Frequently-asked Questions

Definition of neuromythography

neuro-: pertaining to the brain

-mytho: pertaining to myths

-graph: a relational data structure with nodes and links

-graphy: a process for recording and memorializing

-mythography: the cataloguing of myths and their artful expressions

What use is neuromythography?

Neuromythography is a kind of "mindhack" that engages the social and supermemorizer parts of our brains. It uses personifications to bootstrap a deeper understanding of brain parts as they appear in the neuroscience literature. It also provides a potential bridge from neuroscience to ancient notions of the psyche, that may be become more relevant than the cognitive psychology and philosophy words that predominate discourse today.

Who can benefit from neuromythography? Anyone who wants to explore an extremely detailed interpretive model of the brain, distilled directly from the neuroscience literature.

What inspired neuromythography?

Neuromythography weaves together an eclectic set of ideas:

  • What if the dissolution of self reported in schizophrenia, temporal lobe epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, psychedelic dosing, and so on provides the experiencers an intermittent window into the componentization of the brain that is otherwise hidden behind an illusory unified curtain of consciousness?
  • What if spiritual and mythological characters--Carl Jung's Collective Unconscious--represent a crowdsourced heritage that can be mined to find metaphorical correspondences in the neuroscience literature?
  • Carl Jung's analytical psychology and its allies
  • The book The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky
  • The long-standing desire for a an evolution creation myth, yet nobody has ever created one. See Jonas Salk's Theater of Man dream and Daniel Dennett's late spiritual longings.
  • The effectiveness of Australian Aboriginal Songlines for memorization
  • Vannavar Bush's 1945 The Atlantic essay As We May Think, describing his vision for a personalized memex, which differs in from the shared computer terminals and databases that instantiated his vision in the 1960s.
  • Aristid Lindemayer's l-systems as the closest thing to a fundamental physics law in Life. For example, the "golden l-system", [A->B, B->BA], produces Fibonacci strings, and is a pattern found everywhere from cyanobacteria multiplication to structural motifs of the brain.
  • The mysterious connection between music theory, the Eisenstein integers, and the toroidal continuous attractor network model of neuronal processing.
  • A chain of personal synchronicity events.
  • What if we ignored everyone who said it shouldn't be done, and sat with it long enough to do it, anyway?

What is a neuromemex?

The term 'neuromemex' is inspired by scientist Vannevar Bush's 1945 concept he called a memex, a personal computerized collection of research information that predates computer terminals and databases.

A neuromemex is a graph database that contains neuroinformatics, . The particular one built by Neuromemex has more than 1,000 brain areas, about 400 neurotransmitters and receptors, and more than 8,000 hand-annotated studies. This information is then used to summarize the entities into archetypes for memorization, and the studies gain new richness as the mythology of the psyche.

The reference neuromemex implemented by Neuromemex is of similar size to publicly-available resources (e.g. HCP Glasser parcellation, Allen Brain Atlas, NeuroSynth, NeuroNames) because it is curated from them and many other resources. For example, NeuroSynth has over 14,000 studies, while the Neuromemex graph database has over 8,000. The Allen Brain Atlas has about 370 brain nuclei, NeuroNames has around 3,000 (non-deduped), while the canonical Neuromemex database has over 1,000. Uniquely, the Neuromemex implementation is hand-extracted from primary sources and across animal studies, representing a cross-species "golden record" of vertebrate connectivity (albeit with the major unverified presumption of human applicability of brain connectivity across mammals).

What is the neuromythographic method?

The neuromythographic method entails constructing a neuromemex graph database to record a canonical brain inventory model, and annotate neuroscience studies with it. We then compress researcher insights by mythologizing the biological entities. At the most advanced levels, you have to spend enough hours staring at fMRI blobs to view an fMRI image and map it in your head to cortical parcels. The work is painstaking, and everyone at first thinks you are mad, then they get mad, and then they hopefully gain begrudging tolerance due to the value creation.

The method is inspired by Jungian psychoanalysis, but instead of poring over the ancient esoteric literature we pore over the neuroscience literature. It is also inspired by Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind, and Australian Aboriginal Songlines.

What do you mean by 'archetype'?

With a neuromythographic archetype, we are borrowing a name to personify a brain area, neurotransmitter, or receptor. The personification is an attempt at a gestalt personality for the entity in a the milieu of the brain, that best characterizes how the entity behaves across the neuroscience literature.

What do you mean by 'reity'?

We use the word 'reity' to refer to theories and abstractions that are dogmatically treated as if they are concrete, real "spirits", instead of mere linguistic placeholders for the causes of phenomena about which we have incomplete knowledge. Today it is fashionable to claim that these spirits spring emergently from human society rather than the mystical realms, and that their existence can be proven by way of an operationalization. This term alludes to the 'reification fallacy' in philosophy, and psychology father William James' unheeded warning about 'vicious abstractionism'. Curiously, philosophically-inclined people tend to go on reasoning about these abstractions uncritically even after acknowledging the pitfalls, because it is what they do.

It may seem odd for an advocate of personification to be opposed to reities, but it serves to inoculate oneself against forgetting Alfred Korzybsky's most famous aphorisms: "the map is not the territory" and "whatever you say a thing is, it isn't".

Can you validly extrapolate animal studies to humans?

We do this liberally in neuromythography. The archetypes offer insight into the mind of the animal through brain homologies with humans. Due to evolution, virtually every brain part exists in some form or another in all vertebrates. The vast majority of the time, the human and mouse brains are structurally very similar, with important exceptions.

Believing that humans have a monopoly on 'consciousness' is a holdover from superstitious ages. We extract insight into the common brain architecture regardless of which species it comes from. Comparisons between species often provide additional insights by elucidating how brain area variations correspond with variations in innate behaviors.

Are the archetype assignments to be taken literally?

It is tempting to interpret the archetypes as ancient attempts to name brain areas, neurotransmitters, and receptors in the brain through introspection alone, whose existences were discovered later. Perhaps there is something to that. However, all we can confidently say is that the archetypes are an attempt to grasp at metaphorical naming a citizen of the social fabric of the brain--a citizen that we know exists, and neuroscientists have provided insight into through experiment.

Is neuromythography valid science?

Neuromythography starts with the latest empirical science, reconciles it with the rest of the scientific literature, and iteratively weaves it into an expanding mythology. This sounds at first like an oxymoron, but we do this for better understanding, memorization, science communications, correctness of interpretation, and hypothesis generation. A theory, in the original Greek, means something 'having the properties of a god'. Each archetype takes the place of a theory, but has a loosely-coupled one-to-one relationship with a real biological entity.

The science database itself within a neuromemex is a curated treasure trove of annotated neuroscience studies, and a faithful graph representation of brain nucleus connectivity at a higher level of detail than nearly any other resource. This is because all of the connections are hand-extracted from original study sources, and consolidate animal and human studies.

Neuromythography represents a value-added interpretive layer atop neuroscience, an artful, metaphorical information model. It is akin to the historian who reads primary sources to assemble a picture of history, except our primary sources are the neuroscience literature and the society is the mind and brain.

The Neuromythography Institute

The home of neuromythography

The Neuromythography Institute

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