Archive for June, 2021

Arthur Stanley Eddington on the 2nd law

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

“The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” –Arthur Stanley Eddington

Mania, islanding, and the Shannon limit, and stepped psych med dosing

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

This is going to be a article about one way mental illness can occur, with some side digressions into how we do not do a very good job of treating this particular way mental illness can occur.

So, those of us who don’t believe there’s some sort of voodoo going on in the human brain understand it to be a very, very large neural network. It has 10^11 neurons, broken up into probably somewhere around 10^8 subnets, and those neurons have both excite and inhibit inputs and are also affected by the chemical soup they live in in a number of ways – including that there is a limit to how many times a neuron can fire before it has to uptake chemicals that permit it to fire because firing uses up resources, that a bunch of neurons firing near each other are all working out of the same resource pool, and that the presence of various other neurotransmitters (and even some more exotic things like moving electromagnetic fields) can affect firing probability.

It is also possible there is additional voodoo going on – I’ve seen arguments that the brain is using relativistic effects, that it is using quantum effects similar to a quantum computer, that it is a lies-to-children simplified version of the actual system brought into Earth to help us understand, that it is actually a large radio receiver for a complex four-dimensional (or more) wave, and other less probable explanations. We can discuss things like how this relates to the soul in another article – this one is based on the idea that yes, it’s real hardware, and yes, it follows real physical laws.

One thing commonly commented about people who are experiencing mania is that they appear “fast”, sped up, and indeed you can observe in some percentage of manic folks a increase in the frequency and amplitude of some of the various “clocks” the brain uses to help synchronize operations (i.e. alpha and beta waves, which themselves are somewhat mysterious insofar as a EEG is only picking up a gross average of millions of neurons and even that is not likely to be too accurate given that the electrical signals have passed through the blood-brain barrier, bone, etc)

Anyway, it seems completely reasonable to think that during periods of mania, signalling is occurring faster. One clear law of nature we’re aware of is referred to as the Shannon limit, and it’s the idea that for any given bandwidth and signal to noise ratio there is a maximum signalling rate that can be successful. Attempts to exceed the Shannon limit (by signalling too fast) result in a breakdown of communication – the exact failure mode depends on the encoding method being used and some other variables.

I am fairly clear that some of the undesirable behaviors and effects of mania are the result of some of the signal pathways involved in connecting the various subnets that make up a person’s decision trees experiencing signalling that exceeds the Shannon limit, thusly resulting in islanding. Side effects here can include loss of generation of memory (and apparent ‘jumps’ in time from the manic person’s POV), extremely poor decision making akin to having inhibitions suppressed by alcohol, and all sorts of interesting delusions. I think all of this is what happens when some of the longer inhibitory circuits stop carrying data, or meaningful data, because they are signalling beyond their Shannon limit and thusly the signal arrives at the other end either hopelessly smeared or of inadequate amplitude to cause the neuron in question to receive the excitory or inhibitory input.

In my case one clear case of islanding that has been repeatedly observed is the presence of multiple personalities. This is not that I have DID but rather that this is what happens when islanding occurs in a neural network – you can think of a natural neural network as somewhat holographic and indeed a number of experiments (too many to document here, but I can write a separate article about this topic if there’s interest) bear this out.

(I should also clarify for those of you who aren’t familiar with operating a electrical grid – “islanding” occurs when individual parts of the system are out of touch with each other – in the case of the AC grid this would be because they’re physically disconnected or too far out of phase with each other to allow a connection to be made – neural networks can display similar behaviors and it’s possible to experiment with this with ANNs simply by progmatically disconnecting bits of them. We’ve had chances to explore a lot of the different ways islanding can behave in a natural neural network because of stroke, head injury, various experiments such as cutting the corpus callosum, and the like )

It is possible that this state is even a evolutionary advantage as having something which causes some members of the tribe to take risks they would not ordinarily take may be how we got to, for example, understanding that lobsters and crabs are edible. There are certainly advantages to taking intelligent risks.

Of course, one problem we have with this is that often people in this state will commit crimes and while they are clearly not guilty by reason of insanity, our legal system loves to punish folks and is ever eager to make more money for the people running private prisons by putting them in jail. (It’s also extremely profitable for the lawyers). I suspect the majority of nonviolent criminals are just unable to manage the imperfect nervous system evolution has given us – survival of the fittest turns out not to be the best fitness function for creating creatures that are well suited to today’s world – and also a number of them are probably victims of abuse from predecessors that also suffered from similar problems.

In the meantime, the solution that I have found – using stepped doses of a psych med stepped according to how fast the system is trying to run in order to prevent revving past the Shannon limit – seems to be frowned upon by western medicine. They prefer the ‘I have a hammer so every problem is a nail’ approach of using a steady state dose no matter where in the cycle the individual being dosed is. The net result of this tends to be that the best medications for depression are hugely inappropriate when not in a depressed state and the best medications for mania are hugely inapprorpiate when not in a manic state – therefore the patient ends up overmedicated and often decides to go off the medication because of the damage to their quality of life the medication is causing.

On the other paw, using a stepped dose – this is far easier when the cycle is predictable as mine is but can probably be done via measuring various metrics if the cycle is unpredictable – I don’t know, I haven’t had a oppertunity to test it – leads to very good results. There is no overmedication during periods that are not either manic or depressive peaks, and in the case of medication that suppresses mania you avoid amplifying depression – and also the drug does not lose control authority because it is not being overused.

(In this article, when I speak of a stepped dose, I mean a dose scaled to the need that steps up as the system tries to run faster and down as it returns to normal. One advantage I have that may or may not work with all people is I can tell how fast I’m running by how long it takes to get to sleep, and can step the dose up until I’m able to get to sleep within a hour of initiating sleep)

I should also mention that even with a stepped dose it is very helpful to have some complex activity to engage in during manic periods in order to keep a load on the engine, as it were. I suspect it helps a lot to have activities that follow hard laws (programming, electronics, etc) in order to avoid drifting too far into mystical/magical/delusional thinking, which is another risk involved with mania.