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Comment on The Spontaneous Creation of New Information

michaelerule Sat, Nov 20, 2010
Based simply on this interview, I strongly doubt that "Psychedelic Information Theory" approaches legitimate science. There is ongoing controversy in neuroscience as to whether the oscillations seen on EEG are part of the fundamental computational mechanism of the brain, or merely an epiphenomena. "bridges oscillate, but that has nothing to do with their function". Any delayed inhibitory feedback control can cause an oscillation. My personal opinion is that his wave analogy is absolute nonsense. Now, "psychedelic phenomena are related to loss of feedback control in recurrent perceptual systems" is just vague enough to possible by correct, under some interpretations. But, without clarification and refinement, this statement is still nearly meaningless.

And I should note that, having studied some of Bressloff's more recent work on hallucinations, I have my doubts as to how correct his model is. Particularly his 2005 paper incorporating oriented edges, which assumes an incredibly periodic structure of V1 and surprise — gets an incredibly periodic solution when considering it an excitable system. The model may still be correct, but there is this huge gap between the assumptions they make and what's actually going on in the brain. Simpler models, like the Ermentrout-Cowen model of hallucinations, may be correct, but they are operating in a regime where the fine scale computations cortex normally performs are washed out by pathological, nearly epileptiform activity.

There is a lot of abuse of terminology that is pretty much meaningless here. Terms like "higher dimensional perspective" "expanded consciousness" are not rigorous, and honestly make the whole investigation seem like ... well, just a myth, studded with terms drawn from science to lend legitimacy.

His whole argument hinges on oscillations being the primary computational mechanism in the brain, which I find implausible, but won't rule out at this time. I also must add that the fundamental unit of communication in the brain is the spike, and that you can only see these waves when you average spikes over both time and space. Thus, there is this whole, much finer, level of computation occurring in the brain, that this guy completely ignores. There has been some speculation that oscillations can reveal information about how different brain regions communication. The argument that oscillations facilitate this communication is weaker than the argument that they are indicative of it.

Anyway, don't believe anything in this book until you've traced it back to original literature and formed your own opinions.


edit : sorry, this comment was fairly damning. I haven't seen the book so I can't really judge, maybe it makes more sense in the text.