Friday, March 29, 2024

Reafference, exafference, and a possible origin of the mind (thanks to Ed Yong’s “An Immense World”)

According to Ed Yong's "An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us" (2022), organisms distinguish between the sensations of their own activity ("reafference") and those from outside ("exafference"). Even organisms with a few hundred neurons have a system like this: the signals generating activities split to also predict how each activity will feel. The predicted perceptions can be compared to actual perceptions to distinguish "reafference" from "exafference". Yong quotes neuroscientist Michael Hendricks: sentience might be "the process of sorting perceptual experiences into self-generated and other-generated." If so, the origin of the mind must lie in that separation of self and other, even in the simplest nervous systems. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 29 March 2024)

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