THYMOS
A newsletter of research on Consciousness, Mind and Life

by piero scaruffi

Researchers are welcome to submit news and articles about breakthroughs and events in the areas of cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neurobiology, artificial life, linguistics, neural networks, connectionism, cognitive psychology, mind, philosophy, psychology, consciousness. Email the editor at this Email address. Readers who would like to receive periodic news and updates on cognitive science, philosophy of mind, neurobiology, artificial intelligence, etc, are invited to register to my mailing list.

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December 2000
  • At CalTech, American scientists have showed that the senses are correlated beyond what we knew. They showed people (rapidly) two circles and asked them "how many circles did you see?" Most people said one, some people said two. Then they showed the same people the same two circles, but this time each circle was accompanied by a beep. Guess what. Nobody missed: everybody counted two circles. Now they showed them the same one circle, but there were still two beeps. Interesting: many people could sweat they saw two circles. So what we see is what we hear :-) Seriously, the integration of sensory data goes probably further than we thought. It is difficult to separate the components of a visual experience (you can't just see the yellow of a shirt, or its size, you see a yellow shirt of that size). Well, it seems that by the same token we can't really separate the components of the whole experience (eg, the vision from the sound).
  • In the UK, British scientists are studying an evolutionarily-ancient amphibian that has a skeleton but a very primitive head. The question is "when and why did heads develop". It is not a purely academic question, since the head contains most of the nervous system, the thing we call "brain". How and why did so much control get centralized in one place? And why the head and not, for example, the foot? One theory is that the eye had a lot to do with it: the more complex the eye, the bigger the head. Another theory is that vertebrates "got" the head from shell-equipped parasites that eventually became part of the body via endosymbiosis and eventually took over the functions of control. It is a little weird that we would use the same organ for eating and breathing. What's the point of placing mouth and nostrils in the head rather than in the chest? It only increases the chances that something goes wrong.

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