Thoughts on thoughts

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A blog on consciousness by Janet Kwasniak

Janet Kwasniak
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  • September 11, 2013
  • 08:26 AM

Thalamus-prefrontal cortex parallel loops

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A recent paper by Zikepoulos and Barbas (citation below) traces the detailed anatomy of connections between the prefrontal cortex and the ventral anterior thalamus. Here is the abstract: Pathways linking the thalamus and cortex mediate our daily shifts from states … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • September 5, 2013
  • 05:23 AM

Tool making and language

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

Being left-handed and dyslexic, the first area of the brain that interested me, long ago, was Broca’s area. The theory that has been around for some time in various forms – that the evolution of language is connected to the … Continue reading →... Read more »

Uomini NT, & Meyer GF. (2013) Shared Brain Laterialization Patterns in Language and Acheulean Stone Tool Production: A Functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound Study. . PLoS ONE, 8(8). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0072693

Greenfield PM. (1991) Language, tools and brain: the ontogeny and phylogeny of hierachically organized sequential behavior. Behavior , 531-595. info:/

  • August 24, 2013
  • 04:54 AM

Forget about using only half a brain

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

I do find the idea of left-brained and right-brained types to be unconvincing. When I first encountered the idea I was intrigued and tested the theory out in my family, friends and myself. What I found in my tiny sample … Continue reading →... Read more »

Nielsen JA, Zielinski BA, Ferguson MA, Lainhart JE, & Aderson JS. (2013) An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging. PLoS ONE, 8(8). info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0071275

  • August 15, 2013
  • 05:53 AM

Is consciousness needed for inhibition of action?

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

Starting with Libet’s work in 1985, a body of evidence has been built up suggesting that actions can be initiated unconsciously and unintentionally. This evidence questions the idea of complete conscious control over behavior, and the philosophical idea of free … Continue reading →... Read more »

Justin Hepler, & Dolores Albarracin. (2013) Complete unconscious control: Using (in)action primes to demonstrate completely unconscious activation of inhibitory control mechanisms. Cognition, 128(3). info:/10.1016/j.cognition.2013.04.012

  • August 6, 2013
  • 09:55 AM

More than thalamus and cortex

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

For some time I have been trying to understand the relationship between the thalamus and the cortex in consciousness. I have been ignoring the basal ganglia. That is probably a mistake, for although the basal ganglia do not seem to … Continue reading →... Read more »

Peter Redgrave. (2011) Basal Ganglia. scholarpedia, 2(6). DOI: 10.4249/scholarpedia.1825  

  • July 28, 2013
  • 03:55 AM


by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

How good are we at knowing what we are thinking? Do we just know what we are conscious of because we have a memory of it that we can inspect? An interesting paper (citation below) examines our awareness of our … Continue reading →... Read more »

J Schooler, J Smallwood, K Christoff, T Handy, E Reichle, M Sayette. (2011) Meta-awareness, perceptual decoupling and the wandering mind. Trands in Cognitive Sciences, 15(7). info:/10.1016/j.tics.2011,05,006

  • July 19, 2013
  • 02:31 AM

Inner voice

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A recent paper, Inner speech captures the perception of external speech, by M Scott and others in JASA Letters (see citation below), opens with the observation: Throughout the day most of us engage in a nearly ceaseless internal banter. This … Continue reading →... Read more »

M Scott, H Yeung, B Gick, J Werker. (2013) Inner speech captures the perception of external speech. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America Letters, 133(4). info:/

  • July 10, 2013
  • 04:42 AM

Closer look at the thalamus

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

Like an archaeologist noticing low hummocks on the ground, he can theorize but will not get very far in understanding until he digs below the surface. So it is with the brain. The activity on the surface of the cortex … Continue reading →... Read more »

C.D. Metzger, Y.D. van der Werf, M. Walter. (2013) Functional mapping of thalamic nuclei and their integration into cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical loops via unltra-high resolution imaging - from animal anatomy to in vivo imaging in humans. Frontiers of Neuroscience. info:/

  • July 1, 2013
  • 05:05 AM

Attention in mindfulness meditation

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

There is an interesting article on meditation (see citation) which puts control of attention at the beginning of mindfulness meditation training and practice. This type of meditation is used traditionally by Buddhists but now also by many medical support programs … Continue reading →... Read more »

Malinowski P. (2013) Neural mechanisms of attentional control in mindfulness meditation. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(8). info:/10.3389/fnins.2013.00008

  • March 15, 2013
  • 04:18 AM

Decisions – conscious and unconscious

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

Previous experiments have looked at unconscious decision making. A new paper (citation below) confirms those experiments and adds more information.   The authors are looking at the hypothesis that extrastriate and prefrontal neural regions are active during the encoding of decision information and continue to process that information during a subsequent distractor task. “It is [...]... Read more »

  • March 12, 2013
  • 01:43 AM

Correction to post on Rolfs paper

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A month ago, I posted (here) on a paper reported in ScienceDaily. (citation below) I had not read the paper but commented on a quote of the author, included in the ScienceDaily item, which to me implied a dated understanding of a division between perception and cognition. The authors have kindly sent me a copy [...]... Read more »

Rolfs, M., Dambacher, M., & Cavanagh, P. (2013) Visual Adaptation of the Perception of Causality. Current Biology, 23(3), 250-254. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.017  

  • March 9, 2013
  • 04:01 AM

Human astrocytes are different

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

Comparing human brains (and to a lesser extent all primate brains) to other animals like the mouse, we have many more, much bigger and much more complex astrocytes. Astrocytes have contributed to our larger brain by an order of magnitude more than neurons have. Astrocytes make contact and ’surround’ synapses; one human astrocyte can encompasses [...]... Read more »

Han, X., Chen, M., Wang, F., Windrem, M., Wang, S., Shanz, S., Xu, Q., Oberheim, N., Bekar, L., Betstadt, S.... (2013) Forebrain Engraftment by Human Glial Progenitor Cells Enhances Synaptic Plasticity and Learning in Adult Mice. Cell Stem Cell, 12(3), 342-353. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2012.12.015  

  • March 6, 2013
  • 12:14 AM

Thalamocortical system

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

Back in 1993 this diagram was published, but the paper I am looking at was published in 1998 by Llinas and others (citation below); it contains the same diagram.
Here is the abstract:
Attempting to understand how the brain, as a whole, might be organized seems, for the first time, to be a serious [...]... Read more »

Llinas, R., Ribary, U., Contreras, D., & Pedroarena, C. (1998) The neuronal basis for consciousness. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 353(1377), 1841-1849. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1998.0336  

  • February 13, 2013
  • 03:30 AM

Looking at the thalamic reticular nucleus

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A commenter to this blog a couple of months back, Boris, got me thinking and looking at the detail of thalamus activity. Particularly the inhibitory signals seemed to be a bit of a mystery.
In the next few postings, I am going to look at a couple of papers that shed light on this aspect of [...]... Read more »

  • February 4, 2013
  • 04:00 AM

After the event

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A recent paper by C. Sergent and others has been commented on by R. Kentridge (citations below). They showed that attention to the visual space where a stimulus was, but is now gone, can bring that stimulus into consciousness. This retroperception effect can occur as late as 400 ms after stimulus presentation ends.
Here [...]... Read more »

  • December 22, 2012
  • 04:48 AM

Attention is not a simple thing

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A recent paper (citation below) by a Canadian group led by J. Kam has looked at the effects of mind wandering on motor adjustments during a task. Among other interesting results, they indicate that the top-down control of attention is complex and not a single process. Nothing is ever as simple as it first appears.
In [...]... Read more »

  • December 13, 2012
  • 12:44 AM

What is memory for anyway?

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

It is almost inconceivable that a biological function would be dedicated to the past rather than the future of an organism. The only use for knowledge of the past is to prepare for a ‘good’ future by: learning from past experience, using the past to predict the future, judging choices by past outcomes, imagining possibilities [...]... Read more »

Schacter, D., Addis, D., Hassabis, D., Martin, V., Spreng, R., & Szpunar, K. (2012) The Future of Memory: Remembering, Imagining, and the Brain. Neuron, 76(4), 677-694. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.001  

  • December 4, 2012
  • 10:24 AM

Top-down control in action

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

The prefrontal cortex can select a rule to deploy in a particular situation. How is this done? The group of neurons that deploy a rule oscillate in synchrony when that rule is to be used. This synchrony explanation is becoming quite common. Synchrony is what produces functioning groups of neurons. Buschman at al have looked [...]... Read more »

  • November 25, 2012
  • 01:32 AM

Unconscious language and math

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

This paper (citation below) starts with the assumption (call the modal view) that, “It is not surprising then that the modal view holds that the semantic processing of multiple-word expressions and performing of abstract mathematical computations require consciousness (reason: they are human skills). In more general terms, sequential rule-following manipulations of abstract symbols [...]... Read more »

Sklar, A., Levy, N., Goldstein, A., Mandel, R., Maril, A., & Hassin, R. (2012) Reading and doing arithmetic nonconsciously. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1211645109  

  • November 16, 2012
  • 12:20 AM

Word retrieval

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

When we attempt to find the word for something, related words are also accessed (as in word association, priming, freudian slips, and simple errors). But these related words are of two types, taxonomic and thematic:
Across all types of speakers and all manner of testing, semantic naming errors overwhelmingly reflect taxonomic relations; that is, the [...]... Read more »

Schwartz, M., Kimberg, D., Walker, G., Brecher, A., Faseyitan, O., Dell, G., Mirman, D., & Coslett, H. (2011) From the Cover: Neuroanatomical dissociation for taxonomic and thematic knowledge in the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(20), 8520-8524. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1014935108  

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