The Praxis

The Praxis: The Use of Cortical Evoked Responses (CER), functional MRI (fMRI), Magnetic Electroencephalography (MEG), and Magnetic Stimulation of brain (MagStim) to investigate recognition, creativity and other aspects of the Comparison Process

By Herb Wiggins, M.D. Clinical Neurosciences; Discoverer/Creator of the Comparison Process/COMP Theory/Model; 14 Mar. 2014

The word, praxis, is Greek and means how a model/theory is made/shown to work. Essentially, this means the Comparison Process ( COMP) can be detected and studied neurophysiologically by means described below. Anything which can be studied exists. Because the higher level cortical function of recognition is fundamentally based upon the COMP, then the study of recognition is the study of the COMP in one of its most basic, higher level forms. How do we recognize something, be it a word, an image, a face, a voice, a tune, a sensation? We compare it to our Long Term Memory and if it matches well, then we have recognized it. This is modeled to some extent by Byesian statistics used by computer recognition systems already available.

Now what happens in our cortex during recognition? It’s complicated, and no one really understands, nor can understand all of the details of how all those 10,000’s of cortical cell column neurons interact, esp. with their 100’s-1000’s of synapses with other neurons. Nor how they interact with the 100,000’s of other cortical cell columns. That is a problem far, far too complicated and detailed for any human mind to figure out in a finite time. So we can approach the problem another way, by cutting through the complexity and simplifying the understanding by using a high level tool, the comparison process.

Recognition at its deepest level is essentially signal detection. From out of ambient noise the brain detects a meaningful signal, and then compares it to LTM (Long Term Memory) for recognition. If it maps reasonably well, then we positively recognize it. The relationship of this to signal detection in psychology is at once obvious. From that comes recognition, or knowing. We know what the signal means. We recognize it by comparing it to our LTM of similar/same events. It matches, another COMP word.

For instance if we hear a sequence of notes which sounds very much like the opening of a popular tune by the Eagles, say “Desperado”, we at once recognize the intervals as that and can name it, and often hum/sing along with it. That is recognition of the auditory/musical kind. If we hear our name yelled out, we often turn towards the source of it, and nod or signal back. That means we recognized our name. So by the evidence, recognition is one of the major actions mediated by COMP. Any event in existence, or idea/word/image which can be studied and recognized neurophysiologically, relating to higher cortical functioning, is part of the comparison process.

The above URL is essentially consistent with the underlying neurophysiology of the Comparison Process. When we recognize something we get a P300 latency, that is a Cortical Evoked Response(CER). It’s similar to photic stimulation, i.e., a sequence of bright lights flashed during EEG recording, and related auditory evoked responses (AER) which are simple, basic detection responses. The high level P300 is associated with general recognition, which may be sensory stimuli, or even recognition of faces, ideas, words, etc. This is the basis of understanding the foundation of the COMP. As it’s cortical in origin, and so are the higher level cortical processes, therefore it fits.

To “match” that is “compare” the internal memory/model of sensations, to external stimuli is essentially what the Comparison Processors do.

And this which shows that recognition can be detected and understood, as well, including most specific tasks.

Again these responses were very small in amplitude, but could be detected by repeated stimulations and built up from background. Higher level cortical recognitions could be detected and recorded with a much higher significance than chance. These articles above show that recognition can be reliably tested in many cases. Essentially, they electrophysiologically show the recognition process going on, that is, the Comparison Process.

Now, let’s take a model previously written about. Dictionary indexing of words to where they belong in a series of words. Using the same, above method of collecting evoked potentials, can be shown, very likely, that the recognition of where the word fits in alphabetically, within a series of words, can be specifically studied. Also, the recognition of what a word means can also be studied. Also the inserting of such a word in a series of alphabetically listed words can also be seen. In each case, if the experiment is done well enough, the exact point where the reader/indexer finds/inserts the word into its proper place can be determined by cortical evoked response (CER), the P300. This will confirm that recognition as previously discussed by the COMP is being measured by the CER. Each time this is seen and confirmed in subjects, will confirm that the COMP is indeed working. And also that it is, by the Rule of Commonality, similarly used by most all persons.

The same is true for every star on the Hertzsprung Russell diagram, the IUPAC listing of 32 Million known compounds, and the massive Taxonomies of all known species of life. And all the phone books, directories, and so forth.

Most every time a word is seen and recognized, until habituation, a reliable CER P300 can be seen which shows that recognition has happened. Far, far more complicated recognitions can also be studied in this way. Images, complex tunes, word phrases, such as “The Beans were in the Can” and show that these make sense, whereas, the “Can was the Beans” makes no sense. There will no difference between the latter and noise, whereas the former will show the characteristic P300 of highly likely recognition, plus the individual will acknowledge that recognition, too. This is the COMP at work in the cortex.

The P300 can be used extensively in these cases to show that in most cases of recognition of a sensible word/word cluster, there is a P300.

Now, linguistically, we conjugate verbs by the “I love, You love, He loves, We love, you love and they love series, Amo, amas, amat, etc. What the COMP model states is that the two words will be recognized with a P300, while the individual words will not. No word is an island. No word stand alone. The recognition by the P300 will show, according to the COMP model what makes sense to the brain’s speech centers and what does not. That is what is language and communication and what is not. This will show that grammar as we know it is NOT as important an aspect of communication as has been thought, but the COMP recognition by P300 IS what is meaningful. The REAL, truly underlying basis to most all language is the Comparison process. It’s how the words compare to each other, which can be detected by the P300, which is what makes language work, what makes sense. It’s the sensory and word context which supplies the meaning, not the formal grammar. It is MEANING which is important not the grammar names of the words. The basic linguistic structures will most all be related by the comparison processes in terms of word/phrase recognitions, not single words, which is basic, school grammar. The P300 will show what is meaningful to the brain is not necessarily our formal grammar, either. It will give us a far deeper insight into how our higher cortical processes work, that is, the Comparison Process.

This is the Mind/Brain interface. This is the Praxis.
It will show that Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device is indeed the cortical cell columns in our speech centers, that language is innate because the CER P300’s will most all be the same during language use and recognition, over all languages, not just English. it will also show the finer details of how unlike languages are differently processed in brain, too.

Linguistically, we will take a user who is otherwise cortically normal by MRI, and present to him/her certain signals such as “What is this?” holding up a banana for instance. There will be a P300 when and if she recognizes the banana. There will be a simple motor related P300 when she’s getting ready to sign the word, “banana”. And this will confirm she knows what it was, and had “re-cognized” the banana. Several other words can also be used. Several other subjects can be tested to find out the normal ranges of these P300 patterns, i.e., to establish Rule of Commonality comparisons and standards.

Now, and the astute know where this is going, (their P300’s are registering recognition, again empirical introspection), we take Koko and do the same to her. We will see very similar patterns in her if she detects the sentence signed by, “What is this?” and her cortical P300 will register it. Then when she signs back “Banana” we will see a similar P300 in her motor cortex as we have seen in human subjects. If it’s not understood, then it will be delayed, background noise P300. If she understands it and signs Banana, a similar P300 effect will be seen comparing well to human detection criteria. Those P300’s, the human and the gorilla, or the chimp, will compare favorably and reliably. and this will not only show that humans and higher primates can communicate, but are also using very similar responses to each other, because our neurophysiologies are very similar, too. The neurophysiology of recognition, of the comparison process.

It will establish that recognition among animals esp., the higher primates, is real and existing and will in other species, show that they are recognizing, too, by an analogous process, if birds, dogs, cats, or other creatures are used. This is the comparative neurophysiology of recognition, that is, the Comparison Process. It will establish that Koko and other apes are indeed capable of recognition of Ameslan, and are using it just like we are, given some modest allowances due to species differences, and the fact they have fewer comparison Processors than do we.

Recognition is the key characteristic of the Comparison Process. And it will guide in the following ways, our understanding of how our brains’ cortical functions work.

Currently, functional MRI (fMRI) is being combined (Comparison process, of course) with Magnetic Encephalogram (MEG) to study structure/function relationships in the brain. We can detect brain function by increased flow by MRI and then correlate (compare) it with MEG signals, too. These are positive signs and methods, showing real, existing comparison processes going on inside of the brain. This is a positive sign that our diagnostic methods are actively using the comparison process in combining fMRI/MEG testing to get more reliable data, as the comparison process shows, will, necessarily, happen. Just like a genetic defect can often provide the comparison necessary to better understand normal function by this same instance of having something to compare to normal.

But there is something lacking and it’s this. What happens if those localized Comparison Processes are turned off, momentarily in the brain? Specific functions will be interrupted or be unable to be initiated. That will provide further solid evidence that a specific higher level function in brain is being shut down at a certain specific site, as previously revealed to be active there. Yet another structure/function relationship, which is basic brain anatomy.

The means to do this non-invasively is here. It’s called magnetic stimulation. Grossly if we stimulate the brain with a high Tesla field, it will make the neurons momentarily depolarize. Then we can selectively depolarize, by repeated stimulation to a spot in the cortex/brain where a cortical activity is being done, such as saying the word, “longitude”. We can find out where this process is going on by interrupting it, temporarily, by brain magnetic stim, can we not? And that will tell us what is going on there by the fact that it stops, having previously located that function in that area by fMRI and MEG. This will complete, non-invasively, the chain of structure/function relationships which can be found in living brain, will it not?

Now how do we do this? Very easily. We have seen how Vinn diagrams overlap. and once again, in the more astute, there is a strong P300 very quickly being created right now. Each of the 3 overlapping in 3 dimensions, magnetic field strength stimulations is sub-threshold depolarization of the brain. Where they overlap, however, they would be made safely supra-threshold. And the desired point to target in the brain can be accurately found within a few millimeters by already well worked out Neurosurgical methods of Stereotactic mapping.

Essentially, the gyri of the cortex of human brain could be sequentially and repeatedly studied non-invasively to find out what was going on at most points in the brain. The fMRI/MEG studies to locate where brain activity was going on, too. And the MagStim point method for confirming the existence at the specific sties in the brain where activity was going on by temporarily stopping it. The 3 comparisons would establish a high degree of reliability and confirm a working structure/function model of the brain to a degree of precision and refinement never seen before. The mind fairly boggles at this potential to utterly revise and gain much deeper understanding of how things work in our brains/minds.

As a further benefit, it’s know that pain stimuli are processed in the brain through a “pain matrix” model of about 10 known sites which mediate/modulate pain. Using the MagStim point system, what each site does can to some extent be figured out. And if 1 or 2 certain areas, when stimulated, block pain completely, the implications would be considerable for pain control, esp. using placement of superficial scalp magnetic stimulation. on affected areas of the sensory cortex or subcortical targets.

How this relates to creativity and its study is clear. By the COMP model, creativity is very much a form of recognition. That “Aha!’ moment. Again, a bit of dopamine release, too. But using the simple pennies method of counting, we could map creativity as better and better means are created for counting by each subject, at that point where they “get” the new idea either by description or when they suddenly realize/recognize a better method.

In telling jokes, also, there would be a P300 when they get the joke as compared to when they did not, showing again, that the COMP underlies telling jokes and humor of most all types. This would confirm the COMP/dopamine boost aspect of known humor, rather convincingly. And using the fMRI/MEG plus MagStim points method, would show where in the brain this humor is being mediated. The same for music, for swearing center location, the conscience in the frontal lobes, and so forth. Exploring up and down the cortices of the brain, going over each gyrus in whole brain with ever finer and finer investigations. We see here, in the Praxis, the value of the comparison process which can not only empirically and introspectively see inside, and explain our minds/brains, but find ways to decode and understand our minds/brains. This is the power of the Comparison Process model.

It means that the Tarab of Oum Kalthoum can be studied in those listening to her. It means that basic human thinking processes will be open to study, as well, from math, to music, from the sciences to the arts. Most all human brain activities of the cortex can then be more carefully studied.
Let us think about one more subject, that of exactly how, what kind of stimulus is necessary for Long Term Memories to be laid down.

Clearly, we know that it’s due to repeated reinforcements. The more we go over something, the more likely it is to be remembered, and more easily recalled. This is called facilitation in neurophysiological terms.

But consider what happens during highly charged emotional moments. This will very likely enlighten us as to the nature of what is going on. During those times, such as Archimedes “Eureka!” moment, or those mountain top experiences we all have had, there is a LOT more dopamine release and much longer reinforcements to memory being made. How often do we have to purposefully reinforce those awe filled moments to recall them? Not often. It gets done by the high dopamine release those events create.

That’s the secret, we see. Some dopamine release is seen at most all creative and recognition events. Some more so than others. It’s the dopamine boost, which begins the LTM event of protein synthesis and synapse creation, which creates the stability of the Long Term Memory traces, which Wilder Penfield found in his noteworthy studies on living brain in Montreal. Those stable memory traces are what create the platform upon which our consciousness and thinking are founded and stabilized. More in the article on “Brain Hard wiring”.

Further consider what happens when photic stimulation occurs. The brain will create an evoked potential which is visible on the EEG. Similar effects have been seen during music played with a heavy beat. These will entrain widely the brain. It can have almost an hypnotic effect on people alone or in groups. Thus the tarab of Cairo, the effects of rock groups, the crowds’ responses to a charismatic speaker. The effect of the 1-2, 1-2 of 4/4 time beats of the marching band we hear as it passes by.

When we see flocks of birds flying, as they veer and fly together, to schooling of fishes, or the herd behaviors of animals running. How is this any different than our entrainment when people sing in choirs or play in a band or orchestra, together, when they become as one? This is the social entrainment effect. If CER were done with those in such collective groups, we would see the careful and close entrainment of visual and sensory evoked responses acting as one in those groups of players. The same with a good movie, where all were on the edges of their seat during scenes of brilliantly acted and produced scenes. Or in the listeners to those inspiring choirs, and orchestras. They would be entrained just a birds and fish fly together.

What of empirical introspection? The investigation of CER can surely give insights and confirmations of it, esp. in known tasks, such as indexing and reading indexes looking for a specific target word or word placement in indexing.

So, we see the Comparison Process as work, finding correspondences, relationships, associations and creativity, which bring us better understanding and the best performances of our species.
brain mapping using combined fMRI and MEG

Target words: Recognition; cognition; Comparison Process; Cortical evoked potentials; Functional MRI (fMRI); Magnetic Electroencephalography (MEG); Magnetic stimulation of brain (MagStim); Humor, Long Term Memory. Dopamine


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