A similar line of reasoning applies to infantile amnesia. The hippocampus is not fully functional in the first two years of life. This suggests that it is not possible for someone to encode episodic memories during this time period. Naturally, this does not imply that these early years are unimportant, or that we have no memory of the first two years of life. It implies only that the memories that we do encode during the very early years will take the form of habits and beliefs (procedural and semantic knowledge) rather than explicit, episodic memories. Infantile knowledge is stored as “bodily memory” and implicit knowledge about how the world works. We therefore have every reason to expect that early experience has a decisive impact on personality development (considering the evidence of “neuronal pruning” and the like).
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.168
A famous case of Claparede’s is often cited in this connection. Claparede concealed a pin in his hand when he greeted the patient, pricking her hand as he shook it. When he next attempted to greet the patient, she withdrew her hand, even though she had no conscious recollection of ever having met Claparede before. The event of the meeting had disappeared from her memory, but its effect remained. This is an example of the dissociation between episodic and procedural memory. When asked why she refused to take Claparede’s hand, the patient explained that “one has the right to withdraw one’s hand” thereby demonstrating the dissociation between episodic and semantic memory. She know what to do (procedural memory), and she recalled relevant abstract facts (semantic memory), but she was unable to bring the appropriate actual experience (episodic memory) back to mind.
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.164
There are also interesting clinical implications relating to modifications of this system in some children. This opioid system has been found to be overactive in some cases of autism. Consequently, such children experience far less “pain” on separation than their peers, and as a result they bond less well with caregivers and other people. Consistent with this, drugs that block the operation of opiate channels produce more positive social interactions in some cases of autism. But, importantly, the drug only appears to work (to the extent that it can) if it is combined with renewed, facilitating encouragement from the social environment. It is as if the drug opens a window, but by itself it cannot change the nature of the child’s object relationships (Panksepp, 1998).
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.132
The SEEKING system of a newborn baby is switched on when activated by a need, without the baby knowing what is needed. Left to its own devices, it is so helpless that it will never find the objects required to satisfy its needs and will therefore die. For this reason, it has caregivers that function as “intermediaries” between its needs (communicated by the expression of its emotions) and the objects in the outside world. The actions that these intermediaries perform on the baby’s behalf – and their effects – are then gradually learned (“internalized”) until the child can take care of itself. This, as we all know, is why parenting is so important. Early experiences of satisfaction form the templates of our understanding of how life works; for a child, learning how to adequately recognize its needs and meet them in the world is utterly bound up with the quality of parenting it receives. There are all sorts of subtle ways in which this process might be disrupted or distorted (for instance, if a baby’s needs are routinely neglected or misunderstood or even met too soon, before they can be felt). The foundations can thereby be laid for later psychopathology – in combination with a set of biological “risk factors,” such as variation in the inherent “setting” levels of the basic affective systems.
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.122
When one starts thinking about the problem of consciousness in the way that Damasio suggests, the question of whether or not a machine can be conscious begins to appear rather ridiculous. Some day this question might only be asked by people who are unfamiliar with the essential neuroscientific facts about consciousness. Consciousness has everything to do with being embodied, with awareness of one’s bodily state in relation to what is going on around one. Moreover, this mechanism seems to have evolved only because bodies have needs. Consciousness is therefore deeply rooted in a set of ancient biological values. These values are what feelings are, and consciousness is feeling. It is therefore very difficult to imagine how, why, and where a disembodied machine would generate consciousness. This does not rule out the possibility of an artificial system with self-monitoring properties. But the self that it monitors would have to be a body (and preferably one with a long evolutionary history) if it is really going to generate feelings.
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.94
David Chalmers – one of the philosophers participating in the interdisciplinary field of “cognitive science” – argues that one aspect of the mind-body problem is “easy” and the other “hard.” In this way, he divides the issue into two separate problems.
The easy problem is the one that most neuroscientists are concerned with, and it is the one discussed by Crick in his Scientific Search for the Soul. Crick attempts to solve the problem by neuroscientific means. His research strategy is to try to find the specific neural processes that are the correlates of our conscious awareness (he calls them “the neural correlates of consciousness,” or NCC for short). Finding the neural correlates of consciousness is a problem of the same general type as finding the neural correlates of anything – language or memory for instance. Neuroscience has made great progress in solving such problems in the past. Finding the brain regions and processes that correlate with consciousness is simply a matter of directing an existing research strategy from areas of previous success (language, memory) not a different aspect of mental functioning (consciousness).
We should not underestimate the difficulty of finding the neural correlates of consciousness, but Crick is only looking for which brain regions or processes correlate with consciousness and describing where they reside. He does not attempt to explain how that particular pattern of physiological events makes us conscious. This is the hard problem. The hard problem is a conundrum of a different magnitude – it raises the question of how consciousness (“you, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions,…”) actually emerges from matter. Modern neuroscience is well equipped to solve the easy problem, but it is less clear whether is is capable of solving the hard problem. Science has few precedents for solving a problem that philosophers have deemed insoluble in principle.
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.47