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Roger Wolcott Sperry

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As a brain researcher, I'd started out simply accepting the strictly objective principles of the behaviorist position. In the 1950s and early 1960s, all respectable neuroscientists thought in these terms. In those days, we wouldn't have been caught dead implying that consciousness or subjective experience can affect physical brain processing.
My first break with this thinking although I certainly didn't see it that way at the time came in a 1952 discussion of mind-brain theory in which I proposed a fundamentally new way of looking at consciousness. In it, I suggested that when we focus consciously on an object and create a mental image for example it's not because the brain pattern is a copy or neural representation of the perceived object, but because the brain experiences a special kind of interaction with that object, preparing the brain to deal with it.
I maintained that an identical feeling or thought on two separate occasions did not necessarily involve the identical nerve cells each time. Instead, it is the operational impact of the neural activity pattern as a whole that counts, and this depends on context just as the word "lead" can mean different things, depending on the rest of the sentence.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry

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One of the more important things to come out of the split-brain work, as an indirect spin-off, is a revised concept of the nature of consciousness and its fundamental relation to brain processing. The key development here is a switch from prior non-causal, parallelist views to a new causal, or "interactionist" interpretation that ascribes to inner experience an integral causal control role in brain function and behavior. In effect, and without resorting to dualist views, the mental forces and properties of the conscious mind are restored to the brain of objective science from which they had long been excluded on materialist-behaviorist principles.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry
 

The difference between mind and brain is that brain deals only with memorized, subjective, special-case experiences and objective experiments, while mind extracts and employs the generalized principles and integrates and interrelates their effective employment. Brain deals exclusively with the physical, and mind exclusively with the metaphysical.

 
Buckminster Fuller
 

I have never been entirely satisfied with the materialistic or behavioristic thesis that a complete explanation of brain function is possible in purely objective terms with no reference whatever to subjective experience; i.e., that in scientific analysis we can confidently and advantageously disregard the subjective properties of the brain process. I do not mean we should abandon the objective approach or repeat the errors of the earlier introspective era. It is just that I find it difficult to believe that the sensations and other subjective experiences per se serve no function, have no operational value and no place in our working models of the brain.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry
 

The brain is the source of thought. The brain is matter and thought is matter. Can the brain with all its reactions and its immediate responses to every challenge and demand can the brain be very still? It is not a question of ending thought, but of whether the brain can be completely still? This stillness is not physical death. See what happens when the brain is completely still.

 
Jiddu Krishnamurti
 

I have a very one-track mind that needs to concentrate. I asked myself which issue is more important: whether mental states are more left- or right-hemispheric, or whether they are causal in brain function. From weighing the pros and cons, I decided that the left-brain, right-brain work was well in orbit and that it would be more important to shift my primary focus to consciousness.
The mind-brain issues are intrinsically more compelling. They carry strong humanistic as well as scientific implications. I could foresee changes in our world view, guiding beliefs, and social values. In the context of today's worsening world conditions and our imperiled future, this work seemed far more important than whether you can find a brain theory enabling people to learn faster, draw better, make better medical diagnoses, and so on.
We're beginning to learn the hard way that today's global ills are not cured by more and more science and technology.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry
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