Document status: May 30, 2003

Maintained out of interest, as a source of ideas and as basis for possible rewriting if I need / want to study the topics systematically

Neuro-physiology and relation to levels and modes of mental function

No further action for Journey in Being



1        The Model: A Skeleton

2        Mind-Body Spectrum

3        A Map of Areas of Function of Mind

4        Levels of Mental Activity and Description

4.1      Biochemical

4.2      Organic

4.3      Functional Level

4.4      Temporal and Developmental Levels

5        Function and Dysfunction


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I wrote this document to better understand the levels and details of mind / body and their integration and interactions; and to understand function and dysfunction

Many topics are better treated in other works that are linked and referenced below

This document is the source of the bound / free distinction in cognitive function

The “model” is openly psycho-somatic and the material that is retained reflects that focus

The antireductionist stance adopted is primarily practical rather than ontological

1           The Model: A Skeleton

Sketches of historical interest: Mind Sketches

2           Mind-Body Spectrum

The topic is treated in Journey in Being and Problems in the Philosophy of Mind

3           A Map of Areas of Function of Mind

A much improved treatment is in Journey in Being

4           Levels of Mental Activity and Description

A much improved treatment of the functional and temporal levels is in Journey in Being

The original levels of activity were equivalent to the biochemical, organic, the functional and those involving extension in time and include learning, development, personality, and commitments

Some treatment of the biochemical and the organic is in Journey in Being and Neuro-Psychology. My current interest in the biological levels is such that I would rather develop individual topics as I need them. If I need a systematic development I may turn to the foregoing references as a start and then to other standard works. Neuro-Psychology has an overview of various levels of organization and includes the evolutionary layers of organization including a critique of Paul MacLean’s hierarchical triune brain concept developed in the 1940s and 1950s

4.1         Biochemical

Neuro-chemical function and dysfunction: Neurotransmitter availability and sensitivity - excess or deficiency, deficit, distribution, generation and uptake, neurotransmitter chemical distortion; general and specific effects

Fluid-electrolyte balance effects

Nutrient quality and metabolism including metabolic aberrations, deficits and deficiencies, and enhancements - including drugs

Endocrine function: primary – endocrine function, hyperfunction, deficit and deficiency, aberration as these factors affect and reflect mental function; and secondary – as endocrine function affects other systems and biochemical function

4.2         Organic

Cellular: Quality of mental function pertains to function of neural and glial cells in brain and nerves, their quantity, ratio and their structure. Structure of neurons and nerve cells depends on part of brain and nerve-system. Thus the structure in the spinal cord provides for motor neurons to have long axons covered by a myelin sheath: function relates to integrity of the neuron and continuity and integrity of the sheath. Dendrites of the neuron in the human cerebellum have numerous branches, whereas in the cortex they are somewhat sparse. Dysfunction is in the form of decay, aberration and discontinuity, deficit, death and insular [myelin] breakdown; sources are genetic, nutrient, aging, disease, substance abuse and invasion, and - on the positive side - factors of health which include general heath and use or disuse

Structural: Refers to “hardware” and includes organization of neural and glial cells, quality, richness and distribution of interconnections, and energy, chemical and biochemical and nutrient supply pathways. Function relates to neural hardware organization and support [glial cells, blood-brain distribution and diffusion including arterial, capillary and veinous distribution]; hyperfunction to the richness of these factors [overabundance in the case of over-function] and may be genetic, developmental - use: range, quality, intensity and consistency over time and at key phases, nutritive, environmental and due to general issues of psychosomatic health. Dysfunction may likewise be due to deficits and imbalances in the same areas

Hyperfunction and dysfunction [which include enhancement and over-function, deficit and imbalance] may range from general to specific, and in the case of specific hyperfunction may be genetic or compensatory due to development and evocation [or due to biochemical or cellular enhancement]

In the cerebral cortex “processing” is the function - interconnections define [in part] function - matter is “grey”. The function in the cerebrum is communication, interconnection - insulation [myelin] is important - matter is “white”

Organ tissue: Micro-factors in “biochemical”, “cellular”, structural” reappear here as they affect tissue quality locally. Also important locally is the mechanical structure [in addition to biochemical, hardware structure]: density, integrity, resilience, support of the various tissue factors [matter, communication, nutrient-energy-oxygen supply]. Quality of organ-tissue function pertains to local and global quality, integrity and distribution of tissue types and proper function is due to genetic and developmental factors [growth wise]. Again, general health is important. Briefly, quality of mental function pertains to integrity and distribution of tissue and dysfunction is due to trauma secondary to accident, tumor, and tissue death secondary to oxygen and nutrient deficit and substance invasion. In addition to sudden death due to sudden interruption of oxygen as in cerebral vascular accident or stroke [CVA], shock, cardiopulmonary failure, there is also insidious onset of dysfunction due to diminished oxygen secondary to diminished cardiovascular and respiratory performance. Of the latter, arterial disease is significant. The nature of the dysfunction will depend on the location of tissue death - thus in CVA it may be sudden and specific. In cardiopulmonary failure, such as choking and acute heart failure, sudden and general; and in arterial disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it may be specific [if the region of impaired vascular dysfunction is localized within the central nervous system], or general and insidious

The types of tissue death or trauma considered above are generally permanent or semi-permanent [also in their effect]. Brain trauma is usually permanent, whereas the insidious effect of arterial disease may be reversed. There are also a number of conditions resulting in delirium which is temporary - provided it is reversed soon enough. These include substance intoxication, temporary nutrient and oxygen imbalances and deficits secondary to a wide range of causes - onset of diabetic coma, poisoning…

4.3         Functional Level

4.4         Temporal and Developmental Levels

As noted above, a much improved treatment of the functional and temporal levels is in Journey in Being

5           Function and Dysfunction

These topics are dealt with in the references of Levels of Mental Activity and Description and in Problems in the Philosophy of Mind


See Bibliography

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If the occasion arises I will rewrite this document

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