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SOME BIOPSYCHOLOGY OF THINKING, IMAGERY, AND MEMORY WARD C. HALSTEAD, Ph.D.* Man is a time- and space-binding organism (i). His earth-bound ecological relations have in the relatively short span ofcivilization carried him to the dawn of an outer-space era. Serious students have noted that in the present century man also has evolved the capacity for his total destruction . What ofthe future? Will it be conquest ofspace or annihilation ofthe species? Will human intelligence as a Darwinian factor in evolutionary change and adaptation tip the scale for survival? There can be little doubt that the human brain is the primary source ofhuman intelligence. The "wisdom of the body," to use Cannon's phrase, involves in the brain the maintenance ofvital functions (the lower brain functions) and the regulation of adaptive behavior (the higher brain functions). Neurological science has made substantial progress in elucidating the former. But what does modern biology tell us of the higher brain functions? Is there, in brief, any basis in this area for optimism concerning the adaptive dilemma now presented to Homo sapiens? Thinking, imagery, memory, perception, learning, emotion, and motivationhave from the days ofWundt andJames constituted the core subject matter ofsystematic psychology. Modern research on brain function has cast new light upon each ofthese aspects ofhuman behavior. The current model ofhigher brain functioning set forth by the author in the following pages extracts commonality from these areas and reduces them parsimoniously . It is impractical to deal with each ofthem within the limits ofthis * Departments ofPsychology and Medicine, University ofChicago. 326 Ward C. Halstead · Some Biopsychology Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Spring 1938 essay. For our present purposes, recent developments in the analysis and investigation ofthinking, imagery, and memory as representative higher brain functions command our attention. What is their relation to neural mechanisms? For this discussion, a selected contemporaneous view must suffice. The interested reader will find excellent historical and supplementary discussions in Fearing,Reflex Action (2); Boring, History ofExperimental Psychology (3); and Herrick, The Evolution ofHuman Nature (4). I. Thinking Thinking is a form of problem-solving behavior which involves the correlation and integration ofcritical events in time and space. It is characterized by (1) a period of preliminary exploration, (2) a pre-solution period of search, (3) a period of vicarious testing of tentative solution, (4) an act ofclosure and registry ofa memory trace, and (5) appropriate action. The essential process of thinking is the bringing-together or grouping of critical events in time and space. If we analyze the key terms in this proposition, it is apparent that the term "critical events," so far as the brain is involved, is synonymous with information, with the technical restraints of information theory (5). The terms "time" and "space" are synonymous with the generic parameters ofthe physical universe. Before we analyze the neuropsychological mechanisms which underlie these key terms, let us look once more at the general attributes ofthinking. Biological science is quite familiar with the term "integration" and perhaps to a lesser extent with the term "correlation." Our immediate purpose is to indicate that the term "thinking" is an envelope term to cover the biological operations of correlation and integration. The importance ofthis analysis arises from the fact that considerable scientific progress has been made in recent years in our attempt to understand the mechanisms of integration and correlation in the central nervous system. We shall in the following avoid where possible the private subjectivism commonly implied in the layman's use of the term "thinking" and restrict its use here to imply correlation and integration. This is not to deny the role of conscious experience in many forms of problem-solving behavior, but, since consciousness may have its own neurology and physiology, it will help our understanding to set it aside momentarily for separate consideration . 327 A.NEURAL AND HUMORAL FORMS OF INFORMATION The mind stuffor information which requires to be correlated and integrated by the brain consists of(a) specific sensory input from the classical receptors, (b) specific and non-specific afferent feedbacks, (c) specific and non-specific efferent outflows, (d) specific and non-specific memory traces, and (e) "noise." These are the ingredients of organized behavior, whether the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 326-341
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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