´cues` used in defining the purpose. This particular input stage is important because it forms the basis of the paths followed in the later processing stages, but it does not form in the case of recall with further processing, the ´magic answer` itself. ´Real` input in this case is formed from sensory information, which comes from the external environment and is used to define the location and state of the individual. There are two possibilities relating to this material: the ´real-time` information forms the starting point of the task, or it is irrelevant to the given task.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in the first option, ´real` and relevant, the information is used as stimulus for the following processing stages. It may be the whole event or part of it, and the only difficulty is minimising the incoming sensory information to relevant information for the task at hand. The sensory information fires neuronal pathways and in the working memory state follows simpler recall mechanisms leading to appropriate sNCA activation. In the working memory state, incoming information and subsequently activated sNCA cells are matched to the purpose NCA grouping formed above. In recall with further processing, conflict between these contesting forces is observed as a result of lack of common material or not enough material for example between the two. The level of conflict is regulated by the attentional system. If no conflict is observed, then the ´magic answer`/´electrical image` is formed and the problem solved, but this is more in keeping with recall without or with minimal processing. In recall with further processing, no such image occurs and the conflict observed between the competing neuronal firing groups of the tNCA shifts the process to the next stage. The ´real-time` cues that produced the stimulation are then termed by ´outside the box` thinking as ´points of access` since they provide the stimuli to access the information stored from the previous events.  

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that, although the presence of purpose tNCA grouping drives the search for relevant material, irrelevant information can still be processed according to perceptual load capacity rules if extra capacity is present, or events in the external environment take priority over the task, e.g. the smell of smoke overturns algebra problem-solving. In this case, the processing of the information is regarded as more of a distraction, and changes in the events in the external environment may cause a shift back to the task at hand or the attentional state may be heightened so that a change in tactic is instigated.

The other situation is slightly more complicated in that the stimulus is ´unreal`, obtained using internal information. In this case, unlike the ´real` situation where the individual`s location or state provides the input, in the ´unreal` situation, ´cues` are needed to instigate neuronal pathway firing in ´real-time`. The mechanism once the cues are decided is just like for the ´real-time` information in that the sNCA activated in the working memory state is compared to the purpose grouping. Again, conflict within the tNCA monitored by the attentional system shifts the process to the next stage. Lack of conflict will end the recall process with the formation of the ´magic answer`. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that it is unlikely that these initiating stimuli are chosen randomly, but they are chosen just like in the definition of purpose as being relevant to the required task. These internal stimuli (´cues`) form the ´points of access` in this case and these provide for ´unreal` events the starting point of the neuronal cell assembly firing required for the later stages of processing. Since they are sourced from the sNCA, they too, are based on previous experience and knowledge. Using these points of access as initial cues, the recall process continues to its next stage, that of ´questions`.

Questions stage 

The ´questions` stage in the brain memory recall process results from the failure of the ´magic answer` to appear arising from the matching of the active purpose tNCA grouping, the ´real-time` input and activated sNCA as defined by the points of access. Lack of resemblance between the groups initiates the conflict signal and a change in processing tactic initiated by the heightened attentional state. This stage is equivalent to the ´solutions` step in the PISCO problem-solving system of De Bono (1992) and is not a new mechanism as it is an integral part of the variable storage mechanism as well as recall with minimal processing. In this latter case, working memory provides the site of manipulation with the scope of the recalled memory widened through use of the generic version and filling in techniques, or a viewpoint change (accidental frame change). Manipulation of the information ultimately results then in the required ´electrical image` (´magic answer` or ´accepted magic answer`).

In recall with further processing, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the same initial mechanism is used. The attempt to match input from the ´natural` points of access (whether internal or externally sourced, static or sequenced) to the purpose tNCA grouping fails leading to a change in processing tactic. However, unlike in simpler recall situations, changing the points of access in this case is a deliberate, conscious act (deliberate reframing) and the changing stimulus may be far removed from the original natural or logical starting point. This view is supported by self-experience and psychologists` research such as that based on constructivist theory, including the misapplied constancy theory of Gregory (1970). Gregory proposed hypothesis testing, where the emotional fear response leads to the search for more detail such as by head-turning, since the information supplied to the sensory organs is frequently impoverished and lacks sufficient detail for perception to take place. He believed that perception involved a dynamic search for the best interpretation of the available data in what he termed ´hypothesis testing`, the equivalent of deliberate reframing suggested here.

So, how does reframing occur? Deliberate reframing involves the conscious change of choice of points of access initiating the recall process ´flow` to the end-goal. Unlike the viewpoint change mechanism described in simpler recall mechanisms, where it occurs as a function of the strength of the firing pattern itself, reframing in this case may be deliberately constructed according to past knowledge and may appear biochemically to be illogical. There is a conscious search for reference features of the input and previously stored information that may be applicable to the goal or sub-goal, but may not be the strongest firing feature of the sNCA. Strength of firing of features in sNCA is an indication of detail strength and/or event frequency. The alternative features chosen by the conscious shift of focus to them are then used as the points of access for the next recall stage. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the choice of alternative features may be based on similarities according to analogical problem solving, e.g. different aspect of the same stimulus such as in the cases of cars – make, model, colours, wing mirror shape and boot shape or may indeed be abstract ideas, or features of episodic events of lesser importance for example. The choice of such points of access reflects individual styles, capability and stored knowledge. Although individuals have their own approaches to choosing points of access under these circumstances, e.g. may have a priority list similar to that of ´magic answer` selection, certain techniques have been expounded to help, such as mind-mapping and brain storming approaches. These techniques place the vocalised features in the focus of the recall process.  

As soon as the points of access are recognised, then the new firing assemblies are again matched to the purpose NCA in the working memory state. Absence of conflict at this stage allows the process to proceed further to the end-stage, but the presence of conflict means a return to the beginning and a search for new access points. In the case of recall with further processing, the end-point may not be always as clear as that described in simpler recall methods. Reframing can lead to many options, all of which are not 100% correct or applicable. At some point the ´timing function` of the attentional system will call an end to the search for suitable answers and shift the process to such a stage where a number of solutions are chosen and decision-making has to be made from those available.  

Just like in other stages of the memory process, the state of the emotional system appears to follow the changes in attentional system and state. Aside from the direct emotional tag activation which brings about the corresponding emotional state stored at the time of the informational content of the memory, the emotional state dependent on the action of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal loop follows the attentional system`s response to input, purpose definition and stored NCA re-activation. Identification of the purpose and at the start of the questions stage leads to a relaxation of the emotional state corresponding to the attentional system`s relaxation state, but the appearance of conflict as the non-resemblance of the matching information sources shifts it again to the fear emotional state. Changes in the emotional state are highly dependent upon the individual and experience. Self-experience shows that some individuals react positively to the conflict signals, obviously liking the challenge and this positive approach is reflected in the calm, relaxed OWL and controlled search for appropriate points of access. Others respond negatively and activate the fear systems manifesting in sky-high heart rate, furtive looks and sweating palms for example.

Construction of options

The situations discussed in the previous sections have involved brain memory recall leading to definitive conclusions as indicated by the firing strengths of the appropriate NCA, but there are cases where even with reframing no clear answer is elucidated. In these cases, ´outside the box` thinking and psychological evidence suggests the construction of a series of options with a common theme that may lead to a possible solution to the problem at hand, either by comparing direct firing strength of the proposed option, or by decision-making between equally-rated options. This construction of options is a continuance of the ´solutions` stage of the PISCO process and is supported by the psychologist`s mental model theory by Johnson-Laird (1983). In this theory, each mental model represents a possibility and its structure and content capture what is common to the different ways in which the possibility might occur. This can be compared to the point of access leading to the sNCA, which through generic version and categorisation gives an option for the solution to the recall problem. Newstead et al. (1992) found out that people form one or more mental models, which are representations of the state of affairs described in the premises (´outside the box`s` version of the construction of multiple options using differing points of access). They believed that participants usually formed only one mental model if it led to a believable conclusion, an assumption that often leads to errors. In contrast processing was more thorough when the first mental model led to an unbelievable conclusion. ´Outside the box` thinking correlates this view to the firing of the cells within the NCA. If the firing is strong enough, then this is the chosen option. More believable options would demonstrate the strongest firing since they are likely to result from repeated occurrences or more extensive details. Johnson-Laird extended his mental model theory and his assumptions can be explained by the NCA theory advocated here in this ´outside the box` version of the brain memory mechanism. They are:

1)      the mental model constructed and its conclusions are equivalent to framing and reframing from points of access leading to the recognition of details and features contained within the sNCA.

2)      all processes within the construction of the options and mental models involve limited resources, which is supported here by the firing and perceptual load capacity rules implied by the attentional system and working memory.

3)      problems requiring the construction of options (mental models) are harder to solve than those where there is a simple ´magic answer`, because of the demand on working memory. This is explained by perceptual load theory constraints on processing power and proven by studies on multi-tasking.

One assumption made by Johnson-Laird is not supported here in the discussion of free, conscious search for possible options and that is that alternative models are constructed that disprove the end-point or will not lead to the end-point. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the biochemical mechanism seeks out strongest firing groups of cells, which automatically suggest the correct answers. Deliberate search for inappropriate or irrelevant material has to be consciously carried out and is in principle against the recall mechanism proposed here based on quality and quantity of firing for the ´magic answer` achievement. Therefore, the assumption of ´principle of truth` proposed by Johnson-Laird is supported.  

Biochemically, the construction of options occurs in the same way as described above with the points of access being the starting points. Possible sets of options represent groupings of points of access based upon choosing related features, just like that described for deliberate reframing. This has led to a series of strategies defined by psychologists for determining which options will be considered in their problem-solving processes. For example, construction of a series of options looking at emotional values for an action requires recall of the emotional tags in conjunction with the information and construction of options of other peoples` views requires using points of access regarding self-experience and empathised reactions of others.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that biochemically, independent of which strategy is chosen, each point of access of each group leads to the firing of the appropriate sNCA in response to the stimulus. Sometimes recall is of static information, more often sequences. These options remain ´active`, ´held` in the working memory state and therefore, are subject to neuronal firing and perceptual load capacity rules akin to multi-tasking. The former could explain why continual repetition of the differing options is necessary and the latter could explain why writing down the options or using other mnenonomic techniques greatly increase the ability to carry out this type of task.  The end-effect, independent of construction option, is that a series of options are active.

However, just like in deliberate reframing, errors in the construction of options can occur which could ultimately lead to an action incorrect for the input. Errors can occur due to a number of different reasons, such as use of false information, biasness of chosen facts and misunderstanding of the task. From this point, it is unlikely that a suitable solution will then be found.

End stage

In both recall without processing, and recall with low levels of processing the memory recall process proceeds quickly to the end stage once the stimulus and fired sNCA agree. With recall with further processing, although there are extra stages within the process (the construction of options for example), the aim still is to reach the end-stage, i.e. the formation of the ´magic answer`/´electrical image` as soon as possible. Both the biochemical and psychologist view is that the maximum amount of processing is no more than that required to complete the task (Johnson and Heinz, 1978), thus the optimal extra stages are such that they lead to a clear result that fulfils the defined purpose of the task. In terms of PISCO nomenclature  then the biochemical end stage represents choice (the formation of the clear ´electrical image` after paths are considered) then operation (action).

The end-stage can take one of two forms – a simple path, where faced with options perhaps there is no choice since there is a clear, definitive option and a more complicated path where decision-making may have to be made in order to reach such an end-point. Independent of which path is taken, the end stage results in ´electrical image` formation and definitive knowledge of the action to be taken.

The biochemical mechanism of the simplest path of recall with further processing correlates to that seen in the other recall circumstances of without and with processing. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that firing of one of the sNCA provided during the framing, reframing or options formation and relating to the stimulus points of access matches the purpose NCA grouping, thus revealing one clear ´electrical image` and one operational path to complete the task. Just like in the other methods, the extent of matching is measured by the attentional system. The question has to be asked therefore, what makes this path be chosen above the other possibilities given, whether arising from original input stimulation or from the construction of options. ´Outside the box` thinking proposed in recall with processing that the ´magic answer` was chosen because of firing strength and/or self-interest, such as emotional values and self-priority. Owing to the extra step in the process, it is likely that the choice of path followed is more deliberate.

However, not all cases are so clear-cut. There are circumstances where the multiple options constructed are of equal worth or indistinguishable worth to the event or the individual. Therefore, decisions have to be made as to which path should be followed. Several factors are vital for the decision making process to occur and these are: 

  • there has to be appropriate NCA activation,
  • the goal has to be defined,
  • the individual has to be capable of placing himself in a virtual situation and running it forward;,
  • an emotional system has to be present capable of relating to the task at hand  (for example, decisions can be based on satisfying the pleasurable needs of organism);,
  • and there has to be an interactive checking mechanism capable of matching groups of material (for example, comparing 2 options for the least pain/fear or pleasure). 

Independent of the type of information involved, there must be two different decision-making paths, which ´outside the box` thinking has defined as one being ruled by the ´heart` and the other by the ´head`. ´Heart` decisions look at the those options rated by the emotional system, thus giving the highest ´pleasure` value or lowest ´fear` value and ´head` decisions look at how best the task can be fulfilled using the information available.  Sometimes decisions fulfill neither category (non-active decision-making, e.g. ´just for the hell of it`), but this type of ´decision` is dependent on circumstance and individual.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that ´decision methods based on the heart` is akin to the situation where self-interest is the primary factor in determining which path is followed, i.e. emotional values take priority over facts. This can be amply demonstrated by the example of mother love where the love for a child takes priority over the mother`s self-interest. Whatever the content of the information, the ´option` chosen is the one that has the emotional value of the required calibre. This probably means the emotional values dictated by the hypothesised sliding scale of the prefrontal cortex are the determining criteria, with the single negative value taking priority over those of pleasure. This type of decision-making is supported by the psychologists` theories such as Anderson`s rational-emotional model (2003) and the social functionalist approach (Tetlock, 2002). The process involves the comparison of the options constructed in the deliberate reframing stage from an emotional value perspective, which implies a link between the emotional system and decision-making mechanism. This is supported by published research since Bechara (2005) described two separate, but interacting neural systems that control decision-making: an impulsive amygdala system for signalling pain or pleasure of immediate prospects and a reflective prefrontal cortex system for signalling pain or pleasure of future prospects.

The biochemical mechanism involved in this type of decision-making process is likely to require the comparison of emotional tags, hypothesised as stored in the prefrontal cortex. Each option constructed from each point of access has activated sNCA and these contain the relevant information to the purpose as well as an emotional tag based on the prefrontal cortex sliding switch. Therefore, when the sNCA informational content is activated according to the start input and purpose, then the value of the emotional tag is also registered. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that it is the prefrontal cortex that compares the emotional values of each option, as the prefrontal cortex is also the proposed site for the emotional tag storage. This is supported by evidence, which shows one area of the prefrontal cortex in particular, the orbitofrontal cortex, being responsible for decision-making. The choosing of the option based on emotional value will then initiate the running through of the information linked to the sNCA so that the appropriate action could be made, which would explain the observation that areas involved in decision-making are the parietal cortex, basal ganglia and motor structures (Kaini, Hanks and Shadlen, 2006). Conflict between information of the purpose sNCA and the stored sNCA may mean that the ideal solution has not been found and that is why decisions ruled by the heart are not always logical. As a method of decision-making per se this method is probably not applicable in many circumstances encountered in our daily lives, but the emotional value of the consequences of performing the event is a vital part of the other type of decision-making process, that based on the ´head`.   

´Outside the box` thinking defines decision-making based on the ´head` as making decisions based on facts and logic and instead of comparing the emotional worth of the available events then a comparison of the factual ´worth` of the different options is made. Hence, there is a ´mathematical-type` basis to this decision-making process and this may not be so visible or so instantaneous as decisions based on emotional factors. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the psychologists views on decision-making can be divided ultimately into three techniques based on frequency, utility and risk with the ideal solution demonstrating high probability, high utility and low risk/high reward. In an attempt to marry these psychologists views to a feasible biochemical mechanism relating to neuronal firing, decisions made by the ´head` could be said to be based on the strength of activation (frequency/probability), the strength of similarity of characteristics (utility) and the strength of emotional response (risk). Strength in all cases means not exact mathematical numbers, but more rough approximations like, for example a show of hands, degree of lighting, or overall impression.   

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that strength of activation equates to the psychologists` method of choosing a path by considering the frequency/probability of achieving or not achieving the purpose of the task. This criterion for choosing which path to follow has already been seen with recall without processing and with processing  and represents decision-making through the simplest of logic. Those NCA with the most details or the most frequented will have the strongest connections between the cells and therefore, in a choice of options, the fired sNCA grouping demonstrating the strongest connections will be chosen. Some strategies for the construction of options such as ´information-in/information out`, consequence and sequel, alternatives/possibilities/choices favour this type of method. The frequency (or firing strength) of certain characteristics in this case are selected using heuristics, such as: representative (that representative of its categorisation grouping will demonstrate the strongest firing), availability (that repeated often or exhibiting the most detail) or fast and frugal (stronger firing in case of recognised object rather than object unrecognised) heuristics. On the negative side, there is conjunction fallacy, which is the mistaken belief that the combination of two events is more likely to occur than any one of the two events alone. In this case, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the two events are linked by their sNCA firing in the working memory state and therefore, in this case stronger activation occurs compared to the firing of just one, since there is a greater level of similarity and detail.

Strength of similarity of characteristics of the NCA can be equated to the decision-making strategy of the psychologists calculating utility.  Utility can be defined as the degree of usefulness in obtaining the purpose, e.g. ´what am I going to end up with`, and represents the ´subjective value of event`. Strength of similarity involves the matching of  ´characteristics` between the purpose and stored NCAs of each option (a process requiring the attentional system) so that the option with the greatest number of characteristics shared is considered the most likely to be useful. Some strategies for the construction of options favour this criterion e.g. information-in/information out, consequence and sequel.

Risk, the third suggested ´outside the box` mathematical strategy, can be calculated using the strength of emotional response and can be re-defined as the assessment of the chance of reward or loss being received. Decision-making seeks to maximise reward (happiness) and minimise loss (stress) and therefore, the emotional strength of each option is calculated. The values obtained from each option are compared and that producing the highest value (reward or loss) indicates the most ideal solution. The link between risk and emotional strength is abundant with some linking neurotransmitter effects to loss and reward and others the prefrontal cortex, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex to reward.

In all three cases, the options constructed by various strategies are compared according to the criteria the individual (or others) decide must be used to do so. The ´strongest` option is the one chosen to be followed to the end-stage of the mechanism, which is the point of the formation of the ´electrical image` and following action. The biochemical mechanisms by which these decisions are made involve just like the other stages of brain memory the interaction of multiple physiological systems. Psychologists identified two functioning systems controlling processing and behaviour and these were deemed responsible for cognitive and behavioural individuality. Evans (2003) and Stanovich and West (2000) identified two systems with different functions and different locations. System 1 has belief-based processes, which are rapid, parallel and automatic in nature and involve the activation of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex. System 2 with activation of the right inferior prefrontal cortex is linked with slow and sequential thinking and using the central working memory system. This system permits abstract hypothetical thinking not achieved by the System 1`s logic-based processes. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that System 1 correlates to brain memory recall without processing, where recall of previously stored experiences ´runs forward` according to plan and previous encounters and System 2 correlates to recall in circumstances where the information has to be processed to some extent and hence recall methods, with processing and with further processing. Work by Badrey et al. (2009) show specification of frontal lobe activity dependent on the type of task required: caudal, more concrete tasks and rostral, more abstract. Daw, Niv and Dayan (2005) also studied which system controlled behaviour – prefrontal or dorsolateral striatal systems with each dominating dependent upon the task.  ´Outside the box` thinking in this case suggests that the systems refer to the cognitive system responsible for brain memory recall and processing and the other systems that also play significant roles in the mechanism such as the attentional and emotional systems. In the case of brain memory recall where there is no clear path forward and decision-making has to be made between the different options, the interrelation of the different systems is important. 

An ´outside the box` plan of the course of a decision-making task from a biochemical perspective involves a seven-stage process, incorporating a rollercoaster ride of the attentional and emotional system activity in monitoring and guiding it. The stages are:

1)      Incoming stimulus, acknowledgement of the problem and the formation of the purpose NCA.

2)      Construction of more than one option.

3)      Acknowledgement of result of each option.

4)      Assessment of activation/similarity/emotional response (risk/utility/frequency) for each option with matching to purpose NCA

5)      Decision-stage with respect to strength characteristics and emotional value of sNCA from stimulus to NCA grouping formed from purpose.

6)      Action.

7)      Acknowledgement of outcome relative to expected.

Unlike other recall situations where the recall action is the end of the process, in decision-making it is suggested that a further stage is added where outcome of the action is monitored for suitability to the task. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this involves a second incoming stimulus representing the aftermath of the action and comparison of it in the working memory state to the original purpose tNCA and the stored NCA initiating its action. The desired outcome is that no conflict is registered, since this would mean that the action achieved its objectives as defined in the purpose tNCA grouping. Such a mechanism is likely to occur in the storage of information in sequences such as procedural motor memory and implies activation of the attentional system and appropriate emotional changes to monitor for conflict. The desired outcome would be one of no conflict within the working memory state between the purpose NCA and the result of the action taken. However, this is not always the case and conflict can exist when results of an action are unexpected or disappointing. Any unexpected outcome shifts the attentional and emotional system to a heightened fear state, which involves the activation of the amygdala.

Therefore, in general, decision-making using the ´head` is logical, calculated and probably slower than the more subconscious choice of options based on firing strength and self-interest. Even though these criteria are used in this mechanism too, the comparison of options and the monitoring roles of the attentional and emotional systems makes this stage more deliberate and is therefore, justified in its connection with human intelligence. However, a third option exists and that is that even after the determination of an action by reference to previous experiences in a process that has taken time and effort on the part of the individual, the ´selected` choice can be ignored for another. This non-active decision-making process may be illogical, and sub-optimal, but in certain circumstances this method is chosen above the other two. Some of the circumstances where this non-active decision-making process can be chosen are habit, externally ordered, even luck. What can be said about such a method, is that although sometimes pleasing, the odds at choosing the most advantageous action this way are relatively low. However, it still has to be considered as a way of deciding action and can occur in preference to the more logical methods, e.g. those involving recall of previous experiences.  

Therefore to summarise, the end-stage of recall with further processing, whether the simplest path is taken or decision-making is required, is the formation of the ´electrical image` /´magic answer`, which dictates which action is to be taken. The simplest path means that there is a clear favourite, with an option that matches on the basis of strength of firing or strength of self-interest the purpose chosen. Not all situations are so clear-cut and often more than one option is available and appropriate. In these cases, a deliberate decision-making process is undertaken or a non-active method is employed with both ending with a solution for the next step. Deliberate decision-making by ´heart` or ´head` criteria requires assessment of the recalled memories in light of the purpose of the task and is dependent on the activity of the attentional and emotional systems. Non-active decision-making is less logical and probably leads to a less than perfect solution. The end-stage independent of the method used is the  targetted ´electrical image` and ´action`.

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SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL

Definition of the ´box`

People are often told to think ´outside the box`, to use creativity to explain, expand ideas, to think beyond what they see in front of them and this is what this version tries to do - it describes thoughts about the brain memory mechanism that go beyond established views. The word ´box` can be interpreted in this case as representing the medical and scientific establishment who by the nature of how they work, control what is known about the brain and its mechanisms, and secondly, representing the brain itself, ´a biological box of tricks` necessary for cognition and other physiological processes, which obviously extends beyond its physical presence.  

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The three ´bodies`

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the ´mind` is one of the three bodies that define a person - the other two being the ´physiological body´ and the ´electrical body´ (see Table). All three promote individuality. For example, the physiological body is the one we see in ´real-time` and includes the components of physical appearance and biological system functioning. Physical appearance can be influenced by a number of factors such as genetics (e.g. skin colour) as well as events in life (e.g. scarring) and personal preference (e.g. hairstyle). Even though humans have the same basic features in the same places with the same basic functions, physical appearance is highly individual and sufficiently different that a person can be socially identified by it. Associated with this unique ´physiological body` is the corresponding individualised ´electrical body`, a ´body` subject to much speculation by conventional science, but strongly advocated in complementary and alternative therapies.

Although all three bodies are of interest to brain researchers, it is the third one, ´the mind` that probably excites the most. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the ´mind` consists of three components: cognitive processing, brain memory and emotions and it is clear that all three play vital roles in the definition of the individual. For example, brain memory is required for cognitive processing, is reflected in the expression of emotions including the all-important ´fight or flight` response and is keeper of the ´individuality` through records of past experiences, as well as personal likes and dislikes.

Table - The Three  ´Bodies` Found in Humans

 

 FEATURES

PHYSIOLOGICAL BODY

ELECTRICAL BODY

´MIND`

Researched by?

Physiologists, biochemists, physicists etc.

CAM researchers etc.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, behaviourists etc.

Exists in which time frames?

´Real-time`(now), but reflects influences of past.

´Real-time`.

´Real-time`, but accesses past and projects into real and unreal future.

Physiology?

Consists of millions of different interrelated cells -  systems working together for survival and growth of body. Includes physical appearance and biological system functioning.

Electrical field surrounding and existing within body.

Brain – circulatory system, nervous system, neurons, glial cells etc. Multiple interrelating systems.

Differing levels of ´activity`?

Yes, e.g. ´fight or flight`, sleep, normal exercising state, relaxation state.

Different levels observed, e.g. with oxygenation, illness.

Different levels observed, e.g. subconscious, unconscious, sleep, meditation.

Influenced by the other bodies?

Yes. Influenced by electrical body, e.g. CAM. Influenced by mind, e.g. biofeedback.

Yes. Influenced by physiological body and mind leading to differing electrical body states observed by, for example, aura colour changes.

Yes. Influenced by physiological and electrical body, e.g. depression. 

Influenced by external factors?

Yes, e.g. environment.

Yes, e.g. environment.

Yes, e.g. environment, other people, situations.

Measurable?

Yes, e.g. physiological experiments, X rays. 

Yes, e.g. colour of aura.

Yes, e.g. behavioural effects.

Changes with age?

Yes, e.g. ´wear and tear` of physical components such as ligaments.

Does not age per se, but since reflects physiological body then changes observed seen.

Not necessarily. Changes seen reflect development, changes in circumstance, brain memory level for example.

 

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Evolutionary development of brain memory

 The lack of innate brain memories highlights the difference between this type of memory and what can be termed ´physiological memory´, e.g. antibody production and cause and effect biochemical reactions, which can be considered as learnt responses to biological stimuli. The separation into brain memory and ´physiological memory` can be considered as reflecting human evolutionary development. We developed brain memory because the demands placed on us by our physical and societal environment could not be satisfactorily dealt with by just innate biological responses led by the ´physiological memories` stored in the genetic code. If we look at other species, we can see that the simplest living beings show ´physiological memory` with single or cascade responses in a manner similar to human biological responses like antibody production. Stimuli to these lower forms can be external (e.g. changes in water conditions or carbon dioxide concentration) or internal (e.g. changes in secretory activity or excess of certain nutrients) and the responses are innate, chemically based and physiologically measurable. As living organisms become more complex and their environments more demanding and changeable, then the ability to survive depends on the development and successful implementation of not just the physiological responses, but a range of cognitive skills and learnt behaviour. Oakley (1985) defined three levels of awareness by which all living organisms can be characterised: Level 1 (simple awareness with responses led by instinct or conditioning for example); Level 2 (demonstrates learning, memory and complex behaviour); and the highest level, Level 3 (organisms demonstrate ´self-image`). Therefore, from a brain memory perspective, the higher the level, the more complex the memory system is.

   Human evolutionary development follows the paths described by evolutionists, such as Darwin´s theory of natural selection (1859). He proposed that evolutionary change, dependent on natural selection, competition and inheritability occurred relatively slowly over periods of hundreds/thousands of years. Later, Gould (1981) suggested that a species might have fairly brief periods of rapid development in between long periods of relative stability and Grier and Burk (1992) suggested four reasons why such periods occur – changes in behaviour may lead to more efficient use of available resources, be linked to competition and social issues or reflect changes in co-habiting species. Humans had to develop in order to survive. Early developing man lived in small societies, was meat eating, pair bonding and capable of fashioning tools (Greenfield, 2000). He already had inbuilt mechanisms to cope with internal changes (e.g. too much fat in the diet or loss of blood) and had mechanisms to counteract assault from his external environment (e.g. the immune system) and these mechanisms were similar to those found in lower species (e.g. feedback control and gene transcription modification). But as we know from studies on the history of societies, man`s social environment changed to living in larger groups, with all the economics, demands and constraints of living within such a group (e.g. growth of crops not only for personal use but for trade). As human society developed, a simple (if it ever was simple) physiological response to stimulus, or repeating past experience was insufficient to cope with the demands of the new human society and the development of a range of cognitive processes, including a sophisticated brain memory system, was required in order to cope. The outcome of the development was a group of systems, the ´mind`, capable of supporting growth and survival of the individual and able to respond to internal and external influences.

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Diagram of the ´hippocampal loop`

Brain waves

 

BRAIN WAVE

STATES

DETAILS

Beta rhythm (13-25 Hz)

Activated cortex

Thinking, analysis, talking, learning. Wants to learn and understand complicated factual information. Problem solving. Concerned with daily tasks. Not ready for sudden inspiration.

Alpha rhythm (8-12 Hz)

Quiet, waking states

Relaxed, meditative, fantasising, day-dreaming, foreign language learning. Improve existing knowledge. More likely to be receptive. Believed to be important in storing long-term memory.

 

 

Activity of left hemisphere decreased and right hemisphere has a greater influence. Can be modulated by strobe, tribal drums, swoosh of surf etc.

Theta rhythm(4-7 Hz)

During some sleep states

Phase between day and dream states, inspiration, spatial recognition and sense of direction. Intensive day-dreaming. Brain works on information of day. Sometimes inspiration comes.

 

 

Activity of left hemisphere decreased and right hemisphere has greater influence.

Delta  rhythm (½ - 3 Hz)

Deep sleep

Dreamless sleep

Others

 

 

Llinas 40Hz bursts

 

Re-set when sensory event occurs, dialogue with cortex, suggestive of thalamus and cortex feedback

Gamma 30-80Hz

bursts

 

Sensory and motor systems of awake brain generate bursts of neural activity.

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Argumentative role of hippocampus in brain memory

 

The hippocampus appears to play an argumentative role in the brain memory process and some of its roles according to current thinking by others are: 

1)that it is responsible for new memories. Evidence for this comes from studies on damage to the hippocampus, which then resulted in detrimental effects on brain memory. Frankland and Bontempi (2005) suggested that the coordinated replay across hippocampal–cortical networks leads to gradual strengthening of cortico-cortical connections, which eventually allows new memories to become independent of the hippocampus and to be gradually integrated with pre-existing cortical memories. 

2)that new memories are formed in the hippocampus before being formed in the cortex as suggested by Winocur, Moscovitch and Sekeres (2007) (role in consolidation of memory). 

3)that the hippocampus plays a role in spatial memory. Frankland and Bontempi`s work quoted in (1) and (2) showed that according to multiple trace theory, the hippocampus plays a more permanent role in some forms of declarative memory, which includes spatial memory, as well as episodic memory. Other evidence for hippocampus use in spatial memory comes from studies where the hippocampus is dysfunctional. In some cases there is no maze learning even if pre-morbid knowledge is not impaired (Winocur, Moscovitch and Sekeres (2007). The role of the hippocampus in spatial memories was explained by McNaughton et al. (2006).  Spatial orientation and memory arises from an internal system that can track relative position and orientation based on locomotive, vestilular activation and optic flow clues and this internal system is believed to be in the hippocampus.

4)that reactivation of memories requires the hippocampus. Frankland and Bontempi (2005) showed that memory reactivation is the core mechanism in consolidation models for brain memory.  Reactivation of the hippocampal memory trace was suggested as leading to the re-firing of the same cortical cells and strengthening of the hippocampal-cortical connections. The changes were thought to occur either during a repeat of the task itself, or during sleep or a quiet period and required the expression of new genes.

However, ´outside the box` thinking regarding the role of hippocampus suggests that there are no actual memories stored in the hippocampus, a view also voiced by Winocur, Moskovitch and Sekeres (2007). This hypothesis is supported by Pinel (1997), who said that the hippocampus is involved in the consolidation of long-term memories for spatial location, but not in their storage. Instead ´outside the box` thinking proposes that the hippocampus acts as a pacemaker, a relay centre conforming timing and synchronicity of firing on cortical and other brain areas. Whereas the suprachiasmatic nucleus conforms timing on hormones and more general physiological effects, and the thalamus conforms timing and synchronicity on incoming input from the sensory organs to the cortex, ´outside the box` thinking proposes that the hippocampus conforms timing and synchronicity on information of any type, particularly where there is an emotional element to its input, storage and recall. 

The evidence for this view is basically that the hippocampus is required for memory formation, particularly spatial memory, which requires a large amount of information to be inputted simultaneously, thus requiring synchronicity of firing. Retrograde amnesia is observed in cases of hippocampal dysfunction, and decreased hippocampal neurogenesis is associated with impairment of cognition and memory processes, e.g. in stress, sleep deprivation, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and Parkinson sufferers. It is possible that the effect is brought about by changes in the T lymphocytes available since work by Ziv et al. (2006) showed that T lymphocytes and microglia are important in the maintenance of hippocampal neurogenesis and spatial learning abilities in adulthood.

 ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus in response to increased activation of the system, such as that seen in stimulation. The increased level of new cell formation is to counteract the increased amount of activity, which would be necessary if the hippocampus has the role of relay centre and pacemaker. It would not be the recipient of just specific, selected information, but would be the pacemaker for all information. Its functional capability would also change with age and this is supported by work by Meshi et al. (2006).

Bischofberger (2007) went further to say that in the hippocampus new neurons are generated continuously, but it was only the newly generated neurones that were preferentially activated during learning and recall of new memories. His study was supported by work by Toni et al. (2007) and Kee et al. (2007).

Another feature of the hippocampus linked to the brain memory process is long-term potentiation. LTP is an adaptation of the neuron at the point of the chemical synapse, which leads to the enhancement of the effectiveness of synaptic transmission of that cell through positive changes in firing strength and connections. This enhancement has a positive effect on brain memory. Rowland et al. (2005) in their work on schizophrenia suggested that hypofunction of the NMDA receptor in the hippocampus may be involved in some aspects of the pathophysiology of the disease. In rodent studies, NMDA receptor antagonism impaired learning by disrupting LTP in the hippocampus and this situation was emulated in humans by studying the effects of ketamine on spatial learning in a virtual Morris water task. Ketamine impaired learning of spatial and verbal information, but retrieval of information learned prior to drug administration was not affected and neither was attention, verbal fluency, or verbal working memory task performance. Spatial working memory was found to be slightly impaired. Schmitt et al. (2007) looked at the other participant in LTP linked to brain memory, that of the AMPA receptors. They found impaired LTP of the hippocampus with impaired spatial working memory tasks when they used gene-targeted mice lacking the AMPA receptor subunit, GluR-A (also called GluR1 encoded by the gene Gria1).

 Therefore, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the hippocampus plays a similar role to that of the thalamus and suprachiasmatic nucleus by conveying timing and synchronicity on its co-cells, its co-workers. Its properties and characteristics that have been so frequently researched are probably not the same when in situ, which may explain the predominance of opinion that the hippocampus is the home of stored memories. The abundance of evidence linking the hippocampus to brain memory cannot be discarded, but there may be other credible interpretations and this should be investigated further.

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Working memory state 

 In 1974, Baddeley and Hitch developed their working memory model, which extended the Atkinson and Shiffrin 1968 model by the inclusion of several components: the central executive, the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketch pad and the episodic buffer. Baddeley and Hitch`s central executive is synonymous with ´attention`. This limited capacity component is concerned with decision-making and other demanding cognitive processes and Baddeley (1996) identified the following functions:  

1)      switching of retrieval plans,

2)      time-sharing in dual-task studies,

3)      selective attention to certain stimuli while ignoring others,

4)      temporary activation of long-term memory.

Baddeley used random generation of digits or letters to study the functions, but problems were found with the function in Alzheimer patients, who cannot divide attention between two tasks. Shah and Miyake (1996) disagreed with the idea of only one central executive and suggested separate verbal and spatial working memory systems, which is an idea advocated here with language being more a ´tool` and spatial memory being an episodic ´how the world works` category of memory. Baddeley (1996) suggested that the central executive is located in the frontal lobes since patients with frontal cortex damage behave as if they lack a control system allowing them to direct and redirect processing resources. Therefore, patients could do routine tasks, but not master anything new. D`Esposito et al. (1995) pinpointed the area involved to be the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which supports the evidence for the role of attention in brain memory. However, since there is also evidence available suggesting that the frontal cortex is not essential for these particular central executive functions, the situation is still unclear. 

The second component suggested by Baddeley and Hitch`s working memory model (1974) is the articulatory loop (verbal retrieval system). This resembles the ´inner voice` and visually presented information must be processed into acoustic code to gain access into the memory system – an idea not fully supported by self-report since not every visual object has to be linked to a sound (or language) to be remembered. The articulatory loop is now known as the phonological loop and is described as consisting of a passive phonological store directly concerned with speech perception and an articulatory process linked to speech production that gives access to the phonological store. According to Baddeley (1986), auditory presentation of words produces direct access to the phonological store regardless of whether an articulatory control process is used or not. In contrast, visual presentation of words only permits indirect access to the phonological store through sub-vocal speech. The order of the words is preserved. There was much support for Baddeley`s findings, and it was suggested that the phonological loop is not needed to remember familiar words, but to learn new words (Baddeley, Gathercole and Papagno, 1998) with it being of more relevance than sub-vocal rehearsal. Sub-vocal rehearsal is only used by children to maintain the contents of phonological store from about age of seven. However, children as young as three demonstrate a close link between phonological memory performance and vocabulary learning, suggesting that sub-vocal rehearsal is not needed for word learning.

   The third component suggested in the working memory model is the visuo-spatial sketch pad, which is responsible, as its name suggests, for the processing of visual information, but can also store spatial information. Logie (1995) divided this limited capacity area into two components – a ´visual cache`, which stores information about the visual form and colour and an ´inner scribe`, which deals with spatial and movement information, rehearses information in the visual cache, transfers the information from the visual cache to the central executive and is involved in the planning and execution of body and limb movements. Proof of these two components comes from the learning techniques, ´method of loci` requiring visual processing, and a technique using ´peg words`, which requires spatial and visual processing. The visuo-spatial sketch pad is thought to be located in the regions of the prefrontal cortex, premotor cortex, occipital cortex, and parietal cortex in the right hemisphere for spatial tasks, and regions in the left hemisphere especially the parietal cortex and inferotemporal cortex for visual tasks.  Other studies showed that the ventral prefrontal cortex (e.g. the inferior and middle frontal gyri) was generally activated more during visual working memory tasks than spatial working tasks, whereas the dorsal prefrontal cortex (e.g. especially area of the superior prefrontal sulcus) was more active in spatial working memory tasks than visual working memory tasks. 

   The final component, the episodic buffer, appeared in later working memory models. It was described as a temporary storage system that can hold and integrate information from the other working memory components described above, namely the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketchpad and the long-term memory. Its action is said to be controlled by the central executive and Baddeley (2001) proposed that the episodic buffer was unlikely to be a single location, although in general confined to the frontal lobes.

 ´Outside the box` thinking suggests a slightly different interpretation of the working memory concept. In this version, the working memory term is used just like in Baddeley and Hitch`s version to define a ´melting pot` of incoming information and activated stored information, and is important for both storage and recall stages. However, this ´outside the box` version of working memory is more like the episodic buffer, a ´desk area` or ´state` with the working memory`s components akin to tools. For example, we have the:

-central executive played by the prefrontal cortex and shown in previous sections here to be responsible for emotional and attentional system status at least.

-the phonological loop representing the language part of input memory. Inner speech may not be necessary for all processing, but for some forms it is required. Therefore, events are stored not only with an emotional tag, but language in the form of sensory information, too.

-the visuo-spatial sketch pad as the visual ´now` input information such as shape and movement. Visual input is divided into two streams – visual cache similar to the WHAT pathway and the inner scribe, dealing with spatial and movement information, the WHERE  pathway.

   With reference to biochemical firing, working memory is instigated after the input stage and before long-term storage takes place. It is the area/state representing the  ´meeting point` of incoming information (result of the psychologist`s visuo-spatial sketch pad and phonological loop and biochemically though firing of appropriate sensory pathways to the iNCA stage) and particular stored information (actively firing sNCA representing previously stored information) if appropriate. The result of the working memory state is the formation of new neuronal cell assemblies, termed transitional NCA (tNCA), which if long-term storage conditions are met will represent the event in the sNCA. Therefore, the sNCA stored under these circumstances reflect ´real-time` and past events as indicated by the tNCA and not just the ongoing external event as represented in the iNCA. 

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Neurotransmitter secondary effects

SECONDARY EFFECT

FIRST STAGE

SECOND STAGE

SHARED BY ALL

Depolarisation/hyperpolarisation,

e.g . acetylcholine receptor

Ion channel opening or closing

 

Histone acetylation to modify gene expression leading to changes in protein synthesis. Fuel metabolism changes, e.g. glycogen. Changes in ionic permeabilities, e.g. closing potassium channels. CREB phosphorylation. Neurotransmitter synthesis and release.

G protein cascade, 

adenylate cyclase to cAMP, 

e.g. 5HT receptor

Protein kinase A activation

phosphorylation

+-Gprotein PIP2 cleavage to inisotol 1,4,5 triphosphate

eg dopamine receptor

To diacylglycerol formation and protein kinase C activation.

phosphorylation

 

To calcium channel opening, and intracellular calcium high concentration.

 

To calmodulin changes.

Phosphorylation

(plus conformational change of proteins due to high calcium concentration) 

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Structural changes with long-term memory formation

CHANGE

DETAILS

New cell growth

Neurogenesis has also been shown to occur in the hippocampus in response to firing.

Higher neuron density

Konopaske et al. (2007) demonstrated smaller volumes of the whole brain and of certain brain regions in individuals with schizophrenia due to lower glial cell number with concomitant higher neuron density. The numbers of neurons and endothelial cells did not differ between groups.

Increased synapse density

Visible changes in the physiology of the cell itself have been observed in LTP. Electron microscopy shows that new synapses have been formed and the shape of pre-existing synapses has changed with bigger pre-synaptic and post-synaptic areas.

Synaptic weight changes

Govindarajan, Kelleher and Tonegawa (2006) propose that LTP requires protein synthesis. Found that local gene translation modulation, along with synaptic tagging and capture, facilitates the formation of long-term memory.

Dendritic length increases

Selemon et al. (2007) found distance from soma to peak spine density decreased and also basilar dendritic length reduced 32% in prefrontal cortex of AMPH sensitised monkeys (model for schizophrenia).

Dendritic spine enlargements

Lamprecht et al. (2006) showed that fear conditioning in rats leads to the movement of profilin, an actin polymerization–regulatory protein, into dendritic spines in the lateral amygdala and that these spines undergo enlargements in their postsynaptic densities, which could contribute to enhanced synaptic responses in this area following fear learning.

Laser-directed growth

It has also been seen that laser-guided neurons grow towards light. Ehrlicher and his team showed that nerve cells could build artificial nerve networks if shown a weak laser beam (Dixon, 2002). The team spectulated that the laser`s electromagnetic field concentrates the molecular building blocks of the scaffold protein actin at the leading edge of the cell and as these join up to form a chain they create a bulge in the cell membrane which advances in the direction of the laser.

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Housekeeping changes associated with long-term memory formation

´Housekeeping` means in this context the biochemical mechanisms required for a normal cell to function, e.g. ATP supply. Depolarisation and other membrane processes need a myriad of basic background biochemical mechanisms to allow them to work efficiently and these themselves may be adapted via gene modulation as a result of the sustained activation occurring before long-term memory formation.

´Outside the box` assessment of a cell`s basic biochemical mechanisms identifies the cell`s energy supply to be the ´limiting factor` ultimately in the neuronal cells performance and therefore, the most likely candidate for the gene modulation changes associated with long-term memory. This is because, if firing is sustained, the energy requirement of the cell increases and therefore modified gene transcription or translation resulting in the cell producing more energy or more rapidly would be an advantage.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that a likely candidate for gene modification in this area is the activity of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, one of the key enzymes in the citric acid cycle. This enzyme is affected by cellular calcium ion concentration, where an increase in intracellular ion concentration increases enzyme activity. Such increases in calcium ion concentration are seen as secondary effects of some of the neurotransmitters binding to their receptors as a result of cellular depolarisation. Gene modulation may occur so that for example, more enzyme is produced in response to lower levels of intracellular calcium ions or that the enzyme is active quicker in response to the calcium ions released on the binding of the neurotransmitter to the receptor. Importance of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex in the maintenance of homeostasis is evident from the fact that although diseases associated with deficiencies of the complex have been observed, affected individuals do not survive to maturity. Since energy metabolism of highly aerobic tissues such as the brain is dependent on normal conversion of pyruvate to acetyl coA (an irreversible process in animals), aerobic tissues are most sensitive to deficiencies in components of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. It is likely that gene modulation would lead to enhancement of one component of the complex, the E3, which would result in the stimulation of the phosphatase and deactivation of the kinase.

Another possible candidate in the same vein may be gene modification of the enzyme, glycogen phosphorylase, which mobilises stored glycogen into glucose. The brain lacks fuel stores and requires large concentrations of glucose for its activities. Sixty to seventy percent of the glucose is used to power the transport mechanisms that maintain sodium-potassium gradients and to synthesise neurotransmitters and receptors. Glucose is transported by the blood and enters the cell via GLUT3, which has a low value for glucose and hence is saturated most of time resulting in a constant supply of glucose for the cell. Overall glucose consumption remains unchanged during mental activity, although local increased levels are detected when a subject performs certain tasks. Other energy sources can be used in times of glucose deficiency. If glucose is unavailable, the cell can mobilise the small amounts of glycogen stored within the cell to provide energy and one enzyme involved in this process is glycogen phosphorylase. Therefore, extensive firing may mean that the cell is temporarily short of glucose and gene modification of this enzyme may lead to quicker mobilisation of the stored glycogen, hence fulfilling the need for energy substrate. However, since brain activity automatically increases blood supply to the brain and increases oxygen supply, gene modification of the glycogen phosphorylase enzyme is less likely than gene modification of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex suggested above. Evidence of a link between noradrenaline receptors, glucose and glycogen metabolism and memory consolidation was shown in work by Gibbs, Hutchinson and Summers (2008) using chicks.  Other substitutes for glucose in the citric acid cycle have also been studied for their cognitive effects. Disruption of galactose metabolism (deficiency in galactose-1-phosphate-uridyl-transferase activity) results in galactosaemia (characterised by cataracts and retarded mental development). Removal of galactose from the diet leads to prevention of liver disease and cataracts, but the patient will still suffer from CNS malfunction and has a delay in acquisition of language skills. In starvation, ketone bodies from the liver partly replace glucose as fuel for the brain. Ketone bodies are the only soluble lipids likely to pass through the blood brain barrier. Prolonged fasting leads to a change in substrate from glucose to beta-hydroxybutyrate, which reacts to form acetoacetate then acetyl CoA in the citric acid cycle (Bachelard, 1974). Researchers have claimed that mental ability and brain memory, however, are unimpaired.

Another candidate for long-term storage changes is oxygen supply and usage in the brain. Evidence for a link between this and memory is plentiful if not always scientific or accurate, for example:

1)      Correct breathing techniques are staples of complementary and alternative medicines (e.g. shiatsu) and exercise programmes (e.g. yoga) and these are linked superficially to improved mental capabilities including brain memory.

2)      Loss of consciousness due to blood loss or poor circulation are linked to brain memory deficits.

3)      Sedentary individuals (e.g. the elderly) are associated with poorer memory skills.

4)      Weather conditions associated with magnetic field changes, high oxygen levels or high air pressure (e.g. storms) are linked to cognitive deficits.

5)      Therapies used for increasing the level of oxygenated blood (e.g. aerion therapy, oxygen therapy) lead to improved cognitive and memory skills.

6)      Situations where poorly oxygenated blood reaches the brain are shown to have cognitive effects. Situations include vegetarian diet (reduces acidity, rise in carbon dioxide in lungs), high altitudes and accidental loss of blood. Dilation of blood vessels to increase the rate of flow and an increase of brain rhythms to the fast alpha ones appear to counteract these effects. 

Even if not suspect, the evidence for links between memory and oxygen supply and usage is at best circumstantial, since oxygen is a basic requirement for all brain cells. However, changes in its transport or usage for example may be the result of gene modification brought about by sustained activation and indicative of long-term memory storage. Neuronal firing and oxygen consumption can be seen with the imaging techniques fMRI and PET and these are important experimental techniques used for studies of brain areas and function. However, results obtained from this type of experiment may be flawed, since it is now known that firing cells receive oxygen not only from the blood supply, but can draw oxygen as well from surrounding cells when required. It was originally thought that firing cells were anaerobic for a while under these conditions, but now this observation puts into dispute fMRI and similar studies since they would show the flow of oxygenated blood flooding in an area much larger than that actually working (Fox, 2008). Therefore long-term memory cellular changes may include not only gene modulation of the working cell, but also the neighbouring cell.

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Neurotransmitter control points

AT FIRING SYSTEM LEVEL

AT LIGAND-RECEPTOR SYSTEM LEVEL

AT CELL ´HOUSEKEEPING` LEVEL

 

 

 

Ion channel structure/number

Neurotransmitter formation

Glucose supply

Intracellular free ion concentrations

Neurotransmitter release

Oxygen supply

Extracellular ion concentrations

Axonal transport of neurotransmitters

Degradation products level

Membrane physiology around ion channels

Storage of neurotransmitters

Supply of substrates for energy production

Ca-ATPase pump function

Neurotransmitters receptor numbers

ATP/ADP supplies

Na-K- ATPase function

Membrane physiology around receptor and secondary messenger system

Enzymes activities for energy supply

 

Intracellular bound calcium ion levels

Degradation of ligand-receptor complex

 

 

Secondary messenger function, e.g. adenylate cyclase

 

 

cAMP substrate and breakdown

 

 

Phospholipase activities

 

 

Protein kinase activities

 

 

Calmodulin activity

 

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Diagram of prefrontal cortex sliding switch mechanism

 

 

Diagram of input mechanism

 

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Differences between sensory pathways

VISUAL AUDITORY OLFACTORY
Single sense organ – complex. Single sense organ – less complex. Single sense organ – receptor based - simple.
Left and right – individually dealt with and vital for interpretation. Left and right – individually dealt with and vital for interpretation. Single.
Complicated pathway to brain visual cortex. Complicated pathway to brain auditory cortex in temporal cortex. Direct to olfactory organs, and brain cortex (area of broca), amygdala, hippocampus.
Through thalamus (lateral geniculate). Through thalamus (medial geniculate). Not through thalamus unless conscious perception (medial dorsal nucleus of thalamus).
Topographic organisation. Tonographic organisation. Precise layout.
Saccades for synchronicity (´outside the box` view). Phase locking for synchronicity (´outside the box` view). Too slow for synchronicity (require words therefore linked to words).
Waves – frequency. Waves – air pressure changes. Component based.
Single eons (´outside the box` view lines, curves etc similar to language). Colour and contrast. Single sounds, including clicks, bangs. Single smells.
Simultaneously joined together to make objects, letters etc. Movement. Simultaneously joined to make combination of sounds e.g. music orchestra. Simultaneously joined – components of one ´smell´.
Simultaneously joined to other objects, e.g. pictures.

Movement.

Identified separately unless play together same tone, e.g. orchestra vs vocals+guitar vs vocals+vocals (Abba)  
Sequence – make ´story´. Many features remain same. Only changes noticed (feedback from V1 to LGN)

Movement.

Sequence – make music. Features may be completely different. Only changes notices when same ignore e.g. metronome. (feedback from A1 to MGN) Too slow
Attention on change, subconscious on features non changing. Attention on change, no subconscious. Attention not necessary.
Memory single, simultaneous, sequence. Memory single, simultaneous unlikely (orchestra – hear overall tone), sequence Memory – after naming or identification of component or components.
Short-term sensory stores, input memory, short-term memory, working memory, long-term memory Short-term sensory stores, input memory, short-term memory, working memory, long-term memory Short-term memory, input memory, long-term memory

Working memory?

Cortical modules of V1 Cortical layering of A1 Frontal lobe rhinecephalon
Greater complexity and movement – higher in visual cortex. Position in auditory cortex can reflect frequency. Defined location, but rest unknown.
Processing and further processing Limited processing, e.g. fill in missing sound if not heard No processing.
Perception when object, e.g. recognised whether complete/reversed/different colour. Requires exact replication for recognition – single tone. Sequences more leeway – still requires certain number before recognised (e.g. name that tune). Requires exact replication for recognition but can approximate to category, e.g. flowers not coffee.
     

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Neuronal cell assembly types

INPUT NCA (iNCA) STORAGE NCA (sNCA) TRANSITIONAL NCA (tNCA)
Result of sensory input. Relates to sensory stores, short-term memory. Result of storage. Transitional state – mix of incoming  iNCA and re-activation of sNCA.
Short-term. Less than 10 minutes. Long-term. Permanent. Transient only when either both or one fired.
Result of rehearsal, sustained activation. Result of storage mechanism. Result of mix between incoming information and activation of already linked cells.
End-of-road cells. End-of-road cells. End-of-road cells.
No processing possible. Processing before storage only. Processing possible.
Continually changing. One  iNCA represents one event. Adaptable. One sNCA may represent many events. Dependent on both iNCA – one event and sNCA – many events.
Liable to decay. Must proceed to next stage. Liable to physical decay. Transient, no physical state, liable to decay.
Limited capacity, 5-9 pieces of information. No limit to number of sNCA, or content. Limited capacity.
Focus and attention role. Focus and attention role. Focus and attention role.
Link to outside environment. No link to outside environment. Stimulus could be from outside environment, but not necessary.
Occurs in ´real-time`. Formation occurs in ´real-time`, but stores reflect past time-frame. Can be related to future. Occurs in ´real-time`, but past time-frame accessed.

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Movement Determination

Features of the biochemical and physiological visual process, which allow movement to be registered are listed below:

1) Only objects in the visual field have a chance of being seen and what is seen remains in that the order from the sensory activation start to the higher cortical area end (retinotopic map). To maintain an object in the visual field or Gibson´s optic array (direct theory of perception 1979), eye, head or muscle movements are necessary (Helmholtz, 1866 and Sherrington, 1906) and these movements are interpreted by the brain to determine the object`s motion.

2) The physiological process begins in the retina with the rods and cones, with rods preferring ´dark` stimuli meaning edges (outline), shaded areas and shadow. As an object moves, its edges will alter, but other features will remain as depicted by the spinning coin described in the section on shape determination. Since there are more rods in the peripheral than in the fovea, it is assumed that the visual focus is more colour-orientated centrally, and the peripheral more ´outline` or ´edge`.

3) The structure of the bipolar cells with its on/off centres and surrounds allows the first observation of motion. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the minute, but rapid changes in light and dark due to movement of edges can be registered within the same visual cell and hence, rapid changes of a single point stimulus can be documented by the same cell. Work by DeValois and DeValois (1988) supports this hypothesis since alternating light and dark stripes of equal width produce regular sine waves.

4) The next step in the pathway seems to put motion-detecting cells low in the list of visual priorities, since only 5% of retinal ganglion cells are ´motion-sensitive´ (M-type retinal ganglion cells). ´Outside the box` thinking suggests this discrepancy could be explained by motion only being detected once shape has been observed and that this 5% cell population may only record changes attributed to movement with the rest of the ganglion cells (P-type cells and nonM,nonP cells) recording the initial shape and colour features. The retinal ganglion cells also demonstrate an on/off centre and surround firing mechanism, so that groups of photoreceptor cells dictate what signal ultimately goes higher in the pathway and not a single cell, which would explain how edges are observed. Retinal ganglion cells also send axons to other brain areas controlling head, neck movements for example, so that instructions are given to maintain the object in the visual field and preferably so that the outlines/edges are in the peripheral visual field.

5) The hypothesis that changes in image take priority once the initial shape and other core features are determined is carried on with the next step in the visual pathway attributed to movement, the magnocellular pathway in the LGN of the dorsal thalamus (on/off centre and surround type M-type cells in ventral layers 1 and 2) and the massive excitatory influence of the V1 on the LGN firing. As described in the description of shape determination, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that this input can be due to internally sourced material or that it is a result of the feedback mechanism of the V1 cells resulting in sustained firing of the LGN cells. When the image stays in the visual field, then the new forward sweep input is split into core features (information unchanged with time) and variable features (that changed with time). The latter appears to take priority through lateral inhibition (more emphasis is placed on new information, with firing from unfired neighbouring cells giving precedence) and the blocking of firing from the core features due to the cells entering the refractory period as a result of the sustained activation. Lateral inhibition may be an example of gating as described by Vogels and Abbott (2009), where incoming excitatory signals are cancelled by locally evoked inhibition. Hence, the effect appears to be that only change is observed (variable features). This continues until the core features are re-inputted. Therefore, the initial image appears to be shape and colour features (core) and movement is registered with change in shape with time (variable).

6) Intricacies of the V1 structure mean that orientation and direction are maintained for shape and motion detection in this next stage of the visual pathway. Not only does the pathway lead higher into the cortex through projections from its layers, but it also feeds back into the LGN via layer V1. The layered structure of the V1 is ideal for a multi-functional area (just think of an office block) providing separation (individual floors and offices), but with a common linkage (stairwells/lift and underground car-park). Incoming shape and movement information is maintained as discrete entities in the layered V1, where axons from the magnocellular pathway go to a specific V1 layer, the IVCalpha, and shape information contained in the parvo-interblob pathway enters the IVCbeta layer. Although separate, the layers are in close proximity so ´outside the box` thinking that movement is linked to shape determination still remains viable. Projections from both layers maintain the division, with IVCalpha projecting to layer IVB (where the pyramidal cells are of the simple and complex types – orientation selective, many direction selective, not wavelength sensitive, hence ideal for movement determination) and IVCbeta to layer III (where the incoming blob pathway information from the LGN, ie. colour information, comes in).  All three layers then project to further cortical areas.

The retinotopic organisation is maintained throughout the V1 through radial connections and the cortical module structure of the layers (including the ocular dominance columns of the IVC). Segregation of input from the different eyes appears as the ocular dominance columns in the LGN input layer IVC, but disappears later in layers IVB and III (both recipients of first level V1 input from both the magnocellular and parvo-interblob pathways). Layer III demonstrates unusual characteristics, since it has horizontal connections (joins information from more than one source) as well as radial.

Another aspect to be considered when describing the visual process for movement, particularly with reference to the brain memory mechanism was indicated by the experiments by Wertheimer (1912) and Johansson, von Hofsten and Jansson (1980) using dots to determine motion. The question is whether all points of the visual stimulus play a role in the determination of shape and movement or whether just a few reference points that are a representative proportion of the whole are observed and for the others, the visual process ´fills in the gaps mentally` or ignores. Shape studies show that the visual process begins with simple rods and cones and it is the higher levels of the cortex where the complexity of shape and patterns are shown. Therefore, the initial view is that of the overall shape and not individual features as demonstrated by the experiment by Navon (1977), whose H shape made out of ´s` letters was seen as a whole. The object may be too big for the visual field and in this case parts are targeted first as shown by the experiment of Kinchla and Wolfe (1979) who increased the overall size of the stimulus and found that subjects reacted faster to parts and not the overall shape. 

 If the whole shape is defined by reference points then what would a significant reference point for a visual event be? ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the most important ones are those that define absolute shape, such as edges and corners. Edges and corners are features that change with movement, but other features may remain unchanged. For example, if we think about a silhouette, the edges define the shape, and these would change, but the rest is just black and remains black independent of the overall position or movement of the drawing. This does not mean one particular point (or dot): it means a group that represents the relevant feature. Hubel and Wiesel`s (1962) experiments showed that dots of light were not capable of initiating V1 excitation in cats, but bars of light and slits were. However, one cannot make something out of nothing and so the question is how do bars/or slits appear in the V1 when they begin as points of light in the retina? I have already shown that the retinal cells, bipolar cells and ganglion cells group with the on/off centre and surround type firing mechanism, which implies that that cells responding to ´dots of light` (the reference points) join with other like cells. This grouping is continued until the V1 is reached. There the reference points of the lower stages are maintained through the V1 physiological structure of layering, cell types, cortical modules of blobs and interblob areas plus orientation columns and ocular dominance columns for example.

Gibson (1979) proposed that certain higher-order characteristics of the visual field remain unaltered (invariant) when observers move around their environment, e.g. the point to which we move and size constancy. Therefore, it is likely that only features representative of the object are important for visual processing. A caveat to this may be that expectation can also play a role in reference point determination. In this case, the number of reference points may be limited only to basic features or memorable features and others discounted, as ably demonstrated by the Ames room and the Carmichael experiment.

Therefore, the determination of movement is important for both ´real-time` experiences and for brain memory. Unlike shape and colour, it is first detected further in the visual pathway than the basic rod and cone mechanism of the retina. This implies that movement is an indirect feature composing of changing shape information with time and this implication is important to the way the brain memory mechanism inputs and stores it.

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Differences between visual processing for action and visual processing for memory

VISUAL PROCESSING SYSTEM FOR ACTION

VISUAL PROCESSING SYSTEM FOR MEMORY INPUT
Response without learning or even acknowledgement, e.g. lifting a cup by the handle. Sometimes desired (brain-led) and sometimes not desired/spontaneous.
All options possible: central/peripheral; moving/stationary; near/far; colour/black. Some options clearly better than others. Some options not important.
Important features: location (absolute and relative), size (absolute and relative), colour, shape and movement. Important features: shape, colour, movement, relative location to other features, relative size to other features. Not important: absolute size, absolute location in picture.
Requires learnt procedures, instinct etc. or application of pre-existing knowledge. Can be new information or information added to previously stored information.
Language verbs applicable: glimpse/ see/ stare. Language verbs applicable: glimpse (possible for recall, sequences, encounters with little detail required or emotionally charged events), but preferred ´see/stare`, longer for required learning or repetition.
Body position important. Body position may be important or unimportant. 
   

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Input requirements for sequences

Several conclusions about sequence memory can be made: 

1) most of brain memory is based on sequencing in some form. For example, action followed by action such as those found in motor sequences (e.g. riding a bike); in the case of story-telling, the relating of one event leads to the next; and the identification of objects by associating function. The brain memory capability in relation to sequences appears to have no bounds with any amount of sequences capable of being learnt and learning and recall of sequences, particularly motor ones, appear to relieve the burden of conscious processing, thus freeing the mind to perform other tasks.

2) learning and recalling sequences involve emotions as well as information. For example, forgetting a stage in a sequence or an unpredicted event can lead to the fear response; and successful completion of a sequence can bring happiness and reward. Physical sequences follow expected, established paths (predicted paths) and if deviations from the expected path occur, these are recognised immediately. There appears to be a conscious awareness of where we are within the sequence in ´real-time` and this requires sensory input to establish it. Therefore, although the informational content of the sequence can bring about emotional responses, it is the order and action of the sequence in ´real-time` that normally causes the emotional system changes. 

3) timing and the concept of time, particularly an appreciation of the future (prediction) is implied by sequencing, which requires in-built timing mechanisms to separate it from external time. Sequences always proceed forward, just like time. Even recall goes forward from a specific point: one can jump into specific ´times`, which will then again play forward. Although sequences exist in ´real-time`, the use of brain memory means that individuals can go back to the past (recall) and project into the future (prediction), so that sequences can be said to ´run forward` from past and future (´if this occurs, this will happen`). The timing of the sequence may not be ´real-time`, e.g. 10.21pm, 2.05am, but is an order within time. Events are placed within that order, progression or series.

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Requirements for storage mechanism

Some of the requirements of a brain memory storage system are given below:

1) consistency - Incoming sensory information fires nerve pathways from the sensory organ to specific areas of the brain and this pathway should be consistent as much as possible for the event on each exposure. A huge number of neurons, cells, pathways and brain areas can be involved. For example, it has been reported that just by looking at an object the visual system activates at least 23 different brain areas. What can be said is that incoming information for things previously experienced causes the same areas to light as the original, which implies that the mechanism is consistent. Each event creates in the brain a unique firing pattern and it is this that is likely to be stored, not the path in-between or the initiator.

2) variable size - Incoming information can lead to brain firing patterns that are small, large, varied and associated with or without language, but so long as the process is activated under the right conditions the event is stored. Information can be stored under normal circumstances or under ´fear` conditions and in both cases the information is the same, but the quantity and quality of the information may vary. 

3) selectivity - Of the thousands and thousands of stimuli received by the sensory organs and the resulting firing and activation of thousands and thousands of neural pathways, not all input is ultimately stored long-term: a selection process occurs. This selection process may be conscious (as in the case of learning) or subconscious (as in the case of witnessing an accident for example) and the subject even need not be conscious for it to occur. (For example, research has shown that 3 out of 10 patients remember words and expressions they experienced while unconscious during surgery.) However, the greater the sensory input, then the better the memory of the event.

4) partition - Information must be capable of being split into units small enough so that it is useful, but large enough so that the brain is not ´flooded`. How can the brain remember the millions and millions of signals we experience every single day? What is required is a system that is permanent but adaptable, capable of inserting information in one form and using it in another and capable of breaking huge volumes of information obtained simultaneously into minute quantities. Features must be small enough to allow recognition and recall, but large enough so that memory system is not swamped and incapable of sorting out relevant from irrelevant, i.e. the shape of a lion is important not the variations in coat colours. There must also be a correct version of the ´real` event, with as much detail as possible.

5) indexing (cataloguing) - Each detail or feature under the right conditions is stored and ´indexed` in some way. Therefore, the brain memory system must have an incredible indexing and cataloguing system capable of multiple cross-referencing facilities and storing vast quantities of data efficiently. It must have a storage system, which allows ´wobble`, i.e. differences in coat colours of lions, but still connected with the base reference. If we look at face recognition for example, we see that for police identification purposes, artists break the face down into a number of components (e.g. the eyes and nose) so that recognition is easier. However, humans can look at a face and know in an instant whether that person is familiar or not. The indexing system is also not static since the storage system continually changes with information added, changed or deleted and therefore, it must be capable of expansion and adaptation.

6) adaptability - The storage mechanism must also be adaptable to internal and external conditions, since some information is presented only once and for a very short time and other is constantly experienced. Also, different sensory systems are employed and similarities between experienced and familiar events have to be identified. Since the brain memory system stores experienced events then the form the event occurs in the external environment is the one stored. For example, blind people who regain their sight, are unable to recognise objects by sight, but can recognise objects by touch. In this case, the memories formed have used information gained from the tactile system and not the visual system and therefore, recall has to also use this sense.

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Classification of brain memory types - outside the box

 

EPISODIC ROOT – EPISODIC ´OWN VIEW OF SELF`

EPISODIC ROOT – EPISODIC ´OWN VIEW OF WORLD`

EPISODIC ROOT - PROCEDURAL

Examples – 6th birthday party, likes and dislikes.

Examples – physical properties of water, Kings and Queens of England.

Examples – riding a bike.

Autobiographical. More likely to remember complete event. Includes emotional status, value.

More likely as facts and figures out of context. Often subject of conscious learning, e.g. school-type learning.

Sequences. Includes motor sequences, muscular movements with sensory checks. Also includes sequences of behaviour and action such as conditioning. 

Likely more senses involved, but individuals favour visual, auditory senses more.

Could be related to all senses but visual/reading etc. information stronger in some cases.

Could be related to all senses but anything involving movement also involves muscles and skeletal system.

Time related.

Not time-related.

Order related, possibly time-related.

Relates to self-experience.

Can relate to self-experience, but can be learnt out of context, e.g. school learning.

Relates to self-experience, e.g. ´hands on`.  More difficult to learn if not experienced.

Emotional state and previous status important.

Can be detached from emotional state.

Emotional system part of learning and recall mechanism.

 

 

 

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As is storage versus variable storage

´AS IS` BRAIN MEMORIES

´VARIABLE` BRAIN MEMORIES

Likely to be first encounters, particularly in childhood or in novel learning situations.

Likely to be part of repeated events, complex events or events where only specific information is required to be learnt.

Directly represents ´real-time` event. Order and content conserved through storage. Level of detail controlled by perceptual load capacity of individual. Emotional system status stored simultaneously, hence assigning a ´value` to the event.

Does not directly relate to ´real-time` event in external environment in order or content. Small parts of event can be stored. Emotional system status can be stored to the memory, although not always necessary, but if carried out then value assigned to these memories.

Requires no access to previously stored material except to add more information such as that involved in sequence learning.

Can require access to previously stored material. Can require processing of incoming information and adaptation of past knowledge. Requires working memory state.

Can be affected by factors such as tiredness, stress and disinterest. Higher levels of stimulation beneficial.

Can be affected by tiredness, lack of knowledge, lack of technique for example. Higher levels of stimulation and processing beneficial.

Can be instigated by individual himself, consciously or subconsciously or demanded by others, e.g. school-type learning. Process remains the same.

Can be instigated by individual himself, consciously and subconsciously if previous experience strong, or demanded and led by others, e.g. question-answer type task. Process remains the same.

 

 

 

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Differences between informational and emotional memories

PROPERTIES OF INFORMATIONAL MEMORIES

PROPERTIES OF EMOTIONAL TAG MEMORIES

 

 

Begins with babies and onwards through life.

Begins with babies and onwards through life.

Involves many cortical areas, but pathways from sensory organ to cortex particularly important.

Involves basal ganglia, and prefrontal cortex plays important role.

Begins with sensory organs. 

Has central input from the thalamus.

Represents events experienced.

Represents emotional state experienced at time of informational memory.

Required for recognition, used in processing, decision-making etc.

Required for emotional state re-enactment, but plays role in cognition and behaviour, e.g. decision-making

Information recorded includes shape, features (e.g. colour), movement, relative size, with links to next step ie order  (e.g. words). Quality and quantity of information stored in one pass dependent on perceptual load capacity linked to attentional/emotional state.

Information recorded is the emotional state at time of informational input. Has extremes of ´fight or flight` or pleasure, but also more subtle in relation to pleasure giving values etc.

Brain memory mechanism - ´as is` input memory stage direct to long-term memory, but variable memory includes working memory stage.

Brain memory mechanism – input memory (OWL) direct to long-term memory.

Multiple facets to information contained within sNCA. .

One-off, sustained through event.

Sequences possible. Link one sNCA to next step, therefore leads to an appreciation of time.

No appreciation of time – emotional state recorded translated into physiological state.

Memories can be changed all the time, e.g. information added, deleted.

Can be changed, e.g. fear removed, pleasure values reassessed.

Many factors influence content of informational memories through effects on input and storage stages and later processing

Factors influencing emotional tag include physiological effects on emotional system components plus psychological effects due to changes in value, fear criteria etc.

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Differences between sNCA levels

FEATURES OF THE sNCA1

FEATURES OF THE sNCA2

Represents first level input. Snapshot (visual information probably because of saccades).

Only occurs after first level activated. Gives video-like movement to snapshot input.

Represents single point in time.

Links snapshots to next snapshot occurring in time – learnt (i.e. in conditioning) or spontaneous (i.e. witnessing an accident). Links snapshot to response. Explains conditioning.

Represents visual features of event, e.g. shape (edges, contours, indistinct forms/blobs), colour, light and dark contrast , pattern (texture), depth, orientation  and other features. Binocular disparity. `Wobble` through generic version of information. Most characteristics stay the same so need to link fewer for changes to be noticed – may explain why can afford secondary messenger effect compared to hearing.

Links visual input to next visual input occurring in time.  Therefore, elicits movement (maybe light and dark contrast important here, relative location of object to surroundings or relative location of parts of object), and function (what the object does, affordance, ascertained by watching movement). Therefore, gives idea of how world works, laws of physics.

Includes autobiographical memory.

Can represent auditory input, e.g. notes, one-syllable words, e.g. ´the`. Wobble – different instruments, tone, accents, loudness etc. (Hernendez cat and metronome expt).

Links auditory input to next auditory input occurring in time. Unlike visual input each note different therefore very fast system – no secondary messenger system - can sense time differences as short as 0.02ms. Therefore allows tunes, songs, multi-syllable names to be learnt. (Explains why music helps learning – rapid changes must be learnt – practice).  Includes language.

Emotional tag stored as part of sNCA1.

Effectively store things of value. Graded scale of values. Fear single grade.

No connection to emotional tag.

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Special requirements for sequence memory

REQUIREMENTS

NOTES/EVIDENCE

´Brain memory` system with inbuilt ´order`.

Motor sequences (e.g. riding a bike, playing musical pieces) and physiological systems (e.g. immune system, ´fight or flight`, menstruation) have and inbuilt order controlled by hormones, substrate levels etc. But brain memory seems not to have this type of sequencing since there are no definitive ´enzymes`, molecules etc. However, brain memories are laid down with an ´order`. On recall, memories can only run forwards. To go backwards, a ´cue` has to be given and then the memory is run forward again.  This implies that sequence memory is unidirectional like ´fight or flight` etc.  and could be chain-like biochemical reactions.

Is absolute time (e.g. 1.24pm) recorded?

Unlikely. Individuals not likely to remember what happened at 1.24pm. Instead, it is more likely that the ´order` of events is remembered and maybe an estimate of the time can be made. ´Timing` can be elicited by cells, e.g. ECTONOX system.

Place within the sequence

´Cues` appear to be built-in to the ´order`. There is an appreciation of where one is within the sequence and the individual can ´hop` in anywhere in it.

Flexibility

For example, notes played on different instruments, actions replayed with different circumstances. A certain level of flexibility appears to be built into the sequential memory. The individual can stop anywhere in the sequence and make conscious decisions to return to it. Sometimes circumstances means that recall has to be deliberate, sometimes difficult, e.g. tying shoelaces, memory of painful event.

Automatic processing, no conscious thought

Actions are repeated many times and do not need conscious thinking. Distraction often involved without an effect on recall, but if conscious awareness of sequence required then distraction can have major effects on all stages of the memory process.

Failsafe mechanisms

The individual instantaneously knows when a mistake in the sequence is made, provided a certain amount of learning has already taken place. The sequence can be corrected if necessary, but this is sometimes difficult and more often the sequence is corrected from the start of from particular ´cues` within it.

 

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Types of changes seen in reconsolidated sNCA

MEMORY TYPE

POSSIBLE CHANGE

EXAMPLES

EPISODIC MEMORY

 

 

 

Probably less categorisation than other types, but still occurs and changes in grouping can be instigated by forming new associations.

´Own view of self` memories, e.g. generic version of train journey to work, changes in personal appearance with age.

 

 

Generic version formation.

´Own view of world` (how things look), e.g. minor changes in others appearance, different colours of objects, slow growth of plants, spatial changes. 

 

Addition and deletion of detail and core features.

´Own view of world` (how things act), e.g. different grips for different sized glasses.

 

 

Emotional tag readjustment.

Abolition of fears.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY

 

 

Sequences

Slight changes to sequences, e.g. omission of stage, addition of new stage. Slight changes in sequence conditions. Change in emotional tag on learning sequence and successful recall.

E.g. string widths in bow tying, bedtime routine,  addition of new step in sequence, movement of different animals.

Conditioning

Changes in reward pattern, emotional tag readjustment, blasé of test, expectations not met during test and results

E.g. reinforcement, changes in reward patterns, different associations.

Language

Generic version of words and grammar formed, learning new words for same objects.

E.g. dialect, text to song, foreign language learning. 

 

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Psychologist theories applied to outside the box categorisation

Psychologist theories can be applied to the outside the box hypothesis of categorisation. The size of the basic unit is determined by the sNCA. This is supported by the structural descriptions theory and described by Bruce and Green (1990) as being based on propositions, which are the smallest units to which we can assign a meaning. Propositions describe the nature of the components of a configuration (sNCA and core features) and make explicit the structural arrangement of these parts (topographical organisation within the sNCA).

The content  for the basic grouping unit is defined by the psychologists (their concepts) according to three different approaches: defining attributes and prototype approach, equivalent to core features and generic versions given here in this ´outside the box` version of the brain memory mechanism; and exemplar approach based on specific episodic events also recorded as generic versions.

Support for the generic version forming the content of basic memory unit comes from the Gestalt Laws of closure (the missing parts of a figure are ´filled in` to complete it), law of proximity (similar visual characteristics are grouped together) and law of good continuation (those visual elements producing the fewest interruptions to smoothly curving lines are grouped together). Other proof is the psychologist`s template theory, where a miniature copy or template is stored corresponding to the event/object. The template is a record of the characteristics that make up the event/object (the biochemical sNCA representing the generic version) and recognition occurs on the basis of which template provides the best match to the stimulus input (conflicting sNCA are fired and the strongest version dominates). This theory suggests a ´normalisation` of sensory input, in this case visual, which produces an internal representation in a standard position, size and so on which is the equivalent in this ´outside the box` version of the generic version. Most characteristics remain the same – relative size, 3D image, colour changes all accounted for within the ´wobble` of the sNCA. The criticism of template theory is that there must be an enormous number of variations allegedly matching the same template, but this is not so since there is always some minute difference that can be stored within the sNCA and attributed to ´wobble` within the generic version. The psychologist`s theory could not also account for adaptability shown by people when recognising patterns or if the stimulus belongs to an ill-defined category, e.g. buildings where no single template could possibly be enough. However, there are always some characteristics that are shared, i.e. what has walls, windows and doors, and therefore sNCA firing will respond accordingly.

The brain storage mechanism advocated here and the generic version are also supported by the other set of psychologist theories explaining visual processing that of the feature theories. The key idea of feature theories is that a pattern consists of a set of features or attributes equivalent to the event characteristics, core and variable features defined here. The process of pattern recognition is assumed to begin with the individual features from the visual stimulus. This set of features is combined and compared against information stored in the long-term memory. Context and expectations are ignored in this theory and this is one criticism of the theory since the NCA hypothesis advocated here is that there are two levels of storage NCA: the first is characteristic dependent, and level 2 is timing-related. The theories are also limited because observers usually recognise 3D objects even when one or more of the main features are hidden from view. This is hard to explain if the features are crucial to recognition (Weisstein and Harris, 1974).

Therefore, the generic version is likely to form the basis of the memory unit used in grouping. On a more detailed scale, certain features make up this generic version with some having higher priority than others. It has already been shown that in the formation of visual images, characteristics such as shape, movement, colour, relative size and location are important for the representation of the event. This hypothesis matches to some extent the computational theory of visual perception and pattern recognition suggested by Marr (1982). He suggested three main kinds of representation, which correspond to the images seen in the sNCA: the first is primal sketch, a 2D image of main light-intensity changes in the visual input including information about edges, contours, and indistinct forms or blobs; 21/2 D sketch which is a description of depth and orientation of visible surfaces, making use of information provided by shading, texture, motion, binocular disparity and so on; and a 3D model, which includes a description of shapes and their relative positions. Marr believed that object recognition came from matching information from a 3D model representation against object information already stored in the long-term memory. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the sNCA probably also stores a 3D model since objects can be recognised from more than one angle. However, with some events there is a favoured angle and this probably represents the most frequented image (strongest firing and connections) within the sNCA, with views from other angles providing the ´wobble`.

To allow for comparison or grouping of features within the generic version, then another psychologist hypothesis was proposed, that of the recognition by components theory. Biederman (1987) said that objects consisted of basic shapes or components known as ´geons` (geometric ions), e.g. blocks and cylinders of which there are about 36. The identification of any given visual object is determined by whichever stored object representation provides the best fit with the component or geon-based information obtained from the visual object. The theory can be regarded essentially as an extension of earlier work by Marr and Nishihara (1978), who argued that basic units for describing objects should be cylinders. They suggested that these basic cylindrical units were organised in a hierarchical way with high-level units providing information about object shape and low-level units providing more detailed information. Criticism of this theory at the time was that one object therefore, cannot be discerned by the exact same when viewed together since there is no role of context. Compared to the sNCA hypothesis suggested here, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the smallest unit available for grouping or categorisation is the generic version of the event itself. This is stored within the sNCA with core and ´wobble` features if applicable. It is unlikely that these generic versions can be described by simple mathematical type shapes, although it may be applicable in certain circumstances, e.g. language where letters are mixes of lines and curves. Also, contrary to Marr and Nishihara (1978), this version proposes that in the cortical hierarchy representing for example visual features, low-level activation represents the core features with less discerning detail with the higher level, providing the discriminating characteristics.

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Proposed mechanism for categorisation

RULES OF CATEGORISATION BRAIN MEMORY MECHANISM
Episodic and long-term memory based. Uses information inputted through sensory system. Memory system used and categorisation requires working memory stage. Influences of sNCA on incoming information therefore post-input modification.
Basic unit consists of ground-level sensory information, e.g. for visual system shape and movement. Uses sensory pathways and formation of appropriate iNCA and sNCA. Generic version.
Appropriate associations/links formed within activated areas. Transitional NCA formed with various sNCA and incoming information in working memory state. Mixture of strongly firing cells (incoming information, sNCA cells through LTP) and weaker firing cells. Firing of sNCA and related firing of further wider based sNCA attributed to matching features. Strength of firing due to LTP and sustained activation due to input and attention determines whether links are made in the same way as generic version formation an sNCA formation itself. 
Categorisation/processing often requires attention and awareness. Role of attentional systems and emotional systems led by the prefrontal cortex. Search for relevant grouping similar to change in attentional state to one of normal, focused and fear. Required to limit input. Language (inner and oral) can focus attention.
Storage of input, sNCA of input and links between these NCA and ones already stored. Sustained activation of stronger firing cells or groups of cells lead to long-term modulation according to normal episodic memories.

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General features of recall without processing

 

FACTORS DETAILS
Individuality Highly.
Time-frame Occurs in ´real-time` whether internally or externally sourced.
Instigation method Different cues possible – external or internal sources. Instigation from internal sources is slightly more difficult, since it is more spurious, perhaps cued from the ´mind wandering`, language inspired, visual imagery, or dreams for example.
Recall speed Quick, whether spontaneous or induced. (Evidence: wobble a stick and the hand and arm will counteract it before conscious thought). Physical time important. Useful for getting out of danger, pain. 
Mechanism. Requires previous experience. Quick memory recall and memory system must have facility to ´run forward`, e.g. sequences, movement. Memories return to stored state after use.
Monitoring and leadership Regarded as instinctive. No conscious interaction.
Language role Does not need language, but language can fortify or inspire process.
Attentional and emotional systems Requires no focus, but focus maintains awareness. Can be carried out without registration/conscious thought. Attended vs unattended information, but in the end focus brings mechanism in operation.  No working memory stage. Level of expectation, so can lead to conflict if not met resulting in process being ´upped` to ´recall with processing` (section 9).
Decision-making More than 1 non-decision-making event can be carried out at any one time and can be carried out simultaneously with only 1 decision-making event. Flits between objects.

Emotional tag

Emotional tag activated. Recall is a subconscious part of the informational recall process associated with stored experiences. The physiological actions are the same independent of whether the person experiences fear from wasps, fear of a stranger or fear of heights. ´real-time` role of emotional system during recall process. Hippocampal loop /emotional system shows pleasure at successful perception and action and initiates ´panic` response when perception takes longer than deemed necessary or is unsuccessful.
NCA re-consolidation Changes to sNCA after recall and working can occur, e.g. additional information added or some information ignored. Biochemically, recall means strengthening of NCA connections through rehearsal.

Dysfunction

Deficits are individual. Dependent on system functioning and desire, motivation etc. Memory decay through lack of use, rehearsal, higher priorities elsewhere. Can affect overall proficiency.

 

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Diagram of recall without processing mechanism

 

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Psychologist Theories on Object Recognition

Psychologists have developed a series of theories to explain object recognition, beginning with how sensory information is dealt with in the brain and leading to its interpretation known as perception. Some of these theories follow:

 

1) perceptual segregation – the ability to work out which parts of presented visual information belong together and thus form separate objects. This was first studied by the Gestalt theorists in their Laws of Prägnanz, Proximity, Similarity, Continuance, Closure and Common fate (summarised as objects moving together are grouped together). The Gestalt theorists emphasised the importance of figure-ground segregation. This is where one object or part of the visual field is identified as the figure, whereas the rest of the visual field is less important and so forms the ´ground`. The figure is perceived to have distinct form and shape, whereas ground has no form. It is also perceived as being in front of the ground and the contour separating them seen as belonging to the figure (as observed with the ´switching` goblet/face diagram). Natural learning of the Gestalt laws is considered to occur with experience, since babies apply the Gestalt Law of Proximity but not others, which they probably have not learnt at that time. 

2) Gibson`s theory of direct perception (Gibson, 1950) – information that remains constant as the observer moves is most important for perception (invariant information) and this includes consideration of texture gradient, flow pattern and horizon ratios.

3) Gestalt laws on perceptual organisation Gestalt theorists tried to explain perceptual organisation on isomorphism, which means that the experience of visual organisation is mirrored by a precisely corresponding process in the brain. They assumed that the electrical field forces there help to produce the experience of a stable perceptual organisation when we look at our visual environment. This idea, however, was refuted by Lashley, Chow and Semmes (1951) who used gold foil conductors in parts of monkey brain and showed no recognition dysfunction. According to Gestalt theorists, various laws of grouping operate in a bottom-up way to produce perceptual organisation. Thus, information about objects in the visual field is not used to determine how the visual field is segmented. Contrasting evidence was reported by Vecera and Farah (1997), who reported that recognition performance was better when test letters were displayed the right way up leading to the conclusion that most of the Gestalt ideas are not strictly accurate. 

4) contour similarity – Geisler et al. (2001) proposed that there were two key principles in the consideration of contours. Adjacent segments of any contour typically have very similar orientations and that segments of any given contour that are further apart generally have somewhat different orientations.

5) uniform connectedness - Palmer and Rock (1994) proposed that any connected region having uniform visual properties, e.g. lightness, colour and texture, tends to be organised as a single perceptual unit. Recognition according to these criteria was found to be faster than grouping by similarity, but had the same speed as grouping by proximity (Han, Humphreys and Chen, 1999).

6) Marr`s representational theory (1982) – Marr described objects as a series of representations (computational theory) beginning with the primal sketch, raw and full symbolic representations to a 3D complex model. The raw primal sketch contains information about light-intensity changes in the visual scene and the full primal sketch uses this information to identify the number and outline shapes of visual objects. The raw primal sketch is based on grey-level representations of the retinal image. These representations are based on light intensities in each very small area of the image (the pixels). Fluctuation of the pixels brings about distortion of the grey-level representation. To counteract this, light intensity values of neighbouring pixels are averaged so that the ´noise` is eliminated by the smoothing process. However, this can also lead to valuable information being lost. One answer to the above problem is to assume that several representations of the image are formed varying in degree of blurring. Information from these image representations is then combined to form the raw primal sketch. Marr and Hildreth (1980) proposed that the raw primal sketch consisted of four different tokens: edge-segments, bars, terminators and blobs, each of which is based on a different pattern of light-intensity change in the blurred representations. The overall hypothesis was not generally well supported. Full primal sketch makes use of information to identify the number and outline shapes of visual objects. Marr (1976) found it valuable to use two general principles when designing a programme to achieve perceptual organisation: the principle of explicit meaning, where it was found to be useful to give a name or symbol to a set of grouped elements; and the principle of least commitment, where ambiguities are resolved only when there is convincing evidence as to the appropriate solution, e.g. place tokens.

Marr`s second representation was the 21/2 sketch. There are various stages from the primal sketch to this sketch with the first stage involving the construction of a range map, which is a local point-by-point depth information about surfaces in the scene. Information used for this are shading, motion, texture, shape, and binocular disparity. The second stage combined information from related parts of the map.

The most complex representation of an object was suggested by Marr to be the 3D model representation. Other models have a poor basis for object identification because they are viewer-dependent, whereas his 3D model produced a representation independent of viewing angle. Marr and Nishihara (1978) listed criteria desirable for a 3D representation: accessibility (representation can be constructed easily); scope (extent to which the representation is applicable to all shapes in a given category); uniqueness (different views of an object produce same standard representation); stability (incorporates the similarities among objects) and sensitivity (incorporates salient differences). Marr and Nishihara (1978) proposed that primitive units for describing objects should be cylinders having a major axis and it was easy to describe the human form in cylinder shapes and a series of generalised cones (i.e. a generalised cone can be defined as the surface created by moving a cross-section of constant shape, but variable size along an axis). Spheres, pyramids, arms and legs are all examples of generalised cones. It was assumed that the overall 3D model representation was constructed from a visual stimulus against a catalogue of 3D model representations stored in memory. To do this the major axes of the visual stimulus must be identified. Marr and Nishihara (1978) proposed that concavities (areas where the contour points into the object) are identified first, e.g. for humans the armpit. These concavities are used to divide the visual image into segments and finally the main axis of each segment is found. Some advantages of this theory associated with emphasis on concavities and axis-based representations are: identification of concavities plays an important role in object identification (in the face-goblet picture, one sees the concavities of the face then the other face and vice versa): the lengths and arrangements of axes of most visual objects can be calculated, regardless of viewing angle: and various experimental support was available. However, like most theories there were problems.

7) Biederman`s recognition-by-components theory (1987) – this was an extension to Marr and Nishihara`s representational theory with the central assumption that objects consist of basic shapes or components known as geons, such as blocks, cylinders, arcs, spheres. There are about 36 geons and these are determined for a visual object and their relationships, which is then matched with stored object representations or structural models containing information about the nature of the relevant geons, their orientations, sizes etc. A best fit is then carried out. Determination of geons is accomplished by early edge extraction using luminance, texture colour providing a line drawing description of the object. Segmentation to parts or components where concave parts of objects contour is then used, followed by a decision as to which edge information from an object possesses the important characteristic of remaining invariant across different viewing angles. Biederman reported that there are five such invariant properties of edges: curvature, parallel, cotermination (edges terminating at a common point), symmetry, and collinearity (points sharing a common line). According to this theory, the geons of the visual object are constructed from these invariant properties and need only a few points along each edge to do so. Therefore, according to Biederman`s model, object recognition is typically viewpoint invariant. However, Tarr and Bülthoff (1995) showed that response times and error rates for naming a familiar object in an unfamiliar viewpoint increased with rotation distance between the unfamiliar viewpoint and the nearest familiar viewpoint. These studies indicated that object recognition is indeed viewpoint dependent. An experiment by Gauthier and Tarr (2002) looked at whether developing expertise with given objects would produce a shift from viewpoint-dependent to viewpoint-invariant recognition, but this did not occur, thus refuting Biederman`s claim that object recognition is viewpoint invariant. 

Relating to Biederman`s recognition by component model is the ´non-accidental` principle, where regularities in the visual image reflect actual or non-accidental regularities in ´real-life` rather than depending on accidental characteristics of a given viewpoint. For example, 2D symmetry in a visual image is assumed to indicate symmetry in the 3D object. This may help object recognition but can lead to errors, e.g. a straight line in the visual image usually reflects a straight edge in real-life, but this assumption may not be accurate as for example, the case of a bicycle viewed head-on.

In sub-optimal conditions objects can still be recognised. According to the Biederman theory, invariant properties can still be determined even when only parts of edges can be seen. Providing the concavities of a contour are visible, there are mechanisms allowing the missing parts of the contour to be restored since normally redundant information is still present, e.g. a giraffe would still be recognisable if not all geons were present. However, Sanocki et al. (1998) pointed out that line drawings should contain all edges present in the original stimulus to provide evidence for Biederman`s theory.  In fact, line drawings are usually an idealised version of the original edge information where edges irrelevant to the object are often omitted. Also, edge-extraction processes are more efficient when the object is alone and not present in the context of others and Sanocki et al. (1998) found that edge information could be insufficient to allow object recognition, e.g. colour photos compared to line drawings.

8) ´binding problem` - relates to how different kinds of information are integrated to produce object recognition, e.g. presentation of several objects at the same time and deciding which geons belong to which object. Hummel and Biederman (1992) researched this problem and proposed a connectionist model of Biederman`s 1987 geon theory. This consisted of a seven layer connectionist network taking as its input a line drawing of an object and producing as its output an unit representing its identity. According to Ellis and Humphreys (1999), the binding mechanism they employed depended on synchrony in the activation of the units in the network. Those units whose activation vary together are bound together with fast links to help ensure they are activated at the same time and therefore, so are the features they represent. According to the connectionist model, object recognition depends on edge information rather than on surface information such as colour. Studies found that colour knowledge, e.g. oranges are orange, helps object recognition rather than colour perception.

9) viewpoint-dependent theories (e.g. Tarr 1995, where changes in viewpoint reduce the speed and/or accuracy of object recognition and object representations) and viewpoint-invariant theories (e.g. Biederman 1987, where object recognition is not affected by observers viewpoint). Tarr (1995) claims that object recognition is easier when the view seen by the individual corresponds to one of the stored views. He proposed that the evidence shows that object recognition is sometimes viewpoint dependent (typically used when the task requires difficult within-category discriminations) and sometimes viewpoint invariant (typically used when the task involves making easy categorical discriminations). Milner and Goodale (1995) believed WHAT and WHERE visual streams are involved. The dorsal stream leads to action and is viewpoint dependent, whereas the ventral pathway leads to object recognition and is viewpoint invariant. This view was supported by experimentation and imaging.

10) Riddoch and Humphrey`s hierarchical model (2001) for object recognition derived from agnosia – criteria used in the model for object recognition are:

  • edge grouping by collinearity  – edges are derived (collinear means having common line). 
  • feature binding into shapes – object features are combined to make shapes (from research of patients with integrative agnosia problems). Greater problems exist when there is object competition.
  • view normalisation – processing occurs to allow a viewpoint invariant representation to be derived (controversial because of evidence that viewpoint dependent.
  • structural description – individuals gain access to stored knowledge about the structural descriptions of objects.
  • semantic system– involves gaining knowledge of semantic information relevant to the object.

There are category-specific deficits, where individuals have problems in recognising certain categories of objects. Living things produce the most problems in comparison to non-living, since living things are more similar to each other. Although Damasio et al. (1996) found specific brain areas for specific object categories, brain imaging studies at that time refuted this. Apperceptive agnosia patients showed at early stages problems at edge grouping, with associative agnosia later at the structural description stage.

The psychologists not only devised models for the visual aspects of object recognition, they also determined models for the types of processing and control that is involved in perception. Some of these models are summarised below: 

 

1) top-down and bottom-up processing. This comes from information processing studies and consists of constructing models of the mind similar to business flow charts. Bottom-up processing begins with the analysis of sensory inputs, hence is based on properties of the stimulus like distribution of light and dark. Information acquired from sensory input is transformed and combined until perception is obtained with stored brain memory being involved in the process. Top-down processing is based on the idea that sensory information from the retina is insufficient to explain how we interpret visual information. Therefore, stored information is required to make sense of the visual input. It seems likely that both top-down and bottom-up processing is used in everyday life. Work by Matlin and Foley (1997) showed that perception is a reasonably accurate mirror of the real world – stimuli are rich in information, human sensory systems are effective in gathering the information and concepts shape our perceptions.

2) Gibson`s theory of direct perception (Gibson, 1950). Gibson maintained that perception is a direct process and there is enough information from the visual system for recognition to take place without higher cognitive processes. An important characteristic for perception is movement. The information that remains constant as the observer moves is the most important for perception (called invariant information) and this could be texture gradient, flow pattern, horizontal ratio and so on. Using visual information with physical positioning, psychological state and physiological state not only is recognition possible, but also what the object does (affordance). An object can have more than one affordance. As usual, there is both support and criticism of the theory.

3) constructivist theories of Helmholtz, Gregory and Allport. Helmholtz (1866) believed that perception is based on the process of inference. On the basis of sensations we receive, we draw conclusions about the nature of the object or event that the sensations are most likely to represent (top-down processing). Two assumptions are made by all constructivist theorists: perception is an active and constructive process involving more than direct registration of sensations; and perception occurs indirectly as the end-product of the interaction between the stimulus input and the internal hypothesis, expectation and knowledge of the observer. Motivation and emotion can play a part and therefore, perception is influenced by individual factors, which means that errors can sometimes be made, leading to inaccurate perceptions. Gregory (1970) in his misapplied constancy theory believed that the information supplied to the sensory organs is frequently impoverished and lacks sufficiently rich detail for perception to take place. Gregory believed perception involves a dynamic search for the best interpretation of the available data in what he termed ´hypothesis testing`. Allport (1954) defined ´perceptual set` proposing that perception is affected by emotion, motivation, past experiences and expectations.

4) synthesis theory (a mix between direct and constructivist) – Neisser`s analysis-by-synthesis model. Neisser (1976) proposed a cyclic model of perception. Recognition of objects was more likely if the objects appeared in a situational context (level of expectation). The process is active and cyclic, with the viewer constantly checking and re-checking input against expectations. Perception was described as a series of processes: preliminary sampling (bottom-up), direction (uses stored information, so top-down) and modification (compares sensory information with perception model). As with all models there is support and criticism.

5) computational theory of Marr (1982). Previously described as important in storage, Marr`s computational theory is a bottom-up process which suggests that any theory should include three levels of explanation: computational level (specifies the job the visual system must do); algorithmic level (detailed processing); and hardware level (the neuronal mechanisms). Marr believed that object recognition was a central feature of vision and perception begins with the retinal image and proceeds in a series of stages: grey level description (intensity of light), primal sketch, 2 ½ sketch (depth cues) and a 3D model.

These ideas form the basis of the biochemical mechanism for object recognition described here. 

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General features of recall with processing

 

FEATURES OF RECALL WITH PROCESSING

SAME AS RECALL WITHOUT

Highly individual.

Yes

Regarded as instinctive.

Yes

Occurs in real-time whether source internal or external.

Yes

Different cues possible – external or internal sources.

Yes

Quick whether spontaneous or induced. Conscious thought can influence process.

Yes/no

Requires previous experience, activation of stored information (whole events or certain features), but not complete match to ´real-time` event. Quick recall (memory). Memory facility must have facility to ´run forward` - indicates sequences and movement. Memories stored after.

Yes

Language not particularly required, but can fortify (focus) or inspire process.

Yes

Requires focus at some point. Incoming or internal activation no focus required, but awareness that does not match activated patterns can cause changes.

No

More than 1 non-decision-making event can be carried out at any one time and can be carried out simultaneously with only 1 decision-making event.

Yes

Level of expectation not achieved so conflict. Result is acceptance (´magic answers`) or step up to with further processing. Involvement of attentional and emotional systems.

No

Emotional tag activated simultaneously since a subconscious part of the recall process associated with stored experiences. Hippocampal loop /emotional system shows pleasure at successful perception and action and initiates ´panic` response when perception takes longer than deemed necessary or is unsuccessful. The physiological actions are the same independent of whether the person experiences fear from wasps, fear of a stranger or fear of heights.

Yes

Changes to sNCA after recall and working can occur – strengthening of connections through rehearsal.

Yes

Deficits in system possible and individual. Dependent on system functioning and desire, motivation etc. Memory decay through lack of use, rehearsal, higher priorities elsewhere. 

Yes

 

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Diagram of recall with processing mechanism

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Circumstances leading to accepted magic answer

ACCEPTANCE METHODS

DETAILS

Indivual follows opinion/path of others

Social functionalist approach - Tetlock 2002 -  where social and cultural context of decision-making taken into account. Social hierarchy, lack of confidence, personality traits important. Individual can obey others without any extra processing or consideration of facts taking place.

Omission bias

Individuals prefer inaction to action - emotional factors producing decision avoidance.

Status quo bias

Individuals repeat an initial choice over a series of decision situations in spite of changes in their preferences. Role of emotions in making decisions – anticipated blame/regret, experienced regret, fear regulation, selection difficulty, cost of action and change.

Satisficing (Simon)

Minimum acceptable level defined and first solution over it accepted. Fulfils greatest need.

Elimination by aspects

Eliminate options by considering one relevant attribute after another (Tversky, 1972) – for processing case, seek out processing that is relevant without ´best` consideration.

Boredom

Individual not interested in investigating alternatives, whether ideal or not.

Lack of confidence

Personality trait –avoidance of conflict with others or afraid of embarrassment forces selection of one option over another.

Laziness

Personality trait – unwilling to expend time and effort to seek out optimal answer.

Humour

Likely to choose option that allows individual to satisfy own or others sense of humour, make them laugh etc.

Time constraints

Not enough time to seek out optimal answer.

Snatch at first

Mixture of many factors, e.g. laziness, lack of confidence, forces first available option to be answer.

Rarity assumption (´not done that for a while`)

Human quality of accepting unusual over known.

Routine, habit, expertise

Answer chosen through habit. Little extra processing carried out as answer foregone conclusion.

Personal values

Self-interest, needs and drives dictate chosen answer.

 

 

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Characteristics of recall with further processing

The characteristics of recall with further processing mechanism are:

1) it is highly individual. Sex differences, culture, age, expectations all influence the recall process, as well as the level of experiences and physical differences. Therefore, the process can be altered, shaped and developed.

2) it occurs in ´real-time`. The process can be in response to ´real`  incoming information, but it is also possible without as from internal sources. It can be spontaneous or focused, simple or complicated. But, in all cases, the process occurs in ´real-time`, although access to the past is required and it encompasses the ability to project the individual into an imaginary future (e.g. forward planning) or an imaginary present (e.g. day-dreaming).

3) the process matches the task. The psychologist`s view to recall with further processing, which is followed here, is the information-processing approach, which consists of a small number of processes (e.g. attention), and structures (e.g. long-term brain memory). The system is used in flexible ways to handle all kinds of cognitive tasks such as reading a novel or doing maths, and develops with age and experience. Biochemically, the stages and processes used in recall depend on the situation/task with different strategies being used for different circumstances. For example, recognition of a visual object involves incoming information, recall from the sNCA, ´fitting of data` to the sNCAs and finally, recognition; simple decision-making involved in choosing coffee or tea requires incoming information, recall from the sNCA, satisfaction of the basal ganglia system for the decision-making process, choice and then action; a task like `the answer to this flooding problem is….` involves incoming information, recall from the sNCA, perception of the problem from the sNCA, solutions determined from the sNCA, satisfaction of the basal ganglia system for the decision-making process, choice and then action.

4) it requires the attentional system to play an important role. Sometimes the task requires attention (focus). Events presenting themselves as sensory stimulus could lead to spontaneous recall, otherwise recall with further processing requires mental focus. The attentional system plays multiple roles in the recall with further processing mechanism. Only one piece of processing can be carried out at a time. When circumstances dictate parallel tasking, then the process slows down when the required systems compete, e.g. saying 6 random digits at the same time as doing a verbal reasoning task leads to the task speed for the second being slower.

5) the emotional system can play an important role. The balance of the dopamine and nordrenaline-based systems play different roles in recall with further processing, e.g. ´pleasure` on successful identification, then next step instigated or role in decision-making, where the choice selected is based on the values or level of interest stored within the emotional tag for that information.

6) language may or may not be involved. Although it is impossible to think of events with no incoming sensory information without language and it is impossible to impart decisions without language for example, studies on other species suggest that its use is not obligatory.

7) higher brain areas are important as location for the process. No single distinct area can be defined as the seat of recall, since brain areas are capable of taking over others (mass action and equipotentialty and distributed control, cognitive reserve). The process probably requires the differences in left and right brain hemispheres as seen by the different functioning of left and right, lesions and the condition of split-brain syndrome. Brain waves reported as being involved in the thinking process are beta. Although the importance of different brain areas is demonstrable, it can be said that the prefrontal cortex plays a significant role probably due to the roles it plays in the attentional and emotional systems.

8) processing safeguards are available. The recall with further processing is deemed important enough that certain safeguards are in place to prevent blocking it from taking place or performing at less than its optimal level, e.g. different areas and function (mass action, distributed control), cognitive reserve, shut-down under extreme conditions such as coma, focus-shifting, changing time perception and arousal (sleep, hormones etc).

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Biochemical interpretation of the PISCO method of thinking

 

STAGE PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE BIOCHEMICAL PERSPECTIVE
PURPOSE AND INPUT Where are we, where do we want to be –defines starting point and goal. Requires assessment of facts. Involves sensory input/internal stimulus, tNCA formation from contesting iNCA and sNCA activation.
  Shows intelligence – definition of goal difficult because shows understanding of task. May be difficult to separate emotion from hard fact. Assessment of input requires relevancy to the task. Involves perception of ´real-time` position/state and  projection into future time using iNCA and sNCA. Takes place in working memory state. Normally awareness/ language involved.
  No creativity involved in definition of goal or input – facts. Creativity comes from reassessing problem. Previously determined neuronal cell activation along pathways corresponding to stimulus.
SOLUTIONS Creation and discardment of all possible options whether impractical or not. Requires ability to ´stand outside the problem`. Shows intelligence, and other esoteric factors such as determination, motivation. ´Questions stage` comparing sNCA activation levels of different options spurred by whole event, part event, grouping etc. methods of neuronal cell firing. Follows NCA tracks, searching for patterns. Similarity – faster connections and stronger (LTP) favoured. Different strategies used.
  Biasness of presentation of ´solutions` because of, e.g. habit, laziness, poor knowledge base. Strength of activation and emotional state reflects success of option ´presentation`. Therefore, storage patterns from past events whether from quality of quantity affect ´real-time` events.
CHOICE AND OPERATION Assessment of options – decision-making leading to action. Methods used – heart, head or non-active. Shows intelligence. Critical assessment of various options by biochemical means until option chosen that represents the ´magic answer` or accepted magic answer. Methods used based on heart (emotional system involvement, values and self-interest), head (frequency, utility, and risk based on firing strengths) and non-active. ´Electrical image` formed and action follows.

 

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Points of access suggestions

Points of access for ´unreal` events are purely subjective and in a way begin to explain differences in individual ability to solve problems. Experience, development and knowledge lead to people developing their own tactics and own favourite methods of finding these ´esoteric` starters to the further processing stages. However, there appears to be common patterns. 

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in the case of finding input for situations dealing with people then the point of access is to look at autobiographical memories relevant to the situation. For most, this type of situation is one of the easiest to do since from a brain memory point of view, most memories relate back to the ´self` since all memories are episodic based and values are biased towards the ´self` or loved ones. This view is supported by visual imagery and empathy, where people understand what is going on in the minds of others by mentally mimicking what the other is thinking or doing. From looking at personal memories of what happened in that particular situation, the individual can use the knowledge stored in the sNCA to bring about the successful conclusion of the task. 

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the point of access for objects is more difficult than people. In this case, cues for the stimulus may lie in the task itself. For example in the task, ´Which birds migrate in Winter?`, the points of access may be birds, migration or the natural world in the Winter season. Stored sNCA based on previous knowledge and experience relating to these topics may provide the required answers if these cues are used as the stimuli. 

An easier task in further processing is linked to predicting future events, i.e. determining what the effect of something is or what happens when something is done. The point of access here is the end point itself. The cues in this case lead to sNCA being activated, so that knowledge of previous events is recalled, and hence the question what will happen next is answered by ´Well, last time, this happened….`. 

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that probably one of the most difficult tasks to complete, although points of access are fairly easy to define, are tasks involving the individual giving his own opinion or giving reasons for something. Not only does the task require the person to access his own personal value system, but there are thousands of possible answers not directly accessible from the points of access. Take for example the task, ´Give 2 reasons why a mask is covered with glue after completion`. The point of access is fairly easy, home-made masks, but finding reasons needs a look at the problems of such masks from experience and work out how this was or could be counteracted etc. Therefore, such tasks require more processing than others.  

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Psychologist theories on reframing

Deliberate reframing is not a new concept being part of the established psychologists` productive thinking views (Gestalt theorists). Novel restructuring of a problem infers that the thinking and cognitive systems use is more complicated. Even in insight (the ´ah-ha` experience, the biochemical ´magic answer`) restructuring of a problem can occur, as demonstrated by the case of Sultan the ape and the use of sticks as tools to reach his banana goal (Köhler, 1925). Although evidence and self-imposed logic determines that insight occurs suddenly without much thought, evidence does show that it involves the gradual accumulation and use of previously stored information. Novick and Shermann (2003) demonstrated in their insight experiment with words that the right anterior superior temporal gyrus activated only when solutions involved insight and the activity was apparent a 1/3 second prior to insightful problem solving. Whether this is an example of visual processing for ´now` as the brain memory input stage or memory re-activation during deliberate reframing is not clear, but ´outside the box` thinking has to refute the idea that this is the only brain area involved in such an action.

Some psychologists` theories negate deliberate reframing, such as Anderson`s ACT theory (Anderson, 1983) applied to expertise and described in the recall of motor sequences. Declarative and procedural memory of ACT theory (Adaptive Control of Thought and ACT-R where R stands for rationality) corresponds probably to stored NCA and the working memory state. Anderson believed that skill acquisition in the form of expertise typically involved knowledge compilation, thus demonstrating a progressive shift from the use of declarative knowledge to that of procedural knowledge and an increase in automaticity. Processes involved in knowledge compilation were described as proceduralisation, which involves the creation of specific production rules (´outside the box`s` version of processing rules contained in ´own view of world` memories) and composition, which improves performance by reducing a repeated sequence of actions to a more efficient single sequence (´outside the box`s` version of sequence learning and chunking). Some neuroimaging studies support the general ACT approach with records of greater activity in brain areas involving planning (e.g. left prefrontal cortex, left temporal cortex and anterior cingulated cortex) and fewer areas active after practice. This was explained by the probable increased use of procedural memory after the learning phase. However, Anderson`s ACT approach was described as being limited. Although shown to be applicable to several kinds of skill acquisition where development of expertise involves the progressive shift from use of declarative knowledge to use of procedural knowledge, e.g. learning geometry and computer text-editing, differences in performances between ACT-R and individual`s actions were shown. Individuals are thought to use more means-end analysis (e.g. deliberate reframing, hypothesis testing) than ACT-R and abstract thinking, which cannot be explained by procedural memory alone, occurs in the majority of occasions. This is of no surprise with individuals existing in an external environment of continual change.

Deliberate reframing does, however, have its basis in psychologists` theories. Representational change theory (Ohlsson, 1992) tried to link the Gestaltist approach with information processing theory and described a ´block` to problem solving overcome by changing the representation of the problem (´outside the box`s` version of deliberate reframing). The main assumptions of the theory are:

1)      the way in which the problem is represented or structured in the problem-solver`s mind serves as a cue to retrieve related knowledge from the long-term memory (´outside the box`s` version of sNCA activation in response to cues or points of access).

2)      the retrieval process is based on spreading activation among concepts or items of knowledge in long-term memory (´outside the box`s` version of sNCA firing instigating firing of linked sNCA through shared characteristics).

3)      a block occurs when the way a problem is represented does not allow retrieval of the necessary operators or possible actions (´outside the box`s` version of failure to produce the ´electrical image` on recall due to insufficient detail for example).

4)      the block is broken when the representation of the problem is changed. This can occur in various ways such as elaboration, constraint relaxation, or re-encoding by re-interpretation of a representation (´outside the box`s` version of accidental or deliberate reframing with change of viewpoint, point of access or even widening the viewpoints so that sNCA reactivation is stronger or through associations to others better matched to the purpose).

5)      insight occurs when the block is broken and the retrieved knowledge operators are sufficient to solve the problem (´outside the box`s` version of the ´magic answer` once reframing is performed successfully).

Although there are problems with the theory, ´outside the box` thinking on brain memory recall in circumstances not corresponding to direct repetition of past events suggests that reframing the problem via changing the point of access of the problem reflects those changes described by the representational change theory.

Another problem solving theory put forward by the psychologists involved a computational approach. Newell and Simon (1972) proposed that it was possible to produce systematic simulations of human problem solving. This was achieved with the ´General Problem Solver`, a computer designed to solve a wide range of well-defined problems. They assumed that information processing is serial, that people possess limited short-term memory and that they can retrieve relevant information from long-term memory – all hypotheses biochemically supported by the NCA theory advocated here. In their computational approach, problems are represented as a ´problem space` consisting of the initial state of the problem (´outside the box`s input or iNCA), the goal state (´outside the box`s purpose NCA), all available ´mental operators` (e.g. moves) that can be applied to change it to any other state (´outside the box`s attentional system, working memory state and sNCA) and all the states between the goal and end-point. Thus, they described the process of problem solving as involving a sequence of different knowledge states between initial state and goal, with the mental operators shifting one state to the next. Selection of the ´mental operators` was said to occur mainly by heuristics or ´rules of thumb` (Newell and Simon,1972). The most important heuristic method is means-ends analysis, where the difference is noted between the current state of the problem and goal state, and a sub-goal is formed that will reduce the difference between the current and goal states with a ´mental operator` selected that will permit attainment of the goal. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this computational approach stands well with the biochemical version proposed here  - the current state reflects the input (or point of access), the goal is reflected by the purpose sNCA, the mental operators by the attentional system and the fired sNCA in the working memory. Deliberate reframing is then contemporary to the formation of sub-goals, where the sub-goals are different points of access.

The aim of each sub-goal is, according to progress monitoring theory (MacGregor, Ormerod and Chronicle, 2001) is to make as much headway as possible towards attaining the goal (termed ´maximisation heuristic`) and this is supported biochemically in this ´outside the box` version by the use of the generic version, categorisation and the timing constraint of the reframing action. Therefore, the correct choice of point of access at each sub-goal stage is important to minimise time required and the number of stages between the start and goal. This choice reflects past knowledge and experience, i.e. deliberate reframing is dependent on content of the sNCA. According to psychologists` analogical problem solving theories, it is crucial that the individual appreciates the similarities between the current problem and the past problem. Chen (2002) defined three main types of similarity between problems: 

1)      superficial similarity – irrelevant details are common to both problems (´outside the box` thinking suggests that this refers to the shared variable features contained in the sNCA).

2)      structural similarity – causal relations among some of the main components are shared by both problems (´outside the box` thinking suggests that this likely refers to the shared core features).

3)      procedural similarity – procedures for turning the solution principle into concrete operations are common to both problems (´outside the box` thinking suggests that this likely refers to the shared ´own view of the world` memories).

Whereas means-end analysis is often used for known problems, a technique called ´hill climbing` is used more for unknown. This heuristic method involves changing the present state within the problem in to one that is closer to the goal or problem solution, commonly called ´problem-solving in the dark`. This technique is used for when the problem solver has no clear understanding of the structure of the problem – akin to abstract thinking or using points of access that have no direct bearing on the problem at hand. By using such diverse firing, the individual hopes that the reframing initiated will ´inspire` a connection between the current position and the goal. Again this relies on deliberate reframing using past knowledge and experience for its success.  According to the NCA theory advocated here, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that hill climbing is akin to what has been termed ´brain storming` or biochemically, reframing using spurious cues, perhaps for example from the ´real-time` environment. Success comes from the overlap of the sNCA initiated by the spurious cue and the purpose tNCA, whether representing the end-point or a sub-goal.

The success of deliberate reframing has already been described as being the result of previous knowledge, experience and capability. The extent of the pre-existing knowledge base, not only in the topic under investigation but in all fields, cannot be underestimated, since it dictates not only the paths followed, but the choice of the points of access. Individuals certainly have favourite methods and favourite stores of information, but the more skilled ´thinkers` know how and when to change, and what to access in order to achieve their objective. Expertise in this type of recall with further processing requires ability to apply previous knowledge and processing power to solve the current problem. Therefore, it can be re-defined as ´highly skilled, competent performance in one or more task domains` (Sternberg and Ben-Zeev, 2001) and to achieve it requires skill acquisition – attainment of those practice-related capabilities that contribute to the increased likelihood of goal achievement. Development of expertise resembles problem-solving in that experts are extremely efficient at solving numerous problems in their area of expertise.

The ability to problem solve requires previous knowledge in what the psychologists term transfer of training, but in biochemists eyes, it is the ability to use the knowledge they have already stored in NCA and adapt it to the situation in hand. Psychologists define transfer of training even further with ´far` (positive transfer to dissimilar context - probably more applicable later when knowledge base is extensive) and ´near` transfer (positive transfer to similar context - possibly earlier when the sNCA are not so detailed). The influence of Barnett and Cecis` (2002) content (e.g. learned skill and performance change) and context factors (e.g. physical, temporal and social) on knowledge transfer can also be explained by the NCA hypothesis advocated here.

Success in reframing not only reflects the knowledge base of the individual directly, but clearly demonstrates a more ´esoteric` factor described as creativity. Mind-mapping and brain-storming are clear examples where creative thinking add to the deliberate reframing success. Ironically, this could be termed in this context as the ability to think ´outside the box` and can be described biochemically as the linking of objects together through small common characteristics provided through the generic version or categorisation storage mechanism. Creativity provides the ´spur` to successfully solve problems or proceed further in the recall memory process when a conflict (or Ohlsson`s block) is reached and there is a need for a completely new cue (hill-climbing). It involves building on something already begun, but not developed. Biochemically, ´outside the box` thinking describes lateral thinking, brain storming and so as examples of creativity, that come about by firing neuronal cell assembly groups not necessarily linked together. Already described is the method for solving problems where the individual cannot empathise with a subject, then a word/event is taken and sNCAs are fired to stimulate new shared features. The process also occurs in deliberate reframing too. Creativity is essentially thinking of that word/ event and looking for links from this perfectly random drawn cue (could be suggested by surroundings or others etc.) to the task at hand, whatever that might be.

Therefore, the success of the reframing technique is highly individual, and although the fundamentals of the recall process are biochemically the same for everyone, knowledge base, capability and experience are enough to influence the level to which one can problem solve.  Aside from these aspects, other factors can restrict reframing on a less widespread and consistent basis and these include personality and physical factors (e.g. tiredness). Personality factors, aside from the general characteristics of laziness or compliance, such as obstinancy, functional fixedness and ´einstellung` are also deemed as playing a role in problem-solving success according to psychologist thinking. Obstinancy is demonstrated for example in a study by Thomas (1974). He argued that people should experience difficulties in solving a problem at those points at which it is necessary to make a move that temporarily increases the distance between the current state and the goal state (the problem of the canoe, cannibal and missionary), but did find that people overcome this obstinancy and were prepared to make several sub-goal steps in order to achieve their goal. Another hindrance to deliberate reframing is functional fixedness, where problems fail to be solved because for any given object there is only limited number of known uses. This fails to take into account creativity and the development of novel solutions that may not be obvious to the inhibited problem-solver. This inhibition also comes into play with the personality factor described as ´einstellung`. This describes the  ´mental set` /habituation of the individual where objects are used in well-practised strategies that are unsuitable for the solving of the particular problem at hand, but the individual refuses to change his way of thinking.

Therefore to summarise, the act of deliberate reframing requires the personality, external conditions and mental capability to carry it out. Success is dependent on many factors and success can be measured by the ease at which the path from point of access to goal is achieved.

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Strategies for the construction of options

STRATEGIES SOLUTIONS
Use of any defined input, e.g. facts, objects. Defined features found in the NCA.
Comparison of goals/aims/objectives. Run through from beginning to end based on experience and see if end matches goal.
Information-in, information-out (FI-FO) Decide what is relevant from input and sNCA.
Consequence and Sequel (C and S) Run through from beginning to end based on experience.
Emotional values Look at situation when using information regarding how self or others would react (possibly use of empathy). Based on emotional values of pleasure, hate.
Other People`s Views (OPVs) Look at situation in light of others (possibly use of empathy). Emotional and /or factual based.
EBS (examine both sides) (EBS) Run through sNCA from all participants` angles.
Consider All Factors (CAF), Alternatives, Possibilities and Choices (APC), Agreement, Disagreement, Irrelevance (ADI) and Plus and Minus Points (PMI) Based on previous experience and projected actions. Run through all information to consequences.
Lateral thinking Investigate spontaneous links

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Construction errors

Just like in deliberate reframing, errors in the construction of options can occur which could ultimately lead to an action incorrect for the input. Errors can occur due to a number of different reasons, some of which are described below:  

1) false facts/lack of knowledge - both of these manifest in sNCA of limited extent or containing incorrect features, which lead to the construction of options that are inappropriate to the task at hand. If the psychologist`s mental model approach is believed then the formation of options (mental models) is prejudiced towards options based on true facts in preference to others. However, lack of knowledge can lead to a dominance of sNCA, which may not be an accurate representation of the situation at hand. Therefore, any route taken is unlikely to be the correct one.

2) biasness of chosen facts - not only do false facts or absence of knowledge lead to errors in options, so does the individual`s prejudice towards certain facts. From the psychologists` perspectives, there are different sources of errors in categorical reasoning. These are: belief bias (tendency to accept believable conclusions and to reject unbelievable conclusions); base-rate effect (performance is influenced by the perceived probability of syllogisms being valid); atmospheric effect (the form of the premises of a syllogism influences the expectation of the form of the conclusion); and the conversion error (a statement in one form is mistakenly converted into a statement with a different form). Biochemically, biasness may be achieved by dominance of one sNCA over another relating to quality and quantity of the information it contains. 

3) misunderstanding of problem - it is clear that if the initial understanding of the problem is incorrect, then the options and final solution will also likely be incorrect. Biochemically, this means that the target or goal has not been identified correctly and therefore the purpose sNCA, to which everything subsequently compared is an untrue representation of the problem. The psychologists explain this with the abstract –rule theories, which describe individuals as being basically logical, but they can be led into making errors if the reasoning task is misunderstood. Braine, Reiser and Rumain (1984) described in their abstract-rule theory that people make use of abstract rules when engaged in conditional and other forms of reasoning. According to the theory, people perform the following processes when confronted with a deductive reasoning task and therefore, if the initial understanding of the problem is incorrect, so will be the end-effect:

  • premises of the problem are encoded by comprehension mechanisms into a mental representation in the working memory - ´outside the box`s` version of the purpose NCA grouping.
  • abstract rule schemas are applied to these premises to derive a conclusion – core schemas encode fundamental reasoning rules - ´outside the box`s` version of the construction of options.
  • feeder schemas are additional schemas that are applied to produce intermediate conclusions for the core schema - ´outside the box`s` version of sub-goal formations in deliberate reframing.
  • incompatability rules examine the content of the working memory for incompatible inferences - ´outside the box`s` version of attentional system monitoring of conflict between the purpose NCA and the input stimulated sNCA.

Therefore, if the individual misunderstands the problem at hand, then the construction of options is likely to be correct from the instigating stimulus, but have an incorrect end-result.

4) habit - habit is probably a more esoteric reason for making errors in the construction of options in comparison to lack of information or incorrect information, but it can still have a huge effect on the end-result. The problem lies not so much with information availability, but with the individual`s unwillingness to consider the stronger features or the more unusual aspects as points of access. This can be due to habit, with the use of the same techniques dominating the process in preference to allowing the stimulus information to ´guide` the way. Habit manifests itself biochemically in strong memory traces that may be difficult to disregard in the recall process.

5) dominance of emotional values, i.e. ´heart rules the head` - errors in the construction of options can occur sometimes if personal values and beliefs guide the points of access or solutions offered. In 9.2.3, the ´magic answer` can dominate owing to the level of self-interest attached to the information. This can also apply when a range of options are given. Certain strategies even rely on the comparison of emotional values, but in others this type of criteria can restrict the number and quality of options formed.

6) time factors -constructing options can be a time consuming operation. Although limited to a certain extent by the attentional system`s ´egg-timer` timing constraint, the amount of time given to determining options can lead to errors. Insufficient time may lead to the exclusion of more appropriate solutions, whereas a surplus of time may lead to the consideration of extraneous information and even misrepresentation of the problem.

7) individual personality - personal characteristics can determine to a certain extent the way in which options are constructed. Characteristics such as lack of motivation, lack of experience, confidence and self-identity, impatience, stubbornness, laziness, compliance to others and standing within society can all affect which options are constructed. They also dictate how and what memories are stored, so in fact brain memory recall is actually prejudiced from the start.

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Self-interest

The psychologists have developed many theories to identify, quantify and qualify the needs of an individual which affect action and some of those theories are given below:

1)  instinct – McDougall (1912) described numerous instincts, e.g. laughter and rest and accounted for all behaviour by attributing it to the attempt to satisfy one or other of these instincts.

2) internally and externally aroused motives, e.g. sight of mouthwatering food leads to the need to eat.

3) cyclic and non-cyclic motives, e.g. circadian rhythms.

4) primary, basic, secondary or acquired needs, e.g. requirement to eat is a primary need since it does not require learning.

5) need-press theory – Murray (1938) described 20 basic needs which each have a intended effect (desire), feelings (emotions) and specific actions, e.g. achievement.

6) drive theories – Woodworth (1918) introduced the notion of drives, which he described as motivational forces that cause individuals to be active and to strive for certain goals. Hull in 1943 produced the drive-reduction theory where he argued that there is an important distinction between needs and drives – needs are essentially physiological in nature, drives more psychological. He assumed that behaviour is motivated by attempting to reduce one or more drives, e.g. when a child is hungry he goes to eat thus reducing the drive, and leading to him eating more frequently. A central assumption is that an individual`s behaviour in a given situation is determined by a drive or motivation and by what he or she has learnt (habits). Therefore, the tendency to respond equals drive multiplied by habit. Hull later added further assumptions about the role of incentives and other factors, but in general the approach was found to be inadequate, because of the number of exceptions, conflicting results from studies on other species and the minor role given to cognitive abilities.

7) Maslow`s hierarchy of needs  - Maslow (1970) put forward a hierarchy of needs (9.2.3) with the need for survival having the greatest priority and with descending priority the need for safety, then love and belonging to need for esteem, then finally to the need for self-actualisation (discovering and fulfilling one`s own potentials). Americans were found to perform actions that satisfy 85% of the physiological needs, 70% of safety needs, 40% of self esteem needs and only 10.5% of self-actualisation needs (Maslow 1970). Lower needs were found always to be satisfied first and then the higher ones (Aronoff 1967). The advantage of such a theory is that it is more comprehensive than the other psychological theories, but also provides an understandable basis of action from a biochemical perspective. Physiological needs must always take priority over the more ´esoteric` psychological ones.

8) cognitive theories –Locke (1968) proposed that humans are motivated by long-term goals with motivation being the key to the goal: the harder the goal, the higher the level of performance. This was supported by Latham and Yuki in their woodcutting study in 1975. Goal setting led to improved performance in about 90% of studies especially under the following conditions: goal commitment (individuals accept the goal has been set); feedback (information about progress towards goal); reward (goal attainment is rewarded); ability (individuals have sufficient ability to attain goal); and support (management or others provide encouragement). This theory supports the general PISCO method  and corresponds to the establishment of purpose sNCA formation required for successful memory recall.

Layered over the physiological and psychological drives and needs that determine the choice of path taken, is the development of a layer of individual beliefs and morals, which can also play a role. Shaffer (1993) defined morality as being ´a set of principles or ideals that help the individual to distinguish right from wrong and to act on this distinction` and he described components of human morality as being emotional, cognitive and behavioural. From a biochemical point of view, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that these morals are derived from self-interest and empathy developed from experiences. Such brain memories are a combination of information and emotional tag as normal, but the emotional tag is highly defined, thus valuable in choosing a path according to self-interest criteria only.

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Seven stage decision-making process

 

 

MEMORY/PROCESSING SYSTEM

ATTENTIONAL SYSTEM

EMOTIONAL SYSTEM

1

Incoming sensory stimulus, acknowledgement of problem, formation of goal (purpose NCA).

Attention paid to incoming stimulus.

Happiness at stimulus, tension at realisation of problem, tension as search for appropriate stimulus to match task (purpose).

2

Construction of more than one option (input 10.2.2, reframing 10.3, points of access).

Attention on incoming information or reframing. Reframing requires attention paid to changing points of access. Elicited through prefrontal cortex and normal focused or fear system.

Relief as new options formulated, but could lead to frustration (negative emotions) if task not going as it should or options difficult to find.

3

Acknowledgment of result of each option (end/reward or punishment of each option – sNCA run through). Is this divided attention? More like flicking between frames/tabs on a computer screen or books on a desk. Based on experience. Link to emotional tag. 

Attention paid to running through each option with sNCA. Can be separate to external incoming stimuli so rules for divided attention apply such as perceptual load capacity.

Borderline relaxed/fear (pleasure/stress). Running through the options can lead to emotional tag activation.

4

Assessment of activation/similarity/emotional response (risk/utility/frequency) Look at for each option required parameter. Match between option and purpose NCA. Event related as a ´whole`. Conflict measured. Prefrontal cortex monitors.

Normal focused attention/fear attention as assessment carried out for risk/utility/frequency. Probably centred on internal task and little on external stimuli with automatic processing playing a role if necessary.

Borderline relaxed/fear (pleasure/stress). Dependent on number and quality of options available and rough estimate of suitability to task. Look for one result even if not expected at beginning, e.g. look at to accept reward if utility result not good - ´compromising`. Relaxation if one result looks possible.

5

Decision stage. In ´outside the box` version then decision made in respect to strength, characteristics and emotional value of sNCA from stimulus (event rated as a whole) to NCA grouping formed from purpose. Maximum taken.

Decision stage, easiest stage. Still normal focused if possible. If not possible, shift to fear and change in point of access and amygdala and cingulated cortex activation.

Mirrors attentional system in that easy, clear-cut decision based on criteria leads to relaxation of system. Unclear or compromised decision shifts to fear state.

6

Action

Action stage leads to shift downwards of system. Can shift attention again to external event if not taken up with monitoring task.

Relaxation as action takes place.

7

Acknowledgment of outcome relative to expected. Conflict measured. Requires incoming information to be matched against expected sNCA (purpose NCA) and sNCA from stored info.

Acknowledgement of outcome – attention paid to following step whether subconscious or conscious. If expected, system relaxed, if not then shift to fear attentional system to answer question why.

Mirrors emotional system. Happy/relaxed if outcome matches expected or is pleasant alternative. If not, then shift to fear.

 

 

 

 

 

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List of non-active decision-making methods

Some of the circumstances where this non-active decision-making process can be chosen are listed below: 

1) habit – although there are better solutions, habit dictates that past experience determines the path to be followed whatever.

2) omission bias - individuals prefer inaction to action. Emotional factors produce decision avoidance. Therefore, the path of least resistance and effort is taken.

3) status quo bias - individuals repeat an initial choice over a series of decision situations in spite of changes in their preferences. Role of emotions in making decisions with anticipated blame/regret, experienced regret, fear regulation, selection difficulty, cost of action and change.

4) external orders – the opinion/path from others is followed even if against personal logical/mathematical-type decisions, e.g. social functionalist approach of Tetlock (2002), where the social and cultural context of decision-making is taken into account. Social hierarchy and lack of confidence can influence actions.

5) satisficing (Simon, 1978) – target set as minimum acceptable level, so the first solution over this level is accepted. Fulfils greatest need.

6) luck – toss of the coin, throw of the dice determines action taken.

7) obstinancy – refusal to accept another solution for whatever reason.

8) rarity assumption or ´not done that for while` - action determined by the search for the ´novel` to reduce boredom.

9) boredom – action taken that is the most ´exciting`.

10) time constraints – action chosen that fits in with time constraints.

11) lack of confidence – action chosen, where individual does not need to have confidence.

12) laziness  - easiest option taken.

13) snatch at first – first option taken whatever.

14) humour – the most pleasurable to individual or to others taken in preference to logical solution.

15) random choice- the individual can choose whether to accept ´fate` and perform no more processing or apply a further level of processing in order that a ´logical`, desired path is followed. If the former is desired, individual relies on ´random choice`. 

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