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Daniela Giordano and Alberto Faro, “Disentangling” Time Entanglements Between Mind/Matter And Brain/Environment In Quantum Theories: Implications For Modeling Memory 

Quantum-based theories, either based on quantum mechanics or on quantum fields, share the notion that when a closed system (i.e., without any relationship with the external)  is studied as two distinct and interacting parts, time symmetry, which is a property of closed systems, is broken and time arises. Based on the nature of the division, time may arise in one or both of the resulting entangled counterparts, subject to the contraint that the overall closed system be timeless.

We critically examine three approaches to performing this “cut” of the closed system formed by the mind or the brain and their external. The first one derives from the theoretical approach of Pauli and Primas, who divide the primordial one world (“unus mundus”) into material tenseless process (matter) and non material tensed processes (mind). They claim that time in the mind has a single, unidirectional arrow relating mental events to pastness, nowness and futurity (tensed events), whereas in the matter events are subject to ordering relationships (earlier than, after that). In this framework instead of thinking of time in the mind as a “stream that flows” it is more fruitful to adopt the idea that the stock of memories increases.

In the second approach, championed by Vitiello and Freeman, the division between the brain and the environment takes into account the dissipative nature of quantum brain dynamics, according to which the energy spent by the brain in storing observations must be gained by the environment. As a consequence, time symmetry is broken, the observations are recorded according to mental time and the entangled environment is a time-reversed copy of the brain, consisting of the sequence of stimuli correlated with the stored observations. This sequence is represented in the brain as a “double”, which is an effect of the brain-environment interaction; the coupling of the brain and its double allows the conscious retrieval of memories. In this model, grounded on quantum field theory (QFT), the double acts as the address  of the infinite inequivalent states (made possible by QFT) where observations are stored.

In the third approach, Pribram proposes a division between the spectral domain and the space/time domain to address the entanglement between mind and matter: through the Gabor transformation and its inverse (which are quantum computations carried out at dendritic level) time-space patterns of the brain surface circuitry related to input stimuli can be bound with a deep holonomic store where experience is accumulated in terms of spectral patterns distributed on interconnected dendritic arbors. This binding supports a content-addressable model of memory in which a holographic-like matching of the input and the correlated stored memories allows retrievals. Time marks the accumulation of experiences in the holonomic store and may contribute to their indexing.

In the talk we assess the potential and shortcomings of these approaches,  also in the light of the most recent experimental findings that we have obtained in our lab (PeRCeiVe Lab) in generating realistic images of classes of objects from EEG recordings, and outline a refinement of a model of memory that we put forward some years ago to support a process of meaning making based on the dynamic framing and (re)framing of stories within larger scenes.


Patrick Colm Hogan, Affective Space and Emotional Time: Lǐ bái (李白) and Lǐ qīngzhào (李清照)

In Affective Narratology, I argued that our experiences of space and time are fundamentally emotional, first of all in literary works, but also in the real world. Space in stories is a matter of home and exile, where the protagonist loves or hates, feels the calm of familiarity or is subjected to the distress of disorientation. As to time, I argued that the structure of an event is not an objective feature of the world in itself. The complex interaction of causal sequences, instantiating causal principles in the world, does not form itself into such isolable units. It is, rather, our emotional response to conditions or alterations in conditions that makes one point in time a beginning of an event and another point the end of an event. Events are a matter of the concerns we have about the world; they are not a matter of the world as such. In short, both space and time are not solely a matter of objective causes and causally relevant properties, but also of motivation and agency.

This talk extends the affective treatment of space and time through the examination of two widely admired Chinese poems. Specifically, I begin by setting out a few concepts that are prominent in the neuroscience of space and, to a lesser extent, time—spatial orientation, egocentric and allocentric space, bodily space, peripersonal space, and so on. In each case, I go on to consider just what we may learn about affective spatiality and temporality by examining these literary works. My goals are to propose specific ways of furthering a research program in the psychology of space and time and to suggest more broadly the place of literary study in that program.


Raoul Schrott and Arthur M. Jacobs, Space, Time And The Literary Brain

Ogniuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
traffito da un raggio di sole;
ed è subito sera.

Sometimes three lines suffice to get readers lost in the textworld, as evidenced by Quasimodo’s famous poem. According to Schrott and Jacobs (2011) these lines automatically evoke mental images which are then bound together according to our concepts of space and time. Since readers always tend to unite all pieces of information under a good gestalt, the word ‚traffito‘ means that something hits us frontally in the middle of our body, thus making it likely that it is around 3 p.m. But how can we stand on the core of the earth?

In this talk, Raoul Schrott will give an overview of the cognitive dispositions of poetry. Why was poetry invented? Why does it generally use short lines of verses? What is the cognitive basis for metaphors as its most distinctive feature? How does rhyme funtion and in how far does the spatial distribution of rhyme affect our sens of time? What do our basic tropes such as Litotes oder Metalepsis imply about our conception of time and space?

Arthur Jacobs will then discuss the neuroccognitive bases of reading immersion – and why it can dissolve our recognition of the ‘real’ space and time around us. How is textmediated transportation into a virtual space-time possible? Which neuronal and affective-cognitive processes drive and accompany the subjective immersive and aesthetic experience many readers report after reading a text? (Jacobs, 2015; Jacobs & Willems, 2017; Willems & Jacobs, 2016).


Jacobs AM (2015). Neurocognitive poetics: methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literature reception. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9:186. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00186
Jacobs, A.M., & Willems, R. (2017). The fictive brain: neurocognitive correlates of engagement in literature. Review of General Psychology, in press.
Schrott, R. & Jacobs, A. M. (2011). Gehirn und Gedicht: Wie wir unsere Wirklichkeiten konstruieren (Brain and Poetry: How We Construct Our Realities). München: Hanser.
Willems, R., & Jacobs, A. M. (2016). Caring about Dostoyevsky: the untapped potential of studying literature. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 243–245.


Semir Zeki, Aesthetic experiences and their significance

In this theoretical talk, I will discuss beauty under two headings, biological and artefactual, the beauty of faces and human bodies being an example of the former and architectural beauty of the latter.
The experience of biological beauty is strongly circumscribed by inherited brain concepts which humans share; hence we are usually correct in assuming that what we experience as beautiful in this domain will also be experienced as beautiful by others and therefore has universal validity and little variance.
The experience of artefactual beauty, on the other hand, is largely interfaced through brain concepts that are acquired post-natally; here what one person experiences as beautiful is strongly dictated by culture and learning and is updated continuously throughout post-natal life. Hence, in this domain, one cannot assume that what one experiences as beautiful is also experienced as beautiful by others. Artefactual beauty, in brief, has no universal validity.
This raises the question of where, in this categorization, mathematical beauty belongs. Because mathematics is dependent upon the brain’s logical-deductive system, which humans of different culture and education share, and because a mathematician can make the reasonable assumption that a mathematical formulation has universal validity, it follows that mathematical beauty falls into the biological category. In mathematics, perhaps more than in any other discipline, the beauty of formulations is indicative of their truthfulness. Hence that beauty has been, and continues to be, a guide to the structure of the Universe, apprehended through mathematical formulations, often even before their discovery.