08 March, 2011

The Dot-Connect Theory

A few months ago, I was contemplating on association of ideas that people form and wondering how some are able to remarkably connect seemingly random things and come up with beautiful analogies or examples. This is a phenomenon we see in everyday life but it suddenly struck me that it is all so elegantly connected.

This enabled me to come up with a hypothesis, which can perhaps be one of the models to visualize Information Processing and subsequent stages in the Mind. Doubtless several similar theories/hypothesis may have been put forth by specialists who have devoted much more time & energy on these subjects and also gained academic competence. I would also like to point out that the subject deals not so much with the Information Gathering of the brain, which includes Memory Formation, Pattern Recognition etc (involving such specialized things as pyramidal and stellate neurons of the cerebral cortex and the gating type and nucleus reticularis neurons of the thalamus) but more with what happens in the mind after that.

Brain vs Mind: This article makes the fairly obvious distinction between the visible and divisible (hence quantifiably studiable) brain and the invisible and indivisible mind. The former is being systematically studied at the the level of individual neurons and we are just beginning to appreciate some of its functioning. But the latter is - by all accounts so far - an almost indefinable thing. Yet, it may not be far-fetched to say that it is the mind which seems to be the key for several genetic traits - be it just biological ones or (what some may consider as bio-illogical) re-incarnation related ones. I am willing to stand corrected here but to the best of my knowledge, no species has been yet known to carry neurons cells after death or give neuron cells from itself to its offspring - yet quite a few instincts come pre-programmed. My article may perhaps trigger studies on these and similar lines.

Though neither neurology nor psycho-analysis are my chosen fields, at a very surface level, I have been fascinated by certain highly specialized studies involving how neuron cells activate light up in various parts of the brain based on the subject matter or sheer empathy in a shared experience (for instance, a music concert may see the same kinds of neurons getting activated in different listeners sharing the same experience). Yet, given all these, sometimes it is easier to miss the forest for the trees. So, my venture in sharing my model below!

For want of a better term, I am going to call this subject Dotomatrix for now. Though volumes need to be written to express myself fully on this subject, for now (due to paucity of time and space), I will limit myself to a fairly simple synopsis of my postulate…

Highlights



  • Every individual picks up bits and pieces of information during the course of life.
  • These are on various fields, subjects and topics (be it mathematical formulae, everyday news, musical facts, philosophical thoughts or literary learning).
  • Each bit of information is stored in various parts of our brain.
  • Each bit of information can be visualized as a discrete dot.
  • To continue the visualization, the brain can be seen as a rectangular canvas or even a multi-dimensional space which houses these dots.
  • The mind monitors this information gathering process and shapes it in various ways.
  • Each person finds some connection between some pieces of information either because of (i) external influence (like reading, learning from or discussing with others), (ii) by introspection and analysis, (iii) personal experiences or (iv) by a mere association of ideas.
  • Normal people may often find connections in an orderly, progressive and predictable manner (for instance, 2+2 could be connected with 2+3 or 200+25000).
  • Creative people, geniuses and highly introspective (or those with weird imagination) may find connections between two seemingly unrelated topics - it could be as much a leap as a simple 2+2 being connected in their brains with an obscure Greek philosophy or a volcanic eruption somewhere(to give extreme examples).
  • Each connection that a person finds represents a connected dot.
  • The connection of any dot can be with one or more dots - like a hub and spoke route map of a major airline (but of course the brain is more than just 2 dimensional). To give a simple illustration: a tiger could be connected to a forest and a zoo in some people; it could be related to a national park & other animals in a few others; in some cases, it could include all the above connections plus connections to strong or scary people that one knows or hears about (and numerous other things).
  • Thus, the discrete bits of information become analogous within the brain as the person evolves and matures.
  • It should however be noted that not every bit of information needs to be connected with one or more bits; many may remain unconnected pieces for lifetimes, depending on the type of individuals and the evolution path of each.
  • Thus, the process of individuation can be defined as the metamorphosis of digital information into analogous flow of ideas.
  • With millions of bits of information picked up in the course of life, every individual may connect the dots differently.

  • These connections made in various ways can broadly be classified as:



  • (a) Assimilated Connections (AC): Most often, our dots are connected faster for us by others who have already made the connections have a knowledge base, which saves us years and decades that we would have spent were we to have figured those connections ourselves. Which ensures that there are certain fairly standard and common connections that is there in most people who attend regular courses in schools and colleges, read the same kind of literature (or newspapers), learn from the same gurus, watch the same movies (or programs) and so forth.
    (b) Genetic Connections (GC): Some of these when assimilated over several generations, can become genetic connections.
    (c) Independent connections (IC): Yet, there are hundreds to millions of unique connections that every individual makes too, during the course of his/her life through analysis or association of ideas.
    Un-connecting Dots (UC): Due to various reasons (non-relevance of connections at a later date, forgetfulness, amnesia, dementia, Alzheimer’s etc) people can also lose connections between various dots over a period of time.
    Total connections (TC) Formula: Thus the Total Connections = Assimilated Connections plus Genetic Connections plus Independent Connections minus unconnected dots. Thus,
    TC = AC+GV+IC-UCUniqueness: This TC is unique for every individual at every point in life and this is what eventually defines and personifies every person and provides a distinct identity to each.
    More than humans: There can be little doubt that almost all animals with reasonable sized brains (to the degree that man can perceive and understand), connect dots in various ways (appropriate season – migration – route maps - mating – change of season – reverse migration chain is a simplistic example of this that is seen in numerous animals and birds).
  • Real life ramifications: Some of the greatest scientific discoveries, most elegant mathematical solutions have been brought about by people like Newton and Ramanujan with an ability to connect what may appear like remote dots to most normal people. Likewise, some of the biggest truths of life have been established by seers and philosophers who could connect seemingly remote observations and cite analogies in an impactful manner.
  • The Dot-Connect model has several other real life applications of which a couple are given below.

    Education: Connecting dots is helps memory develop phenomenally. Current day education is more focused on giving millions of dots by way of tons of information (most of which students hardly apply in day to day life). This creates a tremendous stress on memory, nervous systems and the whole psyche of students, since most of these discrete dots only cater to an exam, a contest or some other short term goal. Were education to be geared to facilitate students to improve their grasp and memory by helping them make connections faster between the various dots (wherever possible), their capabilities would be enhanced exponentially.

    Clinical Treatment: A study of overstressed people will reveal that their brains/minds are over heated with too many connections (most of which are formed unintentionally by people because of traumatic experiences or depressing circumstances). A good psychologist can now consciously approach the treatment from the perspective of analyzing the many unwanted or even malignant dot-connections and help untangling these or even helping the patient erase some of them to reduce stress levels.

    Personality Assessment: A study of how people connect dots would provide at least a very rough insight into their personalities. The simple sample test below illustrates this.

    Ravikiran’s Dot-Connect Test

    This is a simple psychological and personality test which can be given to almost anyone in any situation and age. This is definitely no representation of the complexities of the multi-dimensional dot-connections in the brain (or my Dot-Connect Theory of Information Processing) but only a simplistic, quick view process in office/work-space/school/college kind of environments.

    • A plain paper with a simple rectangle filled with dots can be given to each candidate along with a pen.
    • Each candidate is asked to connect the dots within a fairly short specified time (say 5-7 minutes) in whatever manner that comes naturally to him.
    • With hundreds of dots, the possibilities for connecting them in various permutations and combinations are almost endless. For instance,

    (i) Some people may connect it in the shapes of various animals;
    (ii) Others may find connections like an aeroplane/car and so forth;
    (iii) A few may come up with simple connections;
    (iv) Some may come up with complex and intricate connections;
    (v) A rare few may connect almost all the dots;
    (vi) Most others may only connect a few dots and
    (vii) Some may connect them in a completely shapeless manner

    • The manner in which each connects will be a window to his/her personality.

    Interpreting the results

    The parameters for interpreting their final connections and determining personalities are numerous and the subject is huge. But it needs much more thought and study, which I will hope to find sometime soon.

    Meantime, I will welcome your thoughts and comments on what I have penned thus far...

    12 comments:

    Srividya said...

    This reminds me of the Kolam exercises that I did...Women are highly advanced in this Dot-Connect Theory..:-)...

    random said...

    Here are my thoughts:

    I agree with the idea that people assimilate information in various ways and the manner in which dots/information are connected relates to their capabilities/personality. But the frequency or repetition factor also plays an important role in determining the outcome. if a particular dot features many times..it is more likely to have connections to other dots.

    The manner in which the dots are connected might be a complicated process, involving abilities in multiple dimensions. Ability to connect dots on a paper might or might not be an indication of the brain's inner workings.A better test would be to give various bits of information and test the ability of the person to produce a meaningful outcome from the given set of inputs.

    One thing is for sure. Children are more creative naturally but lose this ability as they grow older and morph into what society expects of them. Our traditional school system is once example of the damage that rigid systems can do to curb one's expression of free thought and creativity.

    I'm sure learning music trains the brain wonderfully in more than one way. Musically talented people are usually smarter overall in other areas as well.

    Srinithya said...

    Yes. The thought process that the brain does is very interesting and the hypothesis of dots works in the day to day life's thinking and sometimes connecting the right dots helps in people overcoming their anxieties and depressesions. If people don't then they have all these depressions and anxieties requiring medical treatments whichc has become very common these days. I guess that is why it is good to have the mind diverted into different activities rather than focussing on one thing. Today's IT world has changed this whole phase of life making people just focus on working with the machines although interesting, the brain processing is just made ot follow only a particular pattern and has caused lots of health problems. With machines not all our brain cells are being used and only a particual path is taken. Our olden way of living to certain extent with diversified time allocation to music, spiritual, education, family ties, and day to day life style helped live a healthier life and many things that are so common were unheard of then. So a little bit of everything is required to have a healthier life and I totall agree with the thoughts that the brain processing makes so much difference based on the activities or interests of an individual.

    Sunanda said...

    Dot connect theory makes sense, infact that's what the interneurons in the brain are all about. But the interpretation of how one would connect the dots and what figure that would evolve is definitely interesting; if one person is asked to connect several times over a period of time, would he create the same image? What would it mean? Very interesting thought.

    P A said...

    This dot-connect exercise seems a valid test to asses a personality..
    The people with abstract ideas prefer geometrical figures..
    And whoever is creative and conceptual, love to connect the dots in flowing lines
    ( curves/circles/ellipse/spirals..)
    Some may prefer a combination of both..
    Artistic ones may opt for pictures..
    FUNDAMENTALLY the connectivity exists and we see/connect as per our personality preferences.
    A change in the personality will certainly be reflected in course of time..
    A mass experiment may be conducted to check the veracity of the same.
    I welcome this theory.

    Anonymous said...

    completely agree with what you have written and its all quite imaginable. most people dot connection depends on the inputs they have had and how much they have actually assimilated. like, most good instrumentalists can connect to notes as well as other information in daily life better than non-instrummentalists. while most indian percussionists can see progressions, symmetries better than others. is that right? can such analysis really interpret ones personality? the interpretation of the picture of connections is going to be very tricky and the most interesting part. but, any picture or its interpretation is a momentary analysis because the perception of each mind changes within a few week/months/years. this test from time to time probably will help oneself analyse the changes one has gone through over time. your responses are awaited!

    Anonymous said...
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    Anonymous said...

    Interesting thought process Raviji. It may well be the case...

    If I can provide a neuroscientific perspective for a read, aka a background on the brain hardware that enables behaviour...

    Behavior (which encompasses thought, assimilation, memory storage, retrieval and action) is determined by hierarchically organised neurons in the brain between the brainstem and the pre-frontal cortex. One set of cells and their cellular pathways are 'sensory' providing cues about the environment and the other are 'motor' both 'somato-motor' (body function) and emotional motor (translation of thought into action) that act upon the sensory cues. These two pathways work only on one principle, that of survival: i.e. sense fear and danger for environmental existence and code their ability to communicate and connect with other cells (internal to the brain) and generate consequent thought process (external to the brain; some may call it the mind).

    Until the last drop of organic life degenerates, the drop before the last drop will still hold hope for survival. A single neuron within a cluster of neurons in the brain seem to adopt this exact principle in its operation. At the system level, that is the way somatosensory (body function), visual (sight) and auditory (hearing) pathways are constructed in the brain, feeding information to the pre-frontal cortex (overall command) and hippocampus (memory circuit) as to how to react (motor) appropriately.

    This embedded survival component in a single neuron in the brain is then altered through mechanisms that we study as 'plasticity'. Plasticity enables the very neuron to learn, program, retrieve, assimilate and act, be it neuronal circuits in the hippocampus that stores and retrieves memory or the amygdala which sets the tone for fear response.

    The pre-Frontal cortex plays the ultimate piano player and decides which neurons (tones) will be excited (played) in order to produce the coordinated motor action (musical composition)!

    This much information is all we have accumulated from decades of brain research!! Having said that knowing the amount of time we spend on examining a single neuron, the information we have accumulated is indeed an achievement!

    Dr. Hari Subramanian

    roopa said...

    "Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate" - states Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine. This is how reality is defined in quantum mechanics. Vedantic Philosophy states that the true knowledge of anything is revealed to us only when the mind, consciousness and sensory organs are associated with the object completely. A further cocentration reveals the ultimate connection among all things of the universe as well as how we are related to the ultimate truth. In a way both Q.Mech and Vedas state that life is nothing other than joining dots and how motivated we are in joining them is what shapes our life.

    Vidya said...

    The ideas postulated here are not new. Concepts such as Associative memory and schema-based memory have been around in fields such as Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence for more than 35 years now. For example, you can read theses by researchers such as Terry Winograd, John Anderson, Marvin Minsky and others in the field.

    Narayanan said...

    1. The connections of dots , in an ideal case (validating cognizance) should form loops, that is starting from a dot and traversing through the dots you should get back to the starting dot. The length of the loop determines short-term or long-term perspective.

    2. Connections could be bidirectional too.


    3. Dots where too many connections converge are bottlenecks or problem areas needing attention. Dots from which many connections diverge are leverage points that should be facilitated for reaping maximum benefits.

    4. The whole world is nothing but connections. That's why Fritjof Capra titled his book "The Web of Life".

    Connoisseur said...

    Well discussed thought. The most agreeable discussion that struck my mind is how the rigours of a globalized modern education has truncated our creative capacities not only in the area of arts but also of the sciences. The liberal arts education system that the greatest minds of the past like Liebniz, Kant & Newton experienced is far more suited for a holistic psychological development. Of most recent times, Einstein chose to ignore his university physics degree while spending hours reading the Kritique Der Reinen Vernuft (Critique of Pure Reason) from which gave him the ideas of relativity & space-time. He also declared that his devoted attention to violin practice has aided his thought process. Even Stephen Hawking is a self-professed student of metaphysics drawing ideas & discussion from the works like David Hume & George Berkerley. Ultimately critical reasoning is the key for all great achievements, and by developing a welcoming approach to a liberal arts education that encompasses subjects like metaphysics (which in today's era considered an obsolete academic subject) & classical music will help in the development of geniuses or at least brilliant individuals. Even for a scientific study, this thought process is more important than knowing the right math. Neurological research has shown that classical music in particular increased neural connectivity in the brain as well as increasing the neural cross-connections on the corpus callosum, the stem in the middle of the brain that connect both hemispheres of the brain. My heartfelt thanks to you for this brilliant essay, which you have taken the time to discuss despite your busy schedule. Probably one day you can present this in a music lecture, with an emphasis on a liberal music education in schools. Keep writing such good discussions sir. You will inspire all upcoming students of music. God bless.