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VI. Life’s Cerebral Faculties Become More Complex, Smarter, Informed, Proactive, Self-Aware

2. The Evolution of Cerebral Form and Cognizance

Vallverdu, Jordi, et al. Slime Mould: The Fundamental Mechanisms of Cognition. Biosystems. Online January, 2018. (arXiv:1712.00414). A premier 10 person team including Michael Levin, Frantisek Baluska, Hector Zenil and Andrew Adamatzky proceed to trace a minimal proto-conscious cognizance to this generic single cellular organism. By so doing, as the quotes cite, an evolutionary continuity from life’s rudimentary advent all the way to our composite sapient reconstruction can be traced. By this synoptic view, an overall autopoiesis, self-sentience, inter-relational emergence distinguished by a quickening integrated intelligence, is illumed. A further tacit sense of natural, software-like algorithms at work separate from and prior to any post-selection is evoked.

The slime mould Physarum polycephalum has been used in developing unconventional computing devices in which the slime mould played a role of a sensing, actuating, and computing device. These devices treated the slime mould rather as an active living substrate yet the slime mould is a self-consistent living creature which evolved for millions of years, but in any case, that living entity did not own true cognition, just automated biochemical mechanisms. To "rehabilitate" the slime mould from the rank of a purely living electronics element to a "creature of thoughts" we are analyzing the cognitive potential of P. polycephalum. We base our theory of minimal cognition of the slime mould on a bottom-up approach, from its biological and biophysical nature and regulatory systems using frameworks such as (Pamela) Lyon's biogenic cognition, (Gregory) Bateson's "patterns that connect" framework, (Humberto) Maturana's autopoetic network, and proto-consciousness inputs. (Abstract edits)

Emerging Sources of Cellular Levels of Sentience and Consciousness Consciousness is emerging as a basic and inherent property of biological organisms which is relevant for their survival and evolution. Hypothetical basic unit of consciousnessin multicellular organisms, such as humans, non-human animals and plants might be represented by cellular and subcellular levels of consciousness. There are at least three possible sources of sentience and consciousness (understood as a gradual self-mapping tool) at the cellular and subcellular levels. (26)

Van Schaik, Carel, et al. A Farewell to the Encephalization Quotient: A New Brain Size Measure for Comparative Primate Cognition. Brain, Behavior and Evolution. July, 2021. University of Zurich, Neuchatel University and Stockholm University senior scholars describe a revised, updated version of this popular measure to provide a more utile accurate valuation. In any event, a relative parallel track of cerebral volumetric capacity with life’s temporal evolution seems to be in effect. And we make note that just now an Earthwise Encephalization can engage in this retrospective survey of whence we one and all came to be able to do this.

Vincent, Jean-Didier and Pierre-Marie Lledo. The Custom-Made Brain: Cerebral Plasticity, Regeneration, and Enhancement. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Veteran French neuroscientists survey the billion year course of how neural anatomies and cognitions came to form, evolve, ramify, think, and learn on their way to knowing sentience in our retrospective human phase. We cite because in a section named Behind Diversity in the Animal Kingdom, a Single Plan the work describes how life’s evolutionary developmental encephalization of cerebral bilateral topology and thought is again much like an embryonic gestation.

Vitiello, Giuseppe. The Use of Many-body Physics and Thermodynamics to Describe the Dynamics of Rhythmic Generators in Sensory Cortices Engaged in Memory and Learning. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 31/1, 2015. In a special issue on Brain Rhythms and Dynamic Coordination edited by Gyorgy Buzsaki and Walter Freeman, a University of Salerno physicist (search), often a collaborator with WF, advises that if neural faculties are seen as continuous with and arising from such natural depths, this can facilitate their full understanding.

The problem of the transition from the molecular and cellular level to the macroscopic level of observed assemblies of myriads of neurons is the subject addressed in this report. The great amount of detailed information available at molecular and cellular level seems not sufficient to account for the high effectiveness and reliability observed in the brain macroscopic functioning. It is suggested that the dissipative many-body model and thermodynamics might offer the dynamical frame underlying the rich phenomenology observed at microscopic and macroscopic level and help in the understanding on how to fill the gap between the bio-molecular and cellular level and the one of brain macroscopic functioning. (Abstract)

Watanabe, Shigeru, et al, eds. Evolution of the Brain, Cognition, and Emotion in Vertebrates. International: Springer, 2017. Senior editors SW (Japan), Michel Hofman, (Netherlands) and Toru Shimizu (Florida) provide a wide-ranging survey to date as our own nascent worldwide sapiensphere proceeds to reconstruct and quantify the long course of cerebral and cognitive emergence that gave rise to this global faculty. See for example The Origins of the Bird Brain (Toru Shimizu, et al) The Evolution of Mammalian Brains (Jon Kaas), The Evolution of Cognitive Brains in Non-mammals (Andrew Iwaniuk) On the Matter of Mind (Michel Hofman) and Integration Hypothesis: A Parallel Model of Language Development (Shigeru Miyagawa).

This book presents a new view on the evolution of the brain, cognition, and emotion. Some 50 years ago, Harry Jerison published Evolution of the Brain and Intelligence which scoped out studies on these topics. Herein we offer a collection of work to date by way of many new insights and understandings. In regard, it focuses on three prime aspects: an integrated approach called evolutionary developmental biology or Evo/Devo; much new information about the brains of diverse animal groups; and behavioral studies which demonstrate that cognition and emotion can be found found in many non-primate and even non-mammalian species.

Williams, Caroline. A Beautiful Mind. New Scientist. June 11, 2011. A science writer lauds this heretofore daunting quantification of the neural regimen and cognitive acumen of the cephalopod octopus, which can be seen as a primordial instance of how brain and intelligence began their evolutionary ascent.

Yopak, Kara, et al. A Conserved Pattern of Brain Scaling from Sharks to Primates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107/12946, 2010. A team of neuroscientists from Australia, Sweden, and the United States, including Barbara Finlay and Richard Darlington, report remarkable cerebral similarities between such widely separate Metazoan species. Once again it can be increasingly surmised that evolution retains the same basic neural anatomy, which then ramifies and deploys by an interplay of concerted and mosaic size and capacity as emergent encephalization proceeds to our retrospective description.

Several patterns of brain allometry previously observed in mammals have been found to hold for sharks and related taxa (chondrichthyans) as well. In each clade, the relative size of brain parts, with the notable exception of the olfactory bulbs, is highly predictable from the total brain size. Compared with total brain mass, each part scales with a characteristic slope, which is highest for the telencephalon and cerebellum. In addition, cerebellar foliation reflects both absolute and relative cerebellar size, in a manner analogous to mammalian cortical gyrification. This conserved pattern of brain scaling suggests that the fundamental brain plan that evolved in early vertebrates permits appropriate scaling in response to a range of factors, including phylogeny and ecology, where neural mass may be added and subtracted without compromising basic function. (12946)

Yoshida, M., et al. Molecular Evidence for Convergence and Parallelism in Evolution of Complex Brains of Cephalopod Molluscs: Insights from Visual Systems. Integrative & Comparative Biology. 55/6, 2015. In a Dawn of Neuronal Organization section, a team from research institutes in Japan and Florida including Leonid Moroz (search) find these quite intelligent invertebrates to have an equivalent cerebral capacity to vertebrates. Once again, such 2010s worldwide findings affirm a persistence for life to form and elaborate similar neural architectures as an inherent evolutionary encephalization.

Coleoid cephalopods show remarkable evolutionary convergence with vertebrates in their neural organization, including (1) eyes and visual system with optic lobes, (2) specialized parts of the brain controlling learning and memory, such as vertical lobes, and (3) unique vasculature supporting such complexity of the central nervous system. We performed deep sequencing of eye transcriptomes of pygmy squids (Idiosepius paradoxus) and chambered nautiluses (Nautilus pompilius) to decipher the molecular basis of convergent evolution in cephalopods. RNA-seq was complemented by in situ hybridization to localize the expression of selected genes. We found three types of genomic innovations in the evolution of complex brains: (1) recruitment of novel genes into morphogenetic pathways, (2) recombination of various coding and regulatory regions of different genes, often called “evolutionary tinkering” or “co-option”, and (3) duplication and divergence of genes. In summary, the cephalopod convergent morphological evolution of the camera eyes was driven by a mosaic of all types of gene recruitments. In addition, our analysis revealed unexpected variations of squids’ opsins, retinochromes, and arrestins, providing more detailed information, valuable for further research on intra-ocular and extra-ocular photoreception of the cephalopods. (Abstract)

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