The bulletin of mathematical biophysics

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 115–131 | Cite as

The mathematical biophysics of some mental phenomena

  • N. Rashevsky


In this paper some aspects of the mathematical biophysics of the central nervous system, which hitherto have not been treated, are discussed. First, a neurobiophysical mechanism for consciousness is suggested. It provides for the possibility of conscious and unconscious rractions. Next, a mechanism of memory, both on the conscious and subconscious level, is suggested. The gradual forgetting of remote events is ascribed to the inhibition of older memory traces by the more recent ones. On the average, an exponential decay of memory with time is thus obtained, although memory for unusually strong experiences follows a somewhat different law of decay. A homeostatic mechanism is then considered which regulates the level of accumulated excitation or inhibition. Such a mechanism, under certain disturbing conditions, will result in periodical fluctuations of the total cortical excitation with periods varying within a very wide range. Finally, a mechanism for foresight and desire of future events is suggested. The latter provides for the possibility of the formation of subconscious reactions and habits, which may be abolished by bringing them into consciousness.


Future Event Stimulus Pattern Mathematical Biophysics Mental Phenomenon Weak Stimulus 
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Copyright information

© The University of Chicago Press 1945

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Rashevsky
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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