The Information paradigm and brain/mind health
As science and clinical practice evolve, we move through a series of paradigm shifts. Things that were once thought of as abstract entities such as ego, motivation, and mood, become successively reduced to different levels of science. We have a chemical brain, we are told. We have an electrical brain, we are told. We are all comprised of vibrations, that we share and use to control and communicate. Einstein stated that matter itself is merely a reduced vibration of energy. Students of electrochemistry, quantum physics, and such understand the composition of subatomic particles, how they interact, and how they produce the illusion that we call reality.
Current neurobiology talks about synapses, neurotransmitters, proteins, and networks. The more we learn, the more we think about the roles of dc potentials, glial activity, subsynaptic organization, and metagenetics. Microtubules and quantum uncertainty are brought in as possible underpinnings of free will, or even “free won’t.” More recent work has verified something that many have speculated on for decades, that simple electrotonic conduction of slow fields in the neural tissue can have effects across neurons. This further provides support for the use of low-power pulsed electromagnetic fields pEMF as a viable form of neuronal modulation.
What is the common underpinning that will incorporate all of these dimensions and considerations, and provide a theoretical basis for neuromodulation and mental health? It is, quite simply, that of information itself. The organization of any entity into an information-carrying medium is quite automatic and implicit. Any system in which a path or decision can be mediated, communicated, or put into action, is basically manipulating information. What are the scientific principles that we use for this investigation? Information theory, chaos theory, dynamical systems, nash equilibria, and strange attractors are more fundamental than neurons, ions, synapses, or pharmaceuticals. The foundational work in mental health for the next century will focus on goal-seeking systems, self-organization, graph theory, and dynamic stability, much more than continuing to pry into details and mechanisms. By studying the system, how it responds, how it determines and seeks goals, and how it recognizes and makes decisions based upon patterns, will take the forefront as a truly new science of brain and mind emerges.
Who are the names and concepts that we will look upon in the future in this regard? Names like Norbert Weiner, Bertrand Russell, Claude Shannon, Benoit Mandelbrot, and John Nash. Concepts such as cybernetic control, self-referencing systems, information content, fractals, strange attractors, and dynamic equilibria are at the center stage of pure information and control theory. In neurofeedback in particular, the goal is one of providing the salient information to the system, and allowing it to learn. The form that that information takes and how it is presented are the keys to the evolution of brain modulation technology and the self-modifying systems approach to mental health.