Solipsism, Sympathy, and the Connection of Minds

image1Human beings often share the desire to reach out and connect to others, to feel part of a community, to understand and to be understood. In fact, understanding and empathy  underpin a peaceful and productive society, and connecting with others can provide a sense of purpose and meaning. It is this connection of minds that has long been a topic of fascination.

The early-modern philosophers such as Descartes and Wittgenstein introduced the philosophical notion of solipsism, taken from the Latin solus, meaning “alone”, and ipse, meaning “self”. Solipsism can be defined as “the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist”. Hence, philosophers of a solipsistic persuasion questioned the very existence of other minds.

This question has been scientifically investigated by psychologists interested in  the Theory of Mind (or ToM). The term was coined by  Premack and Woodruff (1978), who studied chimpanzees.  They inferred from their investigations that chimps could attribute intentions and desires to others (human actors), showing that they understood the concept of another mind. Human research suggests that ToM develops around the age of 5 or earlier, when children can understand that other people have different desires, thoughts, and feelings to their own.

But if the mind can conceive of another mind, how does this occur, and what evidence do we have to challenge the solipsism of Descartes and Wittgenstein?

image2The answers lie in the advancement of technology and neuroscience. Dr Giacomo Rizzolatti recorded electrical activity from the brain of a monkey whilst they performed a specific action (grasping an object) – so far nothing exceptional. However, the same electrical activity in the monkey’s brain was generated when the animal  observed another person performing the same action. This suggested that the monkey understood the action to be the same as its own, demonstrating a kind of ‘sympathy’. The cells responsible for this understanding of another’s actions were termed ‘mirror neurons’, due to the obvious connection with mirroring another’s behaviour.

So far it seems that we can theorise about another’s mind, and that the explanation of understanding another’s actions can be (at least partly) explained by mirror neurons, but the possibility of the connection of minds is yet to be proven.

… Or is it? Earlier this year, a group of scientists from Spain, France and the U.S.A documented what they term ‘conscious brain-to-brain communication’. Grau and colleagues recruited participants in two distant locations, one to be the ‘emitter’ – the person who generated the message to communicate; and one to be the ‘receiver’. The emitter thought of a word, which was represented as a binary code of ‘1’s and ‘0’s. The ‘1’s and ‘0’s were recorded from the brain of the emitter using motor imagery: if the emitter wished to communicate a ‘1’ they imagined an action with their hands, for a ‘0’ they imagined an action with their feet. The electrical activity from the scalp over the brain areas relating to the actions of hands and feet was recorded with  electroencephalography. Computers transformed this electrical activity back to binary code for transmission via the internet to the location of the receiver. A computer at this location received the binary code and relayed it to the person designated as the receiver. The receiver experienced the ‘1’s and ‘0’s via   a magnetic field applied to the brain through the scalp (transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS). If the digit of code to be conveyed was a ‘1’ the researchers  stimulated the part of the brain responsible for vision, and this made the receiver think they were seeing a light.

If the digit to be conveyed was a ‘0’ the computer positioned the magnetic stimulation over a different part of the brain which resulted in the omission of a light. Therefore, the receiver could communicate the code of ‘1’s and ‘0’s based on the presence and omission of lights. The transmitted word could be  deciphered, completing the brain-to-brain communication.

image3

Although perhaps not what Descartes and Wittgenstein had in mind when they questioned the existence of other minds, modern technology has helped us to explore, explain and expand our means of communication with some truly fascinating results.

Post by: Gemma Barnacle

References:

Original article by Grau and colleagues: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0105225

Interview with Rizzolatti on the discovery of mirror neurons: http://www.gocognitive.net/interviews/discovery-mirror-neurons-1

28 thoughts on “Solipsism, Sympathy, and the Connection of Minds”

  1. Howdy I am so glad I found your web site, I really found you by mistake,
    while I was searching on Bing for something else,
    Regardless I am here now and would just like to
    say kudos for a remarkable post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it
    all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time
    I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the
    awesome work.

    Reply
  2. I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everyone else experiencing issues with
    your website. It appears as if some of the written text on your content
    are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well?
    This might be a problem with my browser because I’ve had this
    happen before. Appreciate it

    Reply
  3. I think that what you said was very reasonable. However,
    what about this? suppose you were to create a awesome
    post title? I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to
    run your blog, but what if you added a title that grabbed folk’s
    attention? I mean Solipsism, Sympathy, and the Connection of Minds – The Brain Bank North
    West is kinda boring. You should glance at Yahoo’s
    home page and note how they create news headlines to grab people to open the links.
    You might add a video or a picture or two to grab people interested
    about everything’ve written. Just my opinion, it could bring
    your blog a little bit more interesting.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for posting useful information.You have provided an nice article, Thank you very much for this one. And i hope this will be useful for many people.. and i am waiting for your next post keep on updating these kinds of knowledgeable things…Really it was an awesome article…very interesting to read..please sharing like this information……

    Reply
  5. Y decir que el C monta un motor Jaguar es bastante rebuscado e incierto, probablemente para darle un empaque técnico al C que obviamente no tiene, pero aqui no cuela, quizas en una barra de bar rodeado de desconocedores del tema lo mismo hasta triunfa. Y la primera prueba de comodidad de ambos coches sería muy fácil: medida (en centímetros) del hundimiento de la parte trasera de los coches al arrancar en parado. Pd. Me he estado muriendo de risa en el trabajo al ver que en Wikipedia sale usted como diseñador del c .

    Reply
  6. I did not know the entire benefits of Garmin Nuvi Map Update. But since I have read this blog on map update, I have installed all available updates for my garmin device. I must say that this piece of blog has helped me improve navigation experience. I am not suggesting all my friends to read this blog and get Garmin map update with this team. you can contact us at toll-free number +1 888-309-0939.

    https://www.garminnuvimapupdate.com/

    Reply
  7. To start with the HP printer wireless setup to mac process, connect your HP printer to the same local wi-fi network on which your mobile or laptop is connected. we hope you found the above procedures for the hp printer installation easy to follow and useful as well.

    Reply
  8. Wagering becomes more fun following your advent regarding internet
    technology. In contrast to before where gambling games can simply become enjoyed by
    the higher classes and a new lot of compromise to
    learn it, now you can usually enjoy the games presented by the joker123 site.

    Your current desire to perform online gambling will be now
    much easier to pay out because playing wagering no longer needs to
    be done through luxury gambling houses accessible in a special region for example those within Las Vegas or
    Macau. Now the joker123 site has released superior technology regarding all
    Indonesian men and women and now you may enjoy all typically the games you want through
    your screen or even your current smartphone.

    For those of you that want to attempt to enjoy how enjoyable online betting video games are, the Joker123 site is the particular best choice to get your partner enjoying betting.
    Joker123 site provides all varieties of gambling video
    games that you need. Popular games such as Roulette,
    Baccarat, Sicbo, Baccarat, and Slot machine games can be played with just one
    consumer ID on the particular joker123 site.

    To join the Joker123 game, you must first join since a member associated with the official Joker123 agent, Unexpectedsims.
    It can easy, just visit the site as well as register by filling in the registration contact form with your private identity completely in addition to correctly.
    In only a few minutes you can get the user IDENTIFICATION required
    to access almost all Joker123 gambling games.

    As a part of UnexpectedSims, members will obtain the best features that will offer members ease within playing online wagering.

    Reply
  9. Picture online gambling because a business activity that requires plenty of consideration to enjoy it.
    But right now there is zero need to be concerned any more since the existence of a
    reliable joker123 agent in Indonesia which gives many benefits for all those fans of online betting.

    Your accomplishment in online wagering games starts any
    time you decide where you can play. By picking a trusted Joker123 broker, that means you have made this easier for the particular
    road to success. Like for example zencefilligazooz brokers that are trusted joker123 agents in Philippines.
    Provides various types of the many popular and
    global standard online gambling games.

    To be able to play on the particular Joker123 site
    is usually also not irrelavent, due to government regulations that stop immediate
    access to online betting game provider sites. Therefore, we all have to have a portal that will
    can hook up members as users plus Joker123 site as a game supplier company called joker123 agent.

    Choosing a new Joker123 agent also can not be done
    randomly, there are several things that you need to pay attention to, among them are,

    Ensure that typically the agent’s site has an official license
    issued by a new world-recognized gambling legislation body.

    Make certain the agent site you choose provides entry to all types of games provided and they supply complete
    types regarding games.

    Guarantee the approach of payment & withdrawal of funds from the web site is safe, and provides worked with several local Indonesian banking institutions.

    Make sure the website’s customer support does its job nicely that is reactive,
    provides friendly support, and works round the clock.

    Joker123 Indonesia Real estate agent Website

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Share This