New Member, Neurologist

General discussion regarding Jaynes's theory of consciousness and the bicameral mind. Please only post your topic here only if it does not fit into a more specific category below.
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New Member, Neurologist

Post by bugsenior »

I am a neurologist, recently retired after 30 years of clinical practice and teaching. Despite my interest in cognition and memory, Jaynes' work was unknown to me. He is accorded 1 1/2 pages of mention in Richard Dawkin's book The God Delusion. Dawkins is a fine evolutionary biologist, but like many scientists who become public intellectuals commenting on culture (such as Noam Chomsky, Bertrand Russell and Linus Pauling), he is best advised to keep his day job. I am indebted to him, however, for introducing me to Jaynes' Origin of Consciousness... may be the most original work of serious scholarship I know. Two recent books complement Jaynes' arguments:

1. Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer, anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis. This is a neurophysiological, psychological and cultural examiniation of religious practice. He identifies brain "modules" that function in this capacity, most notably right temporal/parietal lobe.

2. Creative Genius by Nancy Andriesson. She is one of the leading investigators of the mind, as an academic psychiatrist at U of Iowa. She relies on PET scanning and clinical data to argue convincingly that genius does not gestate great insights. Rather, fully developed concepts are presented to the genius' conscious mind instantaneously.

Jaynes' brilliant insights resonate with me in part due to my clinical experience. Over my career I encountered perhaps 5 or 6 patients with low grade right temporal neoplasms who exhibited Jaynsian profiles. Shared characteristics included hyper-religiosity, perceived divine inspiration and communication, and mistrust of medical recommendations. Anticonvulsant therapy was beneficial in some cases, although one patient, an R.N., discontinued medication due to loss of her voices on treatment. Unfortunately she steadfastly declined surgery and failed to maintain follow up, only to return a decade later. By that time, her low grade oligodendroglioma had undergone malignant change. By this time, treatment measures proved inadequate. As I recall, this small group of patients all had lesions of medial temporal lobe. Several had symptoms alleviated by neurosurgical resection. Curiously, I cannot recall a similar such syndrome in stroke or head injury patients. I did encounter one patient who recovered from herpes simplex encephalitis with post encephalitic seizure disorder. HSVE preferentially damages temporal lobes. As I well remember, the man described had a right medial temporal residual lesion with a "Jaynesian" syndrome.

Further observations to follow, including published and unpublished cases of transient global amnesia (TGA) which are illuminating.

I commend Andriessen's and Boyer's works to any admirer of Jaynes' formulation.
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Post by Moderator »

Thank you for your interesting post. I bought Dawkins new book a week or so ago but have not had a chance to read it yet. I'm looking forward to seeing what he has to say about Jaynes and perhaps following up with him.

I'll be interested to read the other books you've recommended as well, and will follow up with comments.
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Post by godmemes »


I'd welcome you to the forum except that you are actually my senior here by a few days.

Thanks for the book recommendations. They are now on my reading list.

I'm glad to find a neurologist here. I have some background in neuroscience: I took the core courses for a a graduate degree in neuroscience, and worked as an RA briefly in some neuroscience labs, while I was on my way to getting a Masters degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology. There is VERY VERY MUCH that I don't know on the subject of neurology but this doesn't stop me from having lots of speculative thoughts on the subject, so I hope that well-informed people such as yourself will feel free to metaphorically pull on my coat-sleeve whenever I'm letting my ignorance carry me off in the wrong direction!
Mark Zima

My blog (essays+forum) site is
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Re: New Member, Neurologist

Post by ebuchman »

I am certainly thrilled to be able to pose a question to a neurologist:
What do you know of DMT, the endogenous neurotransmitter which occurs in considerable concentrations in some plants and is used as a powerful hallucinogen in indigenous cultures (in a brew called Ayahuasca or Yage)? Recently, DMT has been identified as the endogenous ligand for the the sigma-receptor. The inherent psycho-activity of DMT leads me to speculate that it was the neurochemical substrate of the bicameral mind (which stems from the DMT theory of schizophrenia, popular before the compound was made illegal). Others believe DMT is responsible for dreaming and mystical states (near death, out of body, etc.) and I think it would be reasonable to consider its role in bicamerality, and therefore schizophrenia. Perhaps sigma blocking drugs could be used as anti-psychotics if these ideas turn out to be true.
Let me know what you think of this!

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