The energy at the meeting point of the brain and the mind. The hypothesis of the transformation of brain energy into mental energy.

The supporters of the embodied mind convincingly show that the functioning of the mind is the function of the whole organism of its owner. In this way, contrary to the computer metaphor of mind which constitutes the modern version of the Cartesian dualism, they once again unite the mind with nature. This naturalization of mind has vast consequences, however, here I would like to focus on only one of them, that is the energy problem.


The hypotehsis of the transformation of brain energy into mental energy

The energy comes to the human brain from two sources, that is:

1) from the digestive system, as the brain, like all the other organs in the human body, can fulfil its functions thanks to the energy coming from food. What is more, the human brain requires a lot of energy, it is estimated that it uses about 20% of the daily energy requirement even though it constitutes only about 2% of the body mass (Dunbar, 1998).

2) from the senses which receive and transform three forms of energy (Kalat, 2006), that is:

  • mechanical energy which is detected by the sense of hearing, balance and touch (somatic sensation, sensation of warmth and cold, pain, itching, tickling, position and joint movements)
  • chemical energy which is recorded by the sense of taste and smell
  • light energy (electromagnetic waves) which is detected by the sight.

What happens to the energy that is coming from both the digestive system and the senses at the meeting point of the brain and the mind?

As the answer to this question I offer a hypothesis: at the meeting point of the brain and the mind brain energy is transformed into mental energy and the other way round – mental energy into brain energy. I am aware that this is a bold hypothesis but there are a number of arguments for it:

1) the law of the conservation of energy which states that energy cannot be crated or destroyed, it can only be transformed

2) the growing number of studies showing that the brain metabolism has a significant role in the flow of psychological processes (e.g. Fidelman, 1993;  Gailliot et al.,  2007)

3) the inability to explain the functioning of the mind without using such terms as “force” or “mental energy” (e.g. Baumeister, 2004; Kahneman, 1973).

Valence as mental energy

The hypothesis according to which brain energy changes into mental energy raises at least two questions – first: how does this transformation take place?, second: into mental energy that is into what?, in other words, what in the mind is mental energy? I will not answer the first question here but I have certain hypotheses regarding the second one.

If the function of the mind is to recognise the meaning of stimuli for the organism and generating adequate reactions, then pure description and pure evaluation cannot take place in the mind. Pure description – because each perception, each thought, etc. is evaluated in terms of its meaning for the organism and pure valence – because it needs to have its subject. On the contrary, each mental object consists of these two basic elements, that is description and valence, just in different proportions.

This valence is „mental energy”!  However, as physics has trouble defining energy, it is also difficult to define valence. It is valence, though, that determines the dynamics of psychological processes. In the same way as there are different forms of energy which transform into one another in the physical world, there are different forms of valence which transform into one another in the mind. The basic forms of valence are:

1) semantic valence, which can be compared to mechanical energy, because in the same way as mechanical energy constitutes the property of the material body which makes it possible for it to do work, semantic valence constitutes the property of the mental object making it possible for it to do mental work (e.g. estimating something).

2)  internal valence, which can be compared to internal energy because in the same way as internal energy is transported between bodies in the form of heat, internal valence is transported between mental objects in the form of affect.

3) attention (wakefulness valence) (compare: Kahneman, 1973), which can be compared to an electromagnetic field because in the same way as an electromagnetic field constitutes an autonomic “physical being”, attention is not a property of mental objects but constitutes autonomic “mental being”.

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