Sensory Systems as Cybernetic Systems that Require Awareness of Alternatives to Interact with the World: Analysis of the Brain-Receptor Loop in Norwich's Entropy Theory of Perception

Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. San Antonio, TX (2009)
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Introduction & Objectives: Norwich’s Entropy Theory of Perception (1975 [1] -present) stands alone. It explains many firing-rate behaviors and psychophysical laws from bare theory. To do so, it demands a unique sort of interaction between receptor and brain, one that Norwich never substantiated. Can it now be confirmed, given the accumulation of empirical sensory neuroscience? Background: Norwich conjoined sensation and a mathematical model of communication, Shannon’s Information Theory, as follows: “In the entropic view of sensation, magnitude of sensation is regarded as a measure of the entropy or uncertainty of the stimulus signal” [2]. “To be uncertain about the outcome of an event, one must first be aware of a set of alternative outcomes” [3]. “The entropy-establishing process begins with the generation of a [internal] sensory signal by the stimulus generator. This is followed by receipt of the [external] stimulus by the sensory receptor, transmission of action potentials by the sensory neurons, and finally recapture of the [response to the internal] signal by the generator” [4]. The latter “recapture” differentiates external from internal stimuli. The hypothetical “stimulus generators” are internal emitters, that generate photons in vision, audible sounds in audition (to Norwich, the spontaneous otoacoustic emissions [SOAEs]), “temperatures in excess of local skin temperature” in skin temperature sensation [4], etc. Method (1): Several decades of empirical sensory physiology literature was scrutinized for internal “stimulus generators”. Results (1): Spontaneous photopigment isomerization (“dark light”) does not involve visible light. SOAEs are electromechanical basilar-membrane artefacts that rarely produce audible tones. The skin’s temperature sensors do not raise skin temperature, etc. Method (2): The putative action of the brain-and-sensory-receptor loop was carefully reexamined. Results (2): The sensory receptor allegedly “perceives”, experiences “awareness”, possesses “memory”, and has a “mind”. But those traits describe the whole human. The receptor, thus anthropomorphized, must therefore contain its own perceptual loop, containing a receptor, containing a perceptual loop, etc. Summary & Conclusions: The Entropy Theory demands sensory awareness of alternatives, through an imagined brain-and-sensory-receptor loop containing internal “stimulus generators”. But (1) no internal “stimulus generators” seem to exist and (2) the loop would be the outermost of an infinite nesting of identical loops.

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