Measuring biological understanding

In a recent discussion with Linda (FLS) the idea of "hearing" by Pam Reynolds was broached. Since the time of the event, the integration of information has emerged as a potential empirical tool in research. It helps to delineate what is measurable information processing.

Hearing and seeing, in common language, are taken as information transfer with meaning attached. The ear and the eye, of course, do no such thing. They format signals from the environment for communication with receptors. Receptors in the biological information processing systems must integrate the afferent signal, with other stored information, for any sensation to be understood in the terms of a living thing.

It is one thing to know a signal happened and another to understand it. We are now capable to start to measure this integration.

Pam R. had auditory and visual long-term memories of experiences after awakening from an induced coma. In terms of thermodynamics, short-term memory was encoded as long-term memory with a chemical cascade that functions to store memory of important sensations. This emotional reaction is an indicator of understanding of a meaningful encounter.

I ask Linda, in the case of Pam Reynolds, does it seem likely that the long-term memory chemical process was triggered during the flat-line timeframe or whether it could have been triggered from a chemical reaction to the emotions experienced during the flat-line time frame during the recovery.

To me it seems that the long-term memory being triggered by the mind/brain is empirical. It speaks to the chemistry associated with how strong the imprinting cascade of chemicals is - in response to deeply felt experiences.

While not declaring a - true/false - rationale, this model will help us understand what is going on as information is processed by the "understanding" function of biological entities. Emotions from the unconscious may not be rational in themselves, but NDE and OBE as deeply meaningful experiences (at least by some reports) as measured by the long-term memory of those who experience them.

Does Pam view her uncle? That is a TV sci-fi interpretation of what is going on. Pam did integrate personal feelings about her uncle from memory or from contact with her uncle.

Did Pam have a deeply felt long-term memory tells us something about the emotional response to the information she processed. It tells us there was a strong chemical reaction to the event, a chemical reaction that was not consciously created.
To support these diverse responsibilities, memory is necessarily complex, and it has taken scientists more than a century to establish a basic understanding of its elaborate biochemical bases. Using isolated brain cells, brain scans, behavioral studies, pharmaceutical treatments, genetic engineering, and other tools, they have shown that memory is based on a series of biochemical events that induce changes in proteins in a network of the brain's neurons and that a lasting memory also requires structural changes in those neurons....
By definition, a short-term memory is transient, and the information it contains can be forgotten after a few hours or even just a few seconds. But if the information is freighted with sufficient weight—particularly if a person is paying close attention or if the information is associated with a stressful or emotional experience—it can be transferred into long-term memory, where it can endure for as long as a lifetime.

"If there's some event—a gunshot goes off or some wonderful event happens—the events surrounding that experience become crystalline in your memory, even if they precede that event," says Paul F. Worley, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University. "The notion is that saliency—how important that information is to you—can distinguish whether that information is ultimately retained or not."
One of my heroes in Information Science has past away. Harold Morowitz - biophysicist
He was the founding director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason, the chairman emeritus of the science board of the Santa Fe Institute, founding editor of the journal Complexity, and the author or co-author of 19 books.

He could explore vast topics. A book he published in 2002 is titled “The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex.” And he could deprecate a United States Supreme Court opinion in a patent case that denied any distinction between animate and inanimate matter as “the ultimate in reducing life to physics.”

Virtually no topic was too trivial for him to tease a more profound meaning from. He studied the effect of a gravity-free environment in space on how fast a fresh pizza gets cold.

Once, when he received a birthday card that assessed a human body’s raw materials at only 97 cents, he recalculated the cost based on synthesized ingredients from a biochemical company catalog and re-evaluated his worth at more than $6 million.

“Information is much more expensive than matter,” he wrote in 1976. “We are led cent by dollar from a lowly pile of common materials to a grand philosophical conclusion, the infinite preciousness of every person.”

He is a major contributor in seeing how "understanding" changes entropy -in the sphere of living things.
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