Where is the Mind in the Universe

Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul

In this pioneering book, the noble prizewinner for the discovery of the shape of DNA puts forth the theory that synchronous oscillations in the gamma range resonating in many parts of the brain at the same time are the biological correlate of consciousness. He bases this on research about how the visual system could possibly combine all the characteristics of vision at once, such as color, texture, position, movement, etc. The question as to how all these different parts of the system can be experienced at one instant is known as the “binding problem” in consciousness studies, and has not been resolved to this date. The title is a bit of an over reach, because he does not prove that the gamma rhythm is the correlate of consciousness or the soul. But, in current research it remains one of the closest correlates of consciousness in the brain.

The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach

In the tradition of Francis Crick, Koch attempts to find the NCC, or the neural correlate of consciousness.  He gives a very detailed, informative and well-written description of the visual system as it relates to issues of consciousness.  He describes many regions of the brain relating to the search for the NCC. It is an excellent introduction to this entire area of neuroscience.

Rhythms of the Brain

by Gyorgy Buzsaki

This book was mentioned in the first section on the human brain and is mentioned again because of the importance of the subject matter. With the search for the neurological correlate of consciousness possibly leading to electrical brain oscillations, this book is the best introduction to brain rhythms. For many years scientists have tried to associate specific rhythms, such as alpha, beta, gamma, and theta, to specific mental and brain functions. The author has a deep awareness of the broader philosophical and scientific issues involved in this subject.

Networks of the Brain

by Olaf Sporns

This book is an extremely detailed look at the function of the brain networks and how this monumental complexity might be understood.  Olaf Sporns emphasizes how the brain can be viewed from multiple scales, with all of these levels being important. The brain has local complexity in regions and then long-range connections with other levels of complexity. He discusses the need for both order and disorder, and for segmentation and integration. He considers whether the mind emerges from the complexity of the networks.  His most recent research, since this book, has shown that while there are both complex local networks and complex long-range networks, many of the centers actually do both, which further confuses the quest for an understanding of the unity of experience.

Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality

Professor Nunez, an expert in EEG and technical aspects of the brain, seriously looks at whether the mind is created by the molecules of the brain or not. Drawing on physics, philosophy, and neuroscience he brilliantly makes a case that the brain might not fully create the mind.

The Extended Mind (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)

This book is an excellent edited collection of articles that discuss whether the mind is more than an emergent property of networks of neurons, or molecules in the brain. Clark and Chalmers, who contribute to this book, first used the term “extended mind.” Because mind exists in interaction with other minds, could the mind be more than just brains? Could these interacting minds instead use brains?

Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (Philosophy of Mind Series)

In a similar vein as the extended mind, this book describes mind interacting with its body, its environment and with society.  Andy Clark is a philosopher who makes the case for the extended mind, while comprehensively and expertly discussing the scientific literature.

Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

Louise Barrett gives a fresh view of the extended mind hypothesis viewing human and animal mental function as deeply defined by their bodies and environments.

The Character of Consciousness (Philosophy of Mind)

David Chalmers is the philosopher who first used the term “the hard problem” to describe the issue of explaining subjective experience.  He also coined the term the “extended mind.”  This book is an updated version of his book from 1996 The Conscious Mind, In Search of a fundamental theory. Chalmers is not convinced neural correlates will explain consciousness.  His theories incorporate the connection of information in the physical universe and the human mind with the possibility that consciousness is a property of the universe.

Cognitive Biology: Dealing with Information from Bacteria to Minds

Gennaro Auletta synthesizes neuroscience, cognitive science, philosophy, quantum mechanics, information theory and more in an elaborate study of how the brain functions, and what it has to do with information in the universe.  This 800-page book filled with basic science and mathematics is a tremendous resource in understanding perception, and brain function.  It gives a detailed description of quantum mechanics and how it relates to physical theories of information.  It then connects this understanding of information with a detailed analysis of neuroscience and cognitive science.  Professor Auletta concludes with an opinion somewhat similar to Roger Penrose that there are three worlds that overlap, that is, the world of ideas, the physical world and the mental world. In the Penrose model the world of ideas maps to the physical world, which maps to the mental world, which maps back to the idea world.  In Auletta’s model each of the three worlds overlaps somewhat with the other two, but in a way where all three do not overlap at once.

Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology

by Ricard Sole, Brian Goodwin and Ricard Solé

This is an excellent book on emergence in the biological world including many topics such as ants, economics, the brain, viruses, and genetics.  It explains the emergence through fields of mathematics called complexity theory, self-organization, and non-linear dynamics.  Fractals are discussed as an example of complexity theory in a discussion of the diversity in nature. This viewpoint emphasizes the emergent property of the mind from the brain.

The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex

The concept of emergence in this book is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  This book traces emergent leaps from the big bang through the origin of life up through the history of mankind.  Somewhere in this history the mind emerges. The scientific descriptions are breathtaking in their brevity and accuracy.  In the realm of humans he may have left his scientific agenda when he attempts to include a form of Judeo-Christian mysticism in the history.  But, up until that point it covers a lot of ground in a short book.

Books by Roger Penrose

Dr. Penrose is an eminent world-class physicist having collaborated with the likes of Hawking and others. Unlike other physicists, he has waded into neuroscience, collaborating with Stuart Hameroff.  His first books ten years ago espoused a theory of consciousness being created in the brain through quantum properties of cells and brains.  His theory was highly criticized by neuroscientists, as any theory based upon quantum mechanics has been. He has persisted in elaborating his theory about the remarkable properties of microtubules in neurons, which could be quantum computers. Unlike many other authors Dr. Penrose is a world expert in quantum mechanics and has published recently the massive edited book Consciousness and the Universe. The first article by him and Hameroff describe the most recent findings related to his quantum computer microtubule theory including rebuttals of all criticism since his first publication.  He also has written on the unique relation between mathematics and physical theory and the mind.  He is platonic with the conception of an existence of primary mathematical concepts.  His view is that there are three realms, the world of ideas, the physical world, and the mental world. In his theory the physical world maps onto the mental world, the mental world maps onto the world of ideas, and the world of ideas maps onto the physical world.  Below are also his other books from 1996 on the mind.  His great opus on the entire field of physics The Nature of Reality mentions again his platonic conception of the mind.

Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems

A wide ranging reference discussing energy in all aspects of human life, and nature. Perhaps understanding energy flows will help us understand where mind exists.

Neuromania: On the limits of brain science

by Paolo Legrenzi, Carlo Umilta and Frances Anderson

This is a brief book by neuroscientists who are distraught about the widespread exaggerated interpretations of neuroimaging devices.  It cautions scientists to not overstate the conclusions of current research.