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Caitlin Jeschke's picture

"Group" Survival in the Individual and the Importance of Memory

I think that your "survival as a group" idea is very appropriate for describing the nervous system.  There are numerous parts of the body controlled by different CPG's that must constantly communicate via corollary discharge, in order to produce the particular output that is best for the system as a whole (ex: the snail will withdraw its proboscis when poked to avoid danger that would compromise the entire system, but not if this means abandoning an equally advantageous activity, like eating).  This communication is further supplemented by sensory information, which helps to refine the output pattern (ex: if some type of proprioception tells the snail that it has enough nutrients, it may "decide" that protection is more important than feeding after all). This entire process could very easily take place without the phenomenon that we describe as "awareness".  However, awareness, and particularly memory, can be extremely useful, as they can provide a means to, in a way, "override" or alter current output patterns via the introduction of output from an event that is separated in time from the current situation.  This "memory" is not something that is physically available for the NS to sense, and yet it is (at least for me) a crucial part of the decision-making process.  Perhaps one of the jobs of the mysterious "I-function" is to act as a CPG that stores and releases bits of memory when properly triggered, connecting the rest of the nervous system to reafferent loops from the past.

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