Mental Health and the Brain:
Our third session and resulting on-line forum discussion  raised the possibility that not only human behavior but all human experiences (including understandings, a sense of reality, a sense of self, and acts of choice) are constructions of the brain. This in turn raised a number of new issues relevant to thinking about mental health (to say nothing of human life in general). Among them is the nature and relationship between "unconscious" and "conscious" processes, the subject of our upcoming discussion.
Readings for this week
- Time to think 
- Feeling our emotions 
- The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgement 
- From complexity to emergence and beyond 
Where's we've recently been ...
What sorts of observations put the mind in the brain, and with what certainty?
we talked a lot about dichotomies, and whether or not we felt the need to draw lines. Some people felt like these lines were necessary, that decisions had to be made to make terms and concepts credible. My problem with this is, even if in the moment, we can make some kind of line, how useful will that be? ... kgins 
Depending on which way you view the world ... you will approach these questions in a particular way and be looking for a particular kind of answer ... MartinBayer 
As a psychology major in undergrad, I often felt that there was a gap between the "harder" natural sciences (chem, bio, physics) and "softer" sciences such as psychology, anthropolgy etc ... I wonder why there needs to be a rift ... ryan g 
So reality is actually only our perception, but does that help us navigate our perceived reality? ... jrieders 
If we perceive things differently from one another, does this mean that there is more than one reality? ... vpizzini 
I think it is true that we create our own realities, and what really matters is not the “actual reality” (or whether that even exists) but our perception of reality because this is what is real to us ... Paige Safyer 
individual world views can be disabling, not (or not only) because they are not taken seriously by others, but (also) because ... they discourage personal agency and cast doubt on the possibility of change. Perhaps the problem in such cases is that the individual takes his/her own story too seriously ... anneliese 
I insisted that there are some concrete realities that transcend one's perception. For example, if all the brains in the entire class agreed that we were sitting on chairs, then the concrete reality was that we were sitting in chairs. I thought that if many independent minds share certain perception of reality, then the perceived reality must be real ... Nowadays, I'm not so sure because the fact that the perception is shared may just be a construct of the brain in itself... Paul Bloch 
I think that in creating narratives, our minds often strive to jive with others -- to make connections in shared perceptions or communal cues ... ysilverman 
Throughout the course of his illness, he had learned to anticipate conflict between his story and the accepted, communal story or stories. To a limited extent, he was conscious of his inability to defend, factually, his story. Therefore, he chose not to share his personal story ... A storyteller without an audience is a sign of mental illness? Or more generally, the lack of storytelling activity is mental illness? ... jrlewis 
How can we separate the physical from the emotional at all if they are, in fact, parts of the whole? Does this mean that all illness is, in some way, mental illness? ... Sophie F 
I like this idea and I think it's very important for people to realize that mental illnesses manifest themselves very physically ... Riki 
The "thing" that I get tripped up about when thinking about realism/constructivism, Truth, and the brain is materialism ... LauraC 
Many religions dislike the notion that we can 'trivialise' the human experience down to the firing of a few synapses. What if we acknowledge that the human experience is a creation of the brain but that doesn't make it less wonderful. In fact, I would argue that we don't need a ghost because the machine alone is deeply subtle and complex. ... akerle 
Dickinson couldn't separate God from the brain in her poem--and it seems to me that many people/patients will also have a hard time separating god/the creator from the brain, that which creates meaning ... mstokes 
I know that there is considerable evidence for the physiological basis of emotions, but what about thoughts/ideas and the notion of the self? Who says neural firing causes thoughts? Why not thoughts causing neural firing? I know this is an old (almost cliche) issue. Has it been answered and I'm just unaware of it? ... ryan g  (see Ljones )So far all the questions and doubts we are discussing - can we have certainty about things outside of our minds, is there anything that is TRUE, and also more generally, that "science" is a process of people trying to achieve some degree of "objectivity," through commonalities in their own subjective experiences - these are all questions of the conscious mind. But what of the unconscious? ... kmanning 
The trend of the evidence
Mind outside of brain has not been proved or disproved
Mind inside of brain has not been proved or disproved
Which story has been/will be more "useful"?
Time to Think 
neuropsychology (Ramachandran, Sachs, Damasio)
Can we localize "mind" within the nervous system ("will contain with ease, and You beside")
- Architecture 
- Sensory neurons, motor neurons, interneurons (further evidence for different and changeable realities)
- Input/output boxes linked by cables running in both directions
- Topographic organization and its implications
- Another box: the "I-function"
The bipartite brain  and "mind"
- the blind spot 
- blind sight , spastic paralysis
- pain, phantom limbs, emotion and feeling 
- eating behavior, moods, sleep and dreams 
- implicit, explicit memory
- the "cognitive unconscious": characteristics/capabilities/limitations
- the story teller: characteristics/capabilities/limitations
- multiple realities within one brain - Capgras syndrome
- the bidirectional interaction between the cognitive unconscious and the story teller
"Mental health" is necessarily about BOTH the brain and the mind, about the unconscious and the self-aware, about the physical and stories, because each one gives rise to the other and is in turn affected by it