Neural Fabrics of the Mind: Systems Neuroscience, Systems Psychology and Consciousness

AK Mukhopadhyay, 2015

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Abstract

Mind operates on the fabrics of signaling of systems biology of astrocyte-neuron mosaic. Conversion of signal to information and its handling by operations of mind is not a solo affair. Operations of mind are interlinked with operations of self, ‘life’ and consciousness. Could all these be brought within the ambit of systems science? When the automated cell signaling system in systems biology fails to operate at the desirable level of perfection, how self is called upon for application of mind to take a conscious decision on the remedial measures is the issue at hand. What we see as mental disorders, have deep roots in cell signaling and in failure of handling of information by operations of mind, self and ‘life’. The purpose of this review is to take lead from the renaissance in emerging knowledge in glia-neuron relationship for developing the molecular foundation of a systems neuroscience, which is inclusive of cognition and consciousness and excludes nothing from the behavior. A nested three-tier systems has been constructed where, in the first tier/nest there is systems biology of glia and neuron that form functional mosaic in the context of their origin, survival, migration, trophism, metabolic shuttles, ion homeostasis and circuit development. In the second tier/nest there is systems biophysics and informatics, which includes electrical signaling, communication and information partnership between astrocytes and neurons. The knowledge on operations within the third tier/nest is still at the formative stage. However, this leads us from the domain of information to those of mind, self, ‘life’ and consciousness. This specific way of looking at the systems brain in one hand brings useful insights in pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders and on the other hand could be utilitarian for its translational potential in systems engineering for developing a conscious ware from the present level of software.

Introduction

Neuroscience has shown two major advancements. First, there is far-reaching development in cell signaling system involving the metabolome-proteome-genome of neuron. Second, almost a renaissance in emerging knowledge in glia-neuron relationship has been observed in terms of cognition, memory, learning and behavior. As a result, there is an intense urge to bring all revealed data in neurological science under the ambit of systems neuroscience. In psychology and psychiatry, the blurred distinction between mind and consciousness has been becoming clear with an understanding that no information inside the brain is an island. Operations of mind with information are not seen isolated but interconnected with operations of self and life. Consciousness has been recognized as an undisputed and not-eliminable causal operator in cognition, emotion (feelings) and will. The author works on the question, could the systems psychology be brought in line with systems bioinformatics and systems biology? This review forms opinion on this issue, makes an effort to bring systems biology of individual neurons and glia with systems neuroscience within the ambit of systems psychology and systems consciousness.

 

The objectives of this review are to (i) catalog available information, extract meaning and refine knowledge on the rock bottom infrastructure of mind, (ii) build up generalizable theme and concepts from the perspectives of systems neuroscience, with reference to neurodegenerative disorders and neuropsychiatric disorders and (iii) identify knowledge gaps and help idea/ hypothesis generation that can guide construction of theoretical model or design experiment. The aim is to prepare the ground to develop a distinct three-tier framework for a holistic integrated systems science of the nervous system, which is inclusive of cognition and consciousness and excludes nothing from molecular signaling or behavior.

 

The Review has four parts.

Part I deals with glia-neuron systems biology, metabolic signaling and their breakdown in various neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders (Nest/Tier I).

Part II has two sections, A & B.

Section A deals with the systems communications in neuron-neuron-astrocyte-neuron circuits (Nest/Tier II). In section B, we describe the infrastructure scaffolding for mind-consciousness activities combining tiers/nests II and III. The section, in fact, prepares ground for nest III.

Part III is on the decision-making systems labyrinth of mind, self ‘life’ and consciousness (Nest/Tier III). This all is for a doable inter connected systems science of the brain and consciousness (Table 1).

Part IV of the Review deals with a possible paradigm shift, emergence of a new Paradigm and our heading for a revolution. It ends with concluding remarks and perspectives.

 

The special feature of the article is its discussion in full possible details the biochemical and molecular facets of the most of the relevant areas as known till date. This strengthens the foundation of molecular psychiatry considerably. By radically replacing the old monolithic concept of psyche with an integrated systems operation of information, mind, self, ‘life’ and consciousness interlinked with their rock bottom at molecular level, this review shows a new way for investigating mental health and illness.

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