About the Neuroscience category


Want to talk specifically about the neuroscience behind HTM theory? Or just have some basic neuroscience questions? But please try to keep content relevant to HTM in some way. The topics in this category should inform HTM theory in some way.


I’m wondering if discussion of the experiential aspects of the HTM theory, the psychology aspect of physiological psychology, should go here or in a separate section. Also, where shall we put discussions of broader but still relevant aspects of our neurobiology. Please feel free to reorganize the following preliminary suggestions:

The Human Advantage by Suzana Herculano-Houzel shows how our cortex got so large and powerful.

  1. In rodents and most other mammals, as the number of neurons in the cortex doubles, the size of the cortex increases exponentially. In primates, brain size scales linearly with increasing neuron counts, so not so metabolically expensive
  2. The “fact” that humans have brains larger than would be expected from our body size was developed by comparison with the great apes. Herculano-Houzel found that human brains have just the number of neurons that would be predicted for a primate of our size, made possible by improvements in nutritional efficiency. With their relatively impoverished diet of mostly raw plants, the great apes can’t consume enough calories to support larger brains (our brains burn a quarter of the calories we get from our relatively rich, mostly cooked food.) She recommends Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham

On Intelligence (Jeff Hawkins, 2004) is a superb source of psychological insights and could well be recommended to anyone who is interested in psychology.

Adelbert Ames, Jr, called his Rotating Trapezoidal Window and the Ames Rooms “demonstrations,” not optical illusions. He believed that these phenomena show us how perception actually works. Ames believed that people rely on prior experience, atentional focus and expectation to make sense of what they are seeing. A good – and free – source is Perception: A Transactional Approach by Ittelson and Cantril. Download from PsychNet

Perception by Irwin rock (Scientific American Series) “Out of the ever-changing stimuli … projected onto our retinas, how do we fashion coherent images of the world, perceiving constancy in the shape, shading, size and orientation of objects? This book provides a tour of the mysteries of visual perception, covering such topics as the intrigues of both correct and illusory perception, the cues that enable us to construct a three-dimensional world, the nature of our perception of works of art and our perception of motion.” A good basic treatment of many of the facts of human cognition that HTM theory aims to explain.


I think we should be fine with just one neuroscience category. Topics in this category should some way relate to HTM theory, we don’t want a neuroscience free-for-all. For more in-depth discussion of general or specific neuroscience topics, perhaps other forum members can recommend other online forums or mailings lists? I know we have a few neuroscientists in our community who might chime in.

Also, I don’t really want to open up discussions of physiological psychology at all. I think that is getting too far away from the primary subject of this forum.


I disagree with your last statement, Mister Taylor. If I may explain:

In 1895 two scientists, Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig and William James at Harvard, somewhat independently proposed developing a new science called ‘physiological psychology’ that would use correlations between mental events (conscious experience) and physiological events (body science of all sorts, including neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, but not limited to those – for example, studies of coordinated movement and “motor skills” should include biomechanics of limbs, muscles, tendons, etc, and the physics of the specific classes of movements and their effect on “the world”). (( I’ll try to limit the caveats.))

Much very powerful work was done, until the rise of the behaviorist paradigm, beginning in about the (19)20s which made mental events verboten (‘forbidden’ in German) for scientific discussions. Modern neuroscience still carries much of the baggage of the dogma that conscious experience cannot be studied scientifically.

The decision to avoid mental events as one pole of the psycho-physiological (mind-ish – body-ish) axis was not entirely frivolous. Studies that used introspection by trained observers as the main method of observation (direct observation of mental phenomena [supposedly] = direct observation of mind). This led, after a while, to a clash of ‘evidence.’ At a lab where the senior scientist believed thoughts require mostly visual imaging, the trained observers reported the images expected by their teacher. In another lab, where the professor believed that thought did not require images, the trained observers made unequivocal observations of thoughts with no associated visual content.

This is not exactly a ‘duh!’ Remember, this was roughly a century ago, and the exponential hockey stick function was already beginning it’s stratospheric ascension. (We are all agreed that a positive exponential function begins it’s shockingly meteoric rise at different points in time, depending on the scale used on the time axis, right? (I strongly recommend that we all get up to speed on exponential functions ASAP, and ongoing. Most of us have terrible, nearly useless intuitions at this point. Mastering the math is nothing to toss away, but mastering the intuitions is the imperative challenge right now (2016)).

We’re not just talking about Moore’s Law, here (See Abundance and BOLD, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler – “Your mindset is everything. Enhance it with Peter’s free online training content”) [I’m allowing myself to use recursive imbedding. If editors want to change that, OK fine, but do the work of making the hierarchical relationships clear. Most of my current conversational partners are coders or software designers who use recursive embedding all the time (which is one reason I’m choosing to start with these folks – because it’s easier for me. And they are already more or less up to speed on HTM, the difference between AI and Real Intelligence.]

See also The Human Advantage (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/human-advantage) by Suzana Herculano-Houzel. She developed a way to quickly, accurately and cheaply ‘counting’ the number of neurons in a brain, or a part of the brain. (Best done when the former owner doesn’t need that particular brain any more. But I’m guessing that she’ll soon be able to estimate neuron counts from tissue samples obtained during medical biopsies.) To my eye, the function on page [? ] relating cortical neurons to [?] looks like an exponential hockey stick displayed at a particular time scale. The text confirms that the improvements in our diet were progressive. Looks like Gordon Moore didn’t invent exponential progress after all: He just noticed it in the domain most interested him.

“Your mindset is everything.” Enhance your intuitive grasp of exponentials by playing some Idle Games in your (Ha!) ‘spare time.’

Back to the history: Psychologists realized that introspective observation of conscious experience could not produce evidence free of the observers’ prior convictions. See the short article (“Imageless Thought”)

ALL science, in any field, has so far relied on human conscious experience, in the perceptual aspects of observation,and in the motivational aspects of ALL actions of any sort. Experimental manipulation, measurement, logical and mathematical analysis, communication of all sorts, thinking, and ultimately, understanding and beliefs about understanding any of these things (and our understanding of the nature of understanding itself). (Possibly soon we will have machine intelligences helping us in ways that will require dropping the term ‘human’ from the first sentence of this paragraph.)

In developing implementations of HTM, we either use datasets that are intrinsically dynamic, up to the several informational “fire hoses” that various teams are working with, or we simulate the visual changes that would arise from scanning passive scenes, HTM theory will have to include , and fully intends to include, conscious and unconscious scanning and changes of perspective, The ‘zooming’ function, for example, would model leaning forward to get a batter look at something, or walking closer, or inventing and using a telescopic or microscopic visual prosthesis. But our native visual zooming enhances sound and smell signals as well as offering the possibility of touching, lifting, etc. We can pick something up and move it toward our face, if we have learned how to manage that with objects of that sort. Examples are endless and, for now, I will ease up on listing them.

Science, as I am coming to understand it, proceeds by steadily improving every aspect of what we are doing. In my essay “The Terrible Truth about Truth,” I try to remind everyone that ‘truth’ is a concept, and subject to change and improvement like any other concept (See also my Principle Problems with Principles). For scientists to leave conscious experience out of their research focus (it’s impossible to leave it out of our research practice) is to remain wilfully ignorant about several of the central facets of our gems of understanding.

Ignorance is a blessed state, required for any learning; But whenever someone uses the term ‘stupid,’ I am likely to ask if they really mean ‘ignorant.’ For me, stupidity (see ‘stupor’) is intentionally throwing away an opportunity to learn, whether from cowardice or avarice or any other motivation. Even our failures of intelligence can sometimes involve emotional prejudices, prior commitments – Shakespeare’s ‘hostages to fortune.’ HTM theory will have to include our awareness, and our emotions, or fall aside to make way for a less hobbled approach.

In humans, skilled action is coordinated by the cerebral cortex. On Intelligence points out that we, unlike any other mammal studied so far, can learn to do what we need to do without a cerebellum. Moreover, our cortex is largely in charge of what we do about our emotions, and we can learn to moderate our aggression, our passions – even our willful ignoring (See Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chögyam Trungpa and his students, specifically the last chapter “Tantra.” See also The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live—And How You Can Change Them by Davidson and Begley.)

Easing off on the fire hose, for now. Thanks, Matt, for the inspiration.

If any of you are not having fun with this, you have a glorious opportunity ahead


Not sure Einstein actually said this, but thanks to On Intelligence and the cognitive flowering it inspired, I’m now pretty sure of it.

There’s very little information in our cortex when we are born, if any, and certainly no information in LSD or any other hallucinogen. The worlds we each live in are co-created by us, our families, our communities, and our physical, biological, psychological and spiritual ‘environments’

" …the world we see around us is not the real world itself, but merely a miniature virtual-reality replica of that world in an internal representation. In fact, the phenomena of dreams and hallucinations clearly demonstrate the capacity of the brain to construct complete virtual worlds even in the absence of sensory input. Perception is somewhat like a guided hallucination, based on sensory stimulation."
Steven Lehar – The World in Your Head: A Gestalt View of the Mechanism of Conscious Experience – 2002

It’s not just more or less parallel virtual worlds that we live in together; each of our virtual selves lives in our own virtual world(s). (Most of us have several of each – virtual selves and virtual worlds ( see State-Dependent Learning / / State-Dependent Memory – more). Our cerebral cortex creates our physical, biological, psychological and spiritual virtual selves in almost exactly the same way our virtual worlds are created.

As HTM clarifies, these state dependencies are neither exclusively internal (drugs, wakefulness) or ‘external’ (where we are, what we’re doing). As my earlier post implied (citing Perception: A Transactional Approach ), there is no exclusively there out there, and no exclusively me in here. Me and My World are co-created – which doesn’t actually make any sense, since if I don’t really exist as an independent entity, and neither does my world, what? Do we join together as non-existing partners to co-non-create each other?

Well, that’s a step in a good direction, at least. It beats leaving ‘me’ in charge of reifying both myself and my world.

[Word Origin and History for reify
verb: “make into a thing; make real or material; consider as a thing,” 1854, back-formation from reification, or else from re-, stem of Latin res “thing, object, matter, affair, event, circumstance, condition,” from PIE *re- “to bestow, endow” + -fy. Related: Reified; reifying.]