Month: December 2022

On the Infeasibility of the Plastic Brain. Also, Dreaming

The Plastic Brain

Scientifically, we know we can associate different parts of the brain with different functions of consciousness. We observe people with damaged or congenitally abnormal parts of their brain with specific behavioral differences or decreases or increases in cognitive abilities. The same goes for stimulating certain parts of the brain with electrodes.

The common conclusion from this is that the brain must be the generator of mind and consciousness. It’s still possible that this means the brain is only an integral part of wherever mind and consciousness come from, but most scientists believe the brain is the sole seat of consciousness because anything else would seem to be invisible, undetectable, and likely made-up, not to mention the reflexive antipathy for, and institutional stigma against, anything classed as “woo”—in other words, the non-physical, the mystical, the parapsychological, the spiritual, etc.

But we also know that the brain is rather plastic in a sense: other parts of the brain can eventually “stand in” for parts of the brain traditionally observed to correspond to specific cognitive functions when those parts are damaged. I think the implications of this are profound: if any part of the brain can become the new proprietor of any function of the mind, then what basis could there possibly be for specific regions to correspond to specific functions in the first place?

It would seem there is no absolute basis to associate the two, and therefore the principal reason for mind-brain reductionism, the correspondence in general between specific areas of the brain and specific cognitive functions or behaviors, is weak. A better idea may be that the spirit, mind, consciousness, or whatever simply uses and develops whatever part of the brain is convenient for whatever aspect of functionality, and there must be something about the slight neurological differences between different areas of the brain that make them better suited to different tasks, even though alternative areas of the brain can always suffice.


In mind-brain reductionism, the contents and experience of dreams are thought to be completely generated by the brain. But this makes no sense if you break it down. We know that, when we dream, the activity in our visual cortex is identical to the activity there would be if we were actually seeing the visual contents of our dream with our eyes. So if that area of the brain is dedicated to generating the visual qualia of our dream, what part of the brain is controlling the dream, or in other words generating the story and coherent scenery of what we see?

It can’t be random neuron firings, as some people theorize to be the source of dreams, because then we’d just see flashing points of light or visual “static” or something like that. And it can’t be another part of the brain, because that would imply a massive flow of controlling formation from another part of the brain to every individual neuron within the visual cortex. How could this information flow through the visual cortex, in order to find every individual destination point, without the torrent affecting the visuals generated at every point of the visual cortex along the way, especially considering that the spatial arrangement of the activity in the brain is actually known to mirror the spatial arrangement of the imagery?

How could a torrent of controlling information flow from any part of the brain to any other, landing control of every individual neuron at the destination? I don’t think biological neural networks provide any mechanism for this. It sounds totally infeasible. So the idea that dreams are solely generated in and by the brain makes no sense. Therefore, a better idea is probably that the contents of dreams are generated by a soul, spirit, mind, consciousness, or whatever that’s not part of the brain but makes use of the brain and acts in conjunction and/or synchrony with it to create our experience in the world and allow us to interact with it.