Brain and Mind

Mask with closed eyes and images
The inner world

Cognitive neuroscience demonstrates the link between brain and mind. Change in thought, emotion, or perception is associated with activation of neural networks. Change induced in the brain through chemicals, neurotransmitters, lesions, or trans-magnetic stimulation is coupled with change in thought, emotion, or perception. Mind and brain seem so different yet isomorphic. They seem different because they are viewed from different vantage points. Mind encompasses the domain of the subjective; and the brain, the domain of the objective. Mind is experienced as within and brain is perceived as without.

But the idea of any simple mechanistic connection between mind and brain is doomed to failure. This was demonstrated fifty years ago when the renowned neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield, implanted electrodes during open brain surgery in the human cortex. Successive activation of the same electrode implanted in exactly the same place elicited different memories, hallucinations, or sensations. What occurred did not arise from any one-to-one connection between a neuron and a memory, but depended upon the total equilibrium condition of the brain. From his eloquent experiments, science learned that neural pathways are dynamic and shifting, subject to systemic rules and complexity.
Neither brain nor mind appears to obey any simple deterministic calculus. This is glaringly obvious when an individual “mind” is contextualized by family, group, culture, and economy. That is, what individuals think, feel, or perceive is influenced by their proximate and distal social and economic environment as well as physical change within their bodies. This view finds expression in the social-cultural synthesis of the Frankfort School of psychoanalysis. On the one hand, mind is embedded in the body; on the other hand, mind is embodied in broader social-economic networks. Psychology, as embodied in psychodynamic theory, requires openness to causality at all levels and a broad base of understanding of the biological, ecological, interpersonal, cultural, and economic factors that influence human behavior.