Some Conceptual Tools for Tracking Continuous Mental Trajectories

Michael Spivey

in The Continuity of Mind

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780195170788
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786831 | DOI:
 Some Conceptual Tools for Tracking Continuous Mental Trajectories

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This chapter introduces the distinction between a pure mental state, which is an idealized (prototype) location in the state space that is never perfectly visited, and a probabilistic mental state, which is the region surrounding that location, often functioning like an attractor basin that “pulls” the system toward itself. With some simple simulations and visualizations, this chapter more richly explicates how the concept of a pattern of neural activation changing over time is equivalent to a continuous trajectory through a state space. As the trajectory settles into one attractor basin, the landscape changes (due to adaptation, new sensory input, and feedback from motor commands) so that the trajectory then moves on toward other attractor basins.

Keywords: mental state; dynamical systems; trajectory; population code; attractor basin; attractor landscape; attractor network

Chapter.  7762 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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