Implications for Psychiatry of a Thermodynamic Model of Brain Operating Far from Equilibrium

  • Walter J. Freeman


Phenomenologists hold that perception works by the creation of meaning through chaotic dynamics that forms hypotheses about the environment, and that adapts through learning. Experimental evidence for creative thermodynamics in brains is briefly sketched. The explanation is offered that brains, being finite systems, work this way in order to cope with the infinite complexity of the world. All that brains can know is the hypotheses they construct and the results of testing them by acting into the environment, and learning by assimilation from the sensory consequences of their actions. The process is intentionality, using the action-perception cycle. The cost is the progressive isolation of individuals. Socialization and the acquisition of shared knowledge require emergence of new personality structure by self-organization through chaotic dissolution of existing structure. Dissolution is most clearly seen in crisis situations as regression to earlier stages of development. A thermodynamic model of this unlearning is proposed.


Action-perception cycle dissipative structures ECoG electrocorti-cogram non-equilibrium thermodynamics phase transition reinforcement learning self-organized criticality unlearning 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter J. Freeman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular & Cell BiologyUniversity of California at BerkeleyUSA

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