Consciousness in Four Dimensions: Biological Relativity and the Origins of Thought

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9780071354998: Consciousness in Four Dimensions: Biological Relativity and the Origins of Thought

In Consciousness in Four Dimensions, neuropsychiatrist Richard Pico puts forth a bold new hypothesis for the origins of human consciousness. Drawing on twenty years of his own experimental and clinical work, as well as his training in physics, Pico proposes that the origins of thought can be pinpointed in the brain within the context of a theory of biological relativity. The theory is first illustrated with the emergence of life, whereby the first cell cohered and endured against the background flux of organic compounds, becoming its own four-dimensional frame of reference. The same model is applied to consciousness, which emerges in the prefrontal cortex when sensory information converges with input from the memory system in a series of modules. Thought exists above a flicker-fusion threshold, when the information that is passed from module to module is seen to endure in its own four-dimensional frame of reference, without degradation and without reference to the external three-dimensional environment. From this exquisitely complex iterative process, Pico proposes that all higher order human functions are built, from language to mathematics to music. This biological relativity model of consciousness is strongly materialistic, which places it in the company of the work of such thinkers as Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, and Antonio Damasio. Yet it is also completely original. Several theorizers, such as Fred Alan Wolf and Roger Penrose have proposed quantum theories of consciousness, but Pico is the only person applying relativity to the brain. With meticulous precision and admirable compassion, Pico places his theory in the context of other theories of consciousness, and explores its implications. He discusses why he thinks consciousness is uniquely human, how it can be seen to arise in individuals at about the age of two, and what it means when its development goes awry in the devastating "thought disorders" with which he has had so much experience as a clinician.

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A bold and brilliant new theory of the origins and nature of the human mind

In a book that will profoundly alter the modern discourse on mind and influence the practice of neuromedicine, neuroscientist/psychiatrist Richard M. Pico unveils a revolutionary new approach to understanding consciousness that pinpoints the origins of consciousness in the human brain. Pico seamlessly weds the laws of physics­­especially Einstein's laws of relativity­­to the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, molecular biology, and computational theory to create a coherent, four-dimensional model of the origins of life and the emergence of complex biological systems, from the first protocell, to the thinking brain. Along the way, he offers insights into the uniquely human capacity to use language, make music, and formulate complex mathematical descriptions of the natural world, while challenging some of our most cherished illusions, including those of free will and self-control.

In a work of profound insight and erudition, an intellectual feast and a mind-bending excursion to the outer limits of the knowable, Consciousness in Four Dimensions tells a riveting story that begins in Earth's imponderably distant past, when a primordial protocell endured long enough to become an independent, living frame of reference. Extrapolating from Einstein's theories, Dr. Pico explains that it was with this singular event, that evolution - ­­the eternal struggle between entropy and order - ­­gave rise to the first four-dimensional biological reference system, remote from the ebb and flow of the inorganic world around it. Pico describes how this event was the first step in the slow march of evolution which, over vast stretches of time, led to the appearance of neurons, brains, and the emergence of nature's most complex reference system­ - consciousness.

Drawing upon 20 years of experimental and clinical work, Dr. Pico takes us deep inside the lush ecosystem of the human body and nervous system to provide a fascinating glimpse of the dizzingly complex dance of organic processes out of which consciousness emerges. He lays bare the intricate neurological structures and processes that give rise to sensation, perception, emotion, and thought, and, in the process, he challenges some of our most cherished beliefs about free will, self-control, and the eternal "I." Pico further elaborates his theory through discussions of the origins of language, music, and mathematics. And he explores the causes and potential treatments for a variety of thought disorders.

With unflagging scientific precision Richard Pico clears the field of fashionable metaphysical explanations of consciousness to offer the most persuasive argument thus far for consciousness as an emergent property of quantifiable biophysical processes. Yet, by the conclusion of Consciousness in Four Dimensions what emerges is not a cold deconstruction of humankind and its limitations, but a staunchly humanistic vision of life and an impassioned defense of individualism and human freedom and dignity.

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