Memory debate – part 2 (as posted on Bernardo Kastrup’s forum)

Dear all,

Before getting into the ham of this topic, i would like to point out this group is one “intellectual lair” i truly admire. Props to Bernardo Kastrup for starting this forum as a ground for free-minded debate on some seriously deep questions. As I also said in one message I’ve sent him, I feel that his work resonates very much with my own reflections on the limitations of present day materialist approach/paradigm in science.

One of the aspects i would particularly point out is the nature of memory. On this topic, i previously wrote an article, but what renewed my interest in this topic is the below article:

Basically, to sum up the article in a nutshell, the idea is that these simple worms regained their previously “stored” memories after regrowing the cut off brain. The striking question which arises will be the motto of this article:

How can a worm remember things after losing its head?

Bluntly put, this is one of the examples in which purely materialist approach fails, as the lead researcher puts it:

“We have no idea,” Levin admitted. “What we do know is that memory can be stored outside the brain—presumably in other body cells—so that [memories] can get imprinted onto the new brain as it regenerates.”

But let’s take a step back and think of the implications of such discovery (to empathize it, i will state it again: Memories are regained after the brain is rebuild):

  1. Either the memories are stored in other places in the body, such us other cells or tissues
  2. Memory is not a physical phenomenon, but rather an aspect of the non-physical consciousness, which should be, for Bernardo’s readers, a well established concept.

Before going further on this argument, i will go back to my older article and come up with some more interesting scientific experiments, in order to have a solid underpinning of my hypothesis.

As a disclaimer, i would like to point out that i am not a neurologist, but in the search for arguments, i used only basic logic and i did a research on the topic as thorough as my time and understanding of biology allowed me. This is why, i can now use some of the references i obtained, in order to construct my hypothesis.

What shocked me for the first reading on the topic, is the fact that even if the biochemistry and neurology advanced enough to be able to explain into details how the accessing, the structuring and the interpretation of memory works, the way memory is “stored” seems to be a grey area, the present day hypothesis failing to fully explain where and how memory is stored, and in the course of this article, i will try to point out some logical loopholes.

For such a puzzling question (“where is the memory stored?”) experiments started in the 1920’s tried to identify an area of the brain responsible for the physical storage of the information, such as a “hard disk” of the mind.

We can say this is the first materialist approach:

Hypothesis 1: Memory is stored in a certain area of the brain

To cut a long story short, in the ’20, Karl Lashley started a series of experiments on mice, in which he tried to determine the area from the brain which was responsible for the storage of the memory, the engram, as he called it. Although he started very optimistic in this scientific endeavor, he failed to find the results which he predicted.

The experiment was devised as such: Lashley put the mice into a labyrinth, forcing them to memorize the way out. After the test subjects memorized that path, he performed incisions, lesions and removals of various areas of the mice brain, trying to figure out in which area the memory was stored. The logic was simple: If the memory is located in a certain lobe or area, by cutting that lobe out, the memory should be lost.

The shocking result was that, regardless of which area of the cortex he used to cut out, the mice were able to remember that path.

Not giving up to the materialist perspective, he and the people following in his footsteps presumed that “His failure to find a single biological locus of memory in the rat’s brain (or “engram“, as he called it) suggested to him that memories were not localized to one part of the brain, but were widely distributed throughout the cerebral cortex.”, as Wikipedia puts it. More about this experiment on this Wikipedia page and on the cited references:
Hypothesis 2: Memory is not stored in a certain area of the brain, but is rather physically encrypted as an expression of neuronal interconnection via synaptic network.

This is the most popular hypothesis as of today, that memory is rather an emerging phenomenon of how the brain is “wired”, to put it in layman terms.

But let me challenge this hypothesis with a simple question: If memory is an emerging effect directly depending on the neural interconnection, massively affecting the network should disturb the memory, right? Making a comparison, if the first hypothesis would see memory stored on a certain hard disk in a certain server, this vision sees memory like something stored all over the network, and the configuration of the network determines the correlation which we interpret as memories, right?

Then, what about Hemispherectomies?

A hemispherectomy is a very rare surgical procedure where one cerebral hemisphere (half of the brain) is removed or disabled. This procedure is used to treat a variety of seizure disorders where the source of the epilepsy is localized to a broad area of a single hemisphere of the brain, among other disorders. It is solely reserved for extreme cases in which the seizures have not responded to medications or other less invasive surgeries.

Well, as you might expect already, guess what? The memory of the patients undertaking such a procedure was not affected. Perhaps i do not know into details how memory works, but logic tells me this: When you cut off HALF of the neural network, one might expect at least some memory loss, if memory was to be encoded into the neural interconnection.

Hypothesis 3: Memory might be physically encoded at neuron level, in some biochemical mechanisms. Besides the fact evidence for such idea does not exist, logic tells me it should fail the same test in the case of the hemispherectomies.

So let’s sum up:

  1. Memory does not seem to be located in a certain area of the brain
  2. Even if this is the mainstream theory, there are many inconsistencies with memory being an emergent phenomenon based on the neural interconnection.
  3. Even if we suppose memory related areas of the brain are not in the hemispheres, but rather in more basal hippocampus, the worm experiment is slamming on all the above the above materialist hypotheses.

Let’s now switch the view, in light of Bernardo’s “brain as transceiver” model:

If we perceive the brain as a transceiver of consciousness and memory as a structural part of the nonphysical consciousness, it all makes sense.

Some skeptics will say that there are well established links between certain brain areas and memory. But what about seeing those areas critical to memory accessing and interpreting, rather than storage?

“Brain areas such as the hippocampus, the amygdala, the striatum, or the mammillary bodies are thought to be involved in specific types of memory. For example, the hippocampus is believed to be involved in spatial learning and declarative learning, while the amygdala is thought to be involved in emotional memory. Damage to certain areas in patients and animal models and subsequent memory deficits is a primary source of information. However, rather than implicating a specific area, it could be that damage to a pathway traveling through the area is actually responsible for the observed deficit”. If one stores all his possessions in a warehouse connected to his house through a highway, he would not be able to get anything from the warehouse if the highway is broken down. To infer that everything is stored on the highway based on the facts he can not get anything when the highway is interrupted is ridiculous. Even the connection between the brain and memory is well established, it is beyond logic to conclude that memory reside inside the brain.

Another scientist, Wilder Penfield, started from the idea that memory should be somewhere in the brain. He eventually dropped his conviction:


At the beginning of his career in brain surgery, Penfield reasoned memory must be stored somewhere in the brain and the stimulus opened the gate of river of memory. His work originated numerous researches to associate memory and emotion to specific area in the brain. Penfield’s continuous research convinced him that memory can not exist in the brain. He and his colleague reported that removing more cortex after injury to the brain raised the Intelligence Quotient. In one case, he was surprised to find out that his patient’s Intelligence Quotient went from 75 to 80 – 95 after he made extensive bilateral removal of the prefrontal lobes. William Cone reported similar result after removing part of his patient’s brain. Penfield’s continued work, especially on hippocampus and cortex, had changed his views on brain, consciousness and memory mechanism. He late suggested that the interpretive cortex of the temporal lobes acts as a bridge, and the hippocampus holds “keys of access” to those past recorded experiences which are located somewhere outside of the brain.

This idea was also supported by Philosopher William James:

Philosopher William James had a technically different but very similar view on consciousness as Penfield. He held that consciousness operates through the brain rather than the brain producing consciousness. The notion that consciousness is separated from the body has a long tradition in the west thinkers. Plato portrayed the earthly body as a limiting factor on conscious experience. Kant insinuated the body as “an imposition to our pure spiritual life”. The idea matured into a proposition called Transmission Hypothesis — brain and body serve not as the originators of consciousness but rather as its trans-receiver.

And how about this? Alzheimer disease does not cause “memory loss”, rather “memory inaccessibility”, as the newest finds confirm:

I think it is pretty obvious where i am pointing now, so i will state it:

My hypothesis, based on all the above examples and basic logic, is that the brain and the respective areas from the brain are just a transceiver which is used to access the immaterial memory, which is a part of the nonphysical consciousness.

This being stated, as i know my argumentation can be considered vague or incomplete or even seriously flawed, i open the floor for debate. After all, no hypothesis and theory can be assumed without accepting the criticism.

I really hope this can be a fruitful debate.

Yours truly,

Adrian S.


One comment on “Memory debate – part 2 (as posted on Bernardo Kastrup’s forum)

  1. Reply says:

    Si eu sunt de acceasi parere cu tine. Creierele noastre sunt mai degraba ca niste antenute ce recepteaza niste semnale de Undeva.
    Mi-am amintit de un documentar frantuzesc care sprijina ideea asta:

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