Reflections on the interaction of the mind and brain

Progress in Neurobiology
Benjamin Libet


Problems associated with the topic of the mind-brain interaction are reviewed and analyzed. If there is an interaction, then the "mind" and "brain" are independent variables; the mind represents subjective experience and is therefore a non-physical phenomenon. This fact led to the need for a field theory, termed here the "cerebral mental field" (CMF). By definition, the CMF is a system property produced by the appropriate activities of billions of neurons. An experimental test of this theory is possible and a test design is presented. The most direct experimental evidence has been obtained by use of intracranial stimulating and recording electrodes. Important information has also been developed, however, with extracranial imaging techniques. These can be very fast (in ms), but the cerebral neuronal events that produce changes in physiological properties require a time delay for their processing. A number of surprising time factors affecting the appearance of a subjective somatosensory experience are described, and their wider implications are discussed. Among these is a delay (up to 0.5 s) in the generation of a sensory awareness. Thus, unconscious cerebral processes precede a subjective sensory experience. If this can be gener...Continue Reading


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