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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

3. A Complementary Brain and Thought Process

Pesic, Peter. Polyphonic Minds: Music of the Hemispheres. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2018. A philosopher, pianist, and Director of the Science Institute at St. John’s College (the Great Books home) in Santa Fe here scores the past and present of our day and night melodic sensitivities. We especially note with M. Gazzaniga’s 2018 The Consciousness Instinct along with recent studies of “prosody” (search) as “patterns of rhythm and sound in poetry and language” which bring right brain sense to left brain text. Later chapters review the history of this dual cerebral asymmetry, the Nobel work of Roger Sperry, and currently of NYU neuroscientist Gyorgy Buzsaki (search) as he quantifies our microcosmic attunements.

Polyphony―the interweaving of simultaneous sounds―is a crucial aspect of music that has deep implications for how we understand the mind. How does a single mind experience those things as a unity (a motet, a fugue) rather than an incoherent jumble? Pesic argues that polyphony raises fundamental issues for philosophy, theology, literature, psychology, and neuroscience as they seek an apparent unity of consciousness in the midst of multiple simultaneous influences. A trace of Western polyphony from ninth-century church music to experimental modern compositions leads to considerations of analogous cerebral activities, a “music of the hemispheres” that shapes brain states from sleep to awakening. He goes on to discuss how neuroscientists draw on concepts from polyphony to describe the “neural orchestra” of the brain. (Publisher excerpts)

Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. As commerce become global, a transition is underway from old left brain analysis to right hemisphere integral vision as the locus of civilization shifts from Western fragments to Asian imaginations. By this view, dichotomies of sequential or simultaneous, text or context, detail or big picture, and so on are set in West/East contrast. While a popularization, a clever tour of business and artistic creativity is provided.

Rauschecker, Josef and Sophie Scott. Pathways and Streams in the Auditory Cortex. Hickok, Gregory and Steven Small, eds. Neurobiology of Language. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press, 2015. Georgetown University Medical Center and University College London cognitive neuroscientists update their work and findings on how primates and humans hear and see by way of dual processing domains. As Laura Otis (search) also reports, akin to hemispheric asymmetries, an antero-ventral path focuses on objects while a postero-dorsal mode views spatial perception.

Ravignani, Andrea, et al. Editorial: The Evolution of Rhythm Cognition: Timing in Music and Speech. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. June 13, 2017. Ravignani, MPI Psycholinguistics, Henkjan Honing, Maastricht University, and Sonja Kotz, MPI Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences introduce a Research Topic collection with this title. The many articles proceed to cover individual traits, group social modes and life’s long advance by way of tempo and talk.

This editorial serves a number of purposes. First, it aims at summarizing and discussing 33 accepted contributions to the special issue “The evolution of rhythm cognition: Timing in music and speech.” The major focus of the issue is the cognitive neuroscience of rhythm, intended as a neurobehavioral trait undergoing an evolutionary process. Second, this editorial provides the interested reader with a guide to navigate the interdisciplinary contributions to this special issue. For this purpose, we have compiled Table 1, where methods, topics, and study species are summarized and related across contributions. Third, we also briefly highlight research relevant to the evolution of rhythm that has appeared in other journals while this special issue was compiled. Altogether, this editorial constitutes a summary of rhythm research in music and speech spanning two years, from mid-2015 until mid-2017. (Overview)

Ravignani, Andrea, et al. Musical Evolution in the Lab Exhibits Rhythmic Universals. Nature Human Behavior. Online December, 2016. In the inaugural issue of this journal, University of Edinburgh, Center for Language Evolution, system linguists Ravignani, Tania Delgado and Simon Kirby model, test, and quantify a deep, aboriginal spontaneity for musical harmonies. Instrumental, rhythmic sounds and songs facilitated our social groupings, along with linguistic expression. See also Statistical Universals Reveal the Structure and Functions of Human Music by Patrick Savage, et al in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (112/8987, 2015).

Music exhibits some cross-cultural similarities, despite its variety across the world. Evidence from a broad range of human cultures suggests the existence of musical universals , here defined as strong regularities emerging across cultures above chance. We empirically investigate the mechanisms underlying musical universals for rhythm. Human participants were asked to imitate sets of randomly generated drumming sequences and their imitation attempts became the training set for the next participants in independent transmission chains. Drumming patterns developed into rhythms that are more structured, easier to learn, distinctive for each experimental cultural tradition and characterized by all six statistical universals found among world music, the patterns appear to be adapted to human learning, memory and cognition. We conclude that musical rhythm partially arises from the influence of human cognitive and biological biases on the process of cultural evolution.. (Abstract excerpts)

Rowson, Jonathan and Iain McGilchrist. Divided Brain, Divided World. iainmcgilchrist.com. The whole transcript is reachable from McGilchrist’s website under Events as an interview/ conversation by Rowson, a Scottish chess grand master who has a doctorate in wisdom philosophy from Bristol University, with the author of The Master and His Emissary (2009, search). As our review above of its 2019 edition says, his 600 page testimony about how much our dual hemispheres possess definitive part/object focus and field/context image options has gained wide acceptance. As Iain explains, the left emissary side has historically taken leave of any original right masterful guidance to such an extent that its mechanistic sterility is at the base of an aberrant, terminal world.

JR: Iain, let me begin by stating the argument as I have come to understand it, and you can tell me how you might express it differently or more fully. You seem to be saying that the left hemisphere of the brain is gradually colonising our experience. While the brain hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum, and both are involved in everything we do, if we cease to ask what the hemispheres do such as language, reasoning, creativity, forecasting, and instead ask how they do it, we find very significant differences in the two hemispheres. For instance the left hemisphere tends to decontextualise issues while the right contextualises, the left tends to abstract while the right makes vivid and concrete, the left seeks instrumental feedback while the right prefers affectively nuanced responses, and the right hemisphere appears to be much more receptive to evidence that challenges its own position. (10)

IM: It’s like this. Suppose it could be shown – because it can – that our brains are so constructed as to enable us to bring into being and conceive the experiential world in two quite distinct, complementary, but ultimately incompatible, ways. Suppose each has its uses, and that – here’s why the brain view helps – these versions of the world, which have importantly different qualities, are generally so well combined or alternated from moment to moment in everyday experience that individuals are not aware of this being the case. (14) The left hemisphere is not, as is sometimes thought, unemotional and down to earth. Anger is one of the most clearly lateralised emotions and it lateralises to the left hemisphere. The left hemispheres is manifestly not in touch with reality, and when it does not understand something it simply makes up a story that makes sense in its own terms and tells it with conviction. (21)

Schore, Allan. A Right Brain Implicit Self: A Central Mechanism of the Psychotherapy Change Process. Petrucelli, Jean, ed. Knowing, Not-Knowing and Sort of Knowing: Psychoanalysis and the Experience of Uncertainty. London: Karnac, 2010. The senior UCLA School of Medicine psychiatrist and biobehaviorist strongly avers that this holistic cerebral complement, which arises earlier in evolution, history, and individual cerebral formation, is the often neglected source of palliative psychic resolve and personal unity. While the left hemisphere deals with predictable situations, the right can handle surprising, unusual occurrences. As such, the left side is bent on a single response, but the right’s “answer matrix” can generate valuable alternative solutions. Google Schore’s publications for this paper, and notably his April 2012 The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy (Norton) that promises a succinct summary of these earned insights.

The concept of a single unitary “self” is as misleading as the idea of a single unitary “brain.” The left and right hemispheres process information in their own unique fashions, and this is reflected in a conscious left lateralized self system (“left mind”) and an unconscious right lateralized self system (“right mind”). Despite the designation of the verbal left hemisphere as “dominant” due to its capacities for explicitly processing language functions, it is the right hemisphere and its implicit homeostatic-survival and affect regulation functions that truly dominant in human existence. Over the life span the early-forming unconscious implicit self continues to develop to more complexity, and it operates in qualitatively different ways from the later-forming conscious explicit self. (178)

Neuroscience authors are concluding that although the left hemisphere is specialized for coping with and assimilating novel situations and ensures the formation of a new programme of interaction with a new environment. (196)

Schore, Allan. The Development of the Unconscious Mind. New York: Norton, 2019. The UCLA sage psychiatrist (search) continues his appreciations of the role and interplay of the brain hemispheres with their right relational, emphatic, visionary and left particulate, isolate, analytic modes (two minds in one brain) to better understand and mitigate psychological maladies and behaviors. Iain McGilchrist’s 2009 volume is a prime resource and working guide about personal and social mores throughout life. (See Karen Armstrong’s 2019 for a similar avail.) A special emphasis is upon their sequential influence in the earliest years from gestation to infancy, childhood and youth. The right field of view (We) side is primary from birth to the mid twos, when the left me, mine phase cuts in, much to the plight of boys. Deeper, palliative insights are thus gained into these community and independence, cooperate or compete options. (And as would serve our polarized politics, also global strife such as Hong Kong, a best resolve is a beneficial balance of these yin and yang complements.)

Schore, Allan. The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy. New York: Norton, 2012. The veteran UCLA biobehavioral psychiatrist brings together a lifetime of finding ways to heal and advance personal and social well being, through both practice and principle. Its Introduction is “Toward a New Paradigm of Psychotherapy,” with the latter term beyond Freudian to a broad palliative and affirmative resolve. In this regard he joins Iain McGilchrist (The Master and His Emissary) to propose that the best approach is an appreciation and apply of the complementary brain hemispheres. To our great deficit, the analytic, particulate left side so dominates self and world as to exclude any contextual, empathic meaning that the right could achieve.

In regard, per the first quote, after decades it can be averred that our cerebral faculty is in fact distinguished by, and founded upon, such gender archetypes. It is now known that right brain holistic imagery, mother – child contact, graces the first three years. But these qualities are soon taken over, and set aside, by a long left brain, self-centered phase that continues through adulthood. Schore’s solution is a rehabilitation and reintegration, unto harmony and balance, of implicit, reciprocal and relational guidance. The left mode deals with familiar inputs, object seriality, but not unusual, perilous events, (like climate change) which a right wholeness can orient and respond to. This “paradigm shift” for therapeutic psychology to a “self-organizing neurological development” aligns with similar revisions across the sciences.

A further important insight, with McGilchrist, is that the left focus on isolated detail tends to a mechanistic view, while the right mode perceives and favors living systems. It is noted that neuroscientists often speak of cognitive “machinery.” As the course of history, from our vantage, runs from feminine and maternal to masculine and patriarchal, an avail of hemispheric penchants might explain why the west comes up with the wrong moribund cosmos. Here is a profound neural basis for a worldwide bilateral (woman’s) brain/mind ability, two brains in concert, to fathom, allow, and discover an organic procreative universe.

Numerous studies now indicate that the right and left human brain hemispheres differ in macrostructure, ultrastructure, physiology, chemistry, and control of behavior. Indeed, the left hemisphere of the vertebrate brain is specialized for the control of well-established patterns of behavior under ordinary and familiar circumstances. In contrast, the right hemisphere is the primary seat of emotional arousal and the processing of novel information. Furthermore, there is now agreement that verbal, conscious, rational and serial information processing takes place in the left hemisphere, whereas nonverbal, unconscious, holistic, and subjective emotional information processing takes place in the right. (7)

I agree (with McGilchrist) that especially western cultures, even more so than in the past, are currently overemphasizing left brain functions. Our cultural conceptions of both mental and physical health, as well as the aims of all levels of education, continue to narrowly overstress rational, logical, analytic thinking over holistic, bodily based, relational right brain functions that are essential to homeostasis and survival. (15)

Schore, Allan. The Self-Organization of the Right Brain and the Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Marc Lewis and Isabela Granic, eds. Emotion, Development, and Self-organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Dynamic systems theory can bring theoretical rigor to the course of human maturation as an exemplar of a universal evolution. The right hemisphere develops first to engage the mother-infant “reciprocal interactions," which are nonlinear in kind as opposed to the more linear and discrete left brain.

A central principle of this perspective is that a dynamical complex system is assembled as a product of the interactions of the elements of the system in a particular context. The early organization of the human brain is a prototypical example of a hierarchically structured complex system that is dynamically assembled and expresses a capacity to evolve toward a state of higher organization. (155)

Siegel, Daniel. The Mindful Brain. New York: Norton, 2007. The UCLA pediatric psychiatrist and author worries that our alienated, material culture lacks a palliative moral compass and reflective awareness. A major advance would be a “bilateral consciousness” joining the “logical, linguistic, linear, and literal” output of the left hemisphere with the right’s visuospatial, nonverbal, holistic, emotional images. Such an integral balance, as female brains achieve, has a new neurological basis since the cortical columns of the right side are more cross-connected than isolated regions of the left half. An ability to take in the whole, contextual picture would do us well, imbue education, and to help truly achieve, as one might put it, united states.

Singer, Wolf. Recurrent Dynamics in the Cerebral Cortex: Integration of Sensory Evidence with Stored Knowledge. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118/33, 2021. Into the 2020s, the senior MPI Brain Research neuroscientist (search) provides a definitive (natural) exegesis of the presence of dual modes of active neural cognition. An on-going informative interplay is described between a person’s represented memory and new experiences so as to reach a viable, beneficial response. In this way, a balance and harmony can occur between one’s past familiarity and a variable external world. An accord then becomes possible of conserved values with novel occasions, rather than current politics where these conserve and create, regress or progress phases are locked in mortal combat. In August of this year, an incarnate complementarity thus achieves a strong scientific affirmation in our desperate midst. Here is the very EarthWise edification that so needs to gain a public veracity and avail in the time left.

Current concepts of sensory processing in the cerebral cortex emphasize serial extraction and recombination of features in hierarchically structured feed-forward networks in order to view the relations among the components of perceptual objects. These concepts are implemented in convolutional deep learning networks and have been validated by the astounding similarities between the functional properties of artificial systems and their natural counterparts. However, cortical architectures also display an abundance of recurrent coupling within and between the layers of the processing hierarchy. This massive recurrence gives rise to highly complex dynamics whose putative function is poorly understood. Here a concept is proposed that assigns specific functions to the dynamics of cortical networks and combines, in a unifying approach, the respective advantages of both recurrent and feed-forward processing. (Abstract excerpt)

Two Complementary Strategies for the Analysis and Encoding of Relations The virtually infinite variety of perceptual objects results from variable combinations of a relatively small set of elementary features, just like the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet suffice to compose western literature. Therefore, cognitive systems need effective strategies to identify these features and to encode the relations among them. (1)

Encoding of Relations in Feed-Forward Networks. One common strategy for the encoding of relations is based on the generation of conjunction-specific neurons in hierarchically structured feedforward networks. Neurons tuned to elementary features distribute their responses through divergent and convergent connections to neurons of the respective next layer. Dynamic Encoding of Relations in Recurrent Networks. A complementary strategy to capture relations among components relies on dynamic combinatorial codes, similar to those used by natural languages. (2)

Last but not least, there is a puzzling analogy with the processes that make quantum computing so fast and efficient. The superposition of wave functions bears similarities to the covert superposition of priors in the correlation structure of spontaneous activity, and the simultaneous and probabilistic evaluation of nested relations resembles the virtually simultaneous and holistic interaction between network nodes that represent, in a probabilistic and graded way, the presence of particular features. It would be truly fascinating if evolution had succeeded to realize, with classical mechanisms, those functions
that quantum computers are particularly good at: the parallel and therefore ultrafast evaluation of the relations between a huge number of probabilistic variables (9)

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