Carls-Diamante, Sidney

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Explanation Within Arm’s Reach : A Predictive Processing Framework for Single Arm Use in Octopuses

2023, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

Octopuses are highly intelligent animals with vertebrate-like cognitive and behavioural repertoires. Despite these similarities, vertebrate-based models of cognition and behaviour cannot always be successfully applied to octopuses, due to the structural and functional characteristics that have evolved in their nervous system in response to the unique challenges posed by octopus morphology. For instance, the octopus brain does not support a somatotopic or point-for-point spatial map of the body—an important feature of vertebrate nervous systems. Thus, while octopuses are capable of motor tasks whose vertebrate counterparts require detailed interoceptive monitoring, these movements may not be explainable using motor control frameworks premised on internal spatial representation. One such motor task is the extension of a single arm. The ability of octopuses to select and use a single arm without the guidance of a somatotopic map has been regarded as a motor control puzzle. In an attempt at a solution, this paper develops a predictive processing account of single-arm extension in octopuses.

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The argument from Evel (Knievel) : daredevils and the free energy principle

2022, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

Much of the literature on the free energy principle (FEP) has focused on how organisms maintain homeostasis amidst a constantly changing environment. A fun- damental feature of the FEP is that biological entities are “hard-wired” towards self-preservation. However, contrary to this notion, there do exist organisms that appear to seek out rather than avoid conditions that pose an elevated risk of serious injury or death, thereby jeopardizing their physiological integrity. Borrowing a term used in 1990s popular culture to refer to stunt performers like Evel Knievel, these organisms that exhibit such behavioural characteristics can be referred to as daredevils. This paper presents the case of daredevils as a challenge to the FEP’s homeo- stasis- and optimization-based construal of biological systems. It also introduces three possible explanatory strategies by which the FEP can account for daredevils. The broader objective of the paper is to enhance the FEP’s ability to account for a diverse range of complex behaviour.

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Armed with information : chemical self-recognition in the octopus

2020, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

Of the modalities through which self-recognition is believed to be implemented, philosophical literature on the subject ismost familiar with vision and interoception. However, they are not the only ones: chemoreception is another modalitythat biologists have found to be a contributor to self-recognition in numerous species, of which arthropods are notable.This article aims to help address the gap between philosophical and biological literature by presenting the octopus as anexample of a creature in which peripheral chemoreceptive processes appear to be a significant component of self-recog-nition. Building on the findings of Nesher et al. that chemical compounds in octopus skin interfere with the behaviour ofits suckers, this article proffers an account of how chemoreception may contribute to self-recognition in octopuses.

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The octopus mind : Implications for cognitive science

2019, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

Mather consolidates the case for octopus mind and how it may be structured, shifting the starting point of inquiry from “If octopuses had minds, what would they be like?” to “What is the mind of an octopus like?”.

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Know thyself : bipolar disorder and self-concept

2023, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

This paper addresses an important yet neglected existential issue sometimes faced by persons with bipolar disorder (BD): confusion about the extent to which what one is like is influenced by BD. Although such confusion is common in psychiatric illnesses, BD raises idiosyncratic difficulties due to its intricate interactions with personality, cognition and behavior. The fluctuating mood phases of BD can generate inconsistency in one's self-experience and sense of self. One way to resolve this confusion would be to coherently account for BD within one's overall self-concept. To facilitate this task, this paper introduces a heuristic taxonomy of different relationships wherein BD can be viewed in light of self-related beliefs. The relationships are as follows: (1) BD contributes to the self, (2) BD scaffolds the self, (3) BD gradually becomes part of the self and (4) BD is not part of the ‘real self’. As the individual presentation of BD varies extensively, the type of relationship one feels holds true depends on one's personal experience of managing and living with the disorder. These relationships act as an organizing framework for one's self-related beliefs about how to account for the effects of BD on personality, behavior, cognitive patterns and other self-expressions.

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Where Is It Like to Be an Octopus?

2022, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

The cognitive capacities and behavioural repertoire of octopuses have led to speculation that these animals may possess consciousness. However, the nervous system of octopuses is radically different from those typically associated with conscious experience: rather than being centralised and profoundly integrated, the octopus nervous system is distributed into components with considerable functional autonomy from each other. Of particular note is the arm nervous system: when severed, octopus arms still exhibit behaviours that are nearly identical to those exhibited when the animal is intact. Given these factors, there is reason to speculate that if octopuses do possess consciousness, it may be of a form highly dissimilar to familiar models. In particular, it may be that the octopus arm is capable of supporting an idiosyncratic field of consciousness. As such, in addition to the likelihood that there is something it is like to be an octopus, there may also be something it is like to be an octopus arm. This manuscript explores this possibility.

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How to operationalise consciousness

2019, Carruthers, Glenn, Carls-Diamante, Sidney, Huang, Linus, Rosen, Melanie, Schier, Elizabeth

Objective: To review the way consciousness is operationalised in contemporary research, discuss strengths and weaknesses of current approaches and propose new measures.
Method: We first reviewed the literature pertaining to the phenomenal character of visual and self-consciousness as well as awareness of visual stimuli. We also reviewed more problematic cases of dreams and animal consciousness, specifically that of octopuses.
Results: Despite controversies, work in visual and self-consciousness is highly developed and there are notable successes. Cases where experiences are not induced, such as dreams, and where no verbal report is possible, such as when we study purported experiences of octopuses, are more challenging. It is difficult to be confident about the reliability and validity of operationalisations of dreams. Although this is a general concern about the measuring consciousness, it is not a sufficiently severe concern to completely undermine the work reviewed on vision and self-consciousness. It is more difficult to see how the good work on human psychology can be applied to non-human animals, especially those with radically different nervous systems, such as octopuses. Given the limitations of report-based operationalisations of consciousness, it is desirable to develop non-report-based measures, particularly for phenomenal qualities. We examine a number of possibil- ities and offer two possible approaches of varying degrees of practicality, the first based on combining quality space descriptions of phenomenal qualities and the notion of a “neural activation space” inherited from connectionist A.I., the second being a novel match to target approach.
Conclusion: Consciousness is a multi-faceted phenomenon and requires a variety of operationalisations to be studied.

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Repeating patterns : Predictive processing suggests an aesthetic learning role of the basal ganglia in repetitive stereotyped behaviors

2022-09-08, Spee, Blanca T. M., Sladky, Ronald, Fingerhut, Joerg, Laciny, Alice, Kraus, Christoph, Carls-Diamante, Sidney, Brücke, Christof, Pelowski, Matthew, Treven, Marco

Recurrent, unvarying, and seemingly purposeless patterns of action and cognition are part of normal development, but also feature prominently in several neuropsychiatric conditions. Repetitive stereotyped behaviors (RSBs) can be viewed as exaggerated forms of learned habits and frequently correlate with alterations in motor, limbic, and associative basal ganglia circuits. However, it is still unclear how altered basal ganglia feedback signals actually relate to the phenomenological variability of RSBs. Why do behaviorally overlapping phenomena sometimes require different treatment approaches−for example, sensory shielding strategies versus exposure therapy for autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, respectively? Certain clues may be found in recent models of basal ganglia function that extend well beyond action selection and motivational control, and have implications for sensorimotor integration, prediction, learning under uncertainty, as well as aesthetic learning. In this paper, we systematically compare three exemplary conditions with basal ganglia involvement, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and autism spectrum conditions, to gain a new understanding of RSBs. We integrate clinical observations and neuroanatomical and neurophysiological alterations with accounts employing the predictive processing framework. Based on this review, we suggest that basal ganglia feedback plays a central role in preconditioning cortical networks to anticipate self-generated, movement-related perception. In this way, basal ganglia feedback appears ideally situated to adjust the salience of sensory signals through precision weighting of (external) new sensory information, relative to the precision of (internal) predictions based on prior generated models. Accordingly, behavioral policies may preferentially rely on new data versus existing knowledge, in a spectrum spanning between novelty and stability. RSBs may then represent compensatory or reactive responses, respectively, at the opposite ends of this spectrum. This view places an important role of aesthetic learning on basal ganglia feedback, may account for observed changes in creativity and aesthetic experience in basal ganglia disorders, is empirically testable, and may inform creative art therapies in conditions characterized by stereotyped behaviors.

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Make up your mind : octopus cognition and hybrid explanations

2021, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

In order to argue that cognitive science should be more accepting of explanatory plurality, this paper presents the control of fetching movements in the octopus as an exemplar of a cognitive process that comprises distinct and non-redundant representation-using and non-representational elements. Fetching is a type of movement that representational analyses can normally account for completely—but not in the case of the octopus. Instead, a comprehensive account of octopus fetching requires the non-overlapping use of both representational and non-representational explanatory frameworks. What this need for a pluralistic or hybrid explanation implies is that cognitive science should be more open to using both representational and nonrepresentational accounts of cognition, depending on their respective appropriateness to the type of cognition in question.

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Out on a limb? : On multiple cognitive systems within the octopus nervous system

2019, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

The idea that there can be only one cognitive system within any single given cognitive organism is an established albeit implicit one within cognitive science and related studies of the mind. The firm foothold of this notion is due largely to the immense corpus of empirical evidence for the correlation of a high level of cognitive sophistication with a centralized ner-vous system. However, it must be pointed out that these findings are sourced in large part from studies on vertebrates.This paper presents a potential counterexample to the notion that only one cognitive system can be realized within any single genuine cognitive organism. This counterexample is the octopus, an invertebrate with what initially appears to be a paradoxical combination of vertebrate-like cognitive and behavioral capacities and a functionally decentralized nervous system. The extensive relegation of sensorimotor processing and control responsibilities to the peripheral nervous system which controls the arms of the octopus raises principled reasons to believe that the octopus is an organism that may house multiple independent cognitive systems.