New Spanish translation: Donde hay vida, hay mente

I was invited to contribute a chapter to the book Biocomplejidad edited by Moisés Villegas, Lorena Caballero and Eduardo Vizcaya. The book will come out online in open access format later this year.

The contribution is a Spanish translation of an article written by Kirchhoff and Froese (2017). Here it is:

Donde hay vida, hay mente: en apoyo a una tesis fuerte de la continuidad vida-mente

Michael D. Kirchhoff and Tom Froese

El presente texto considera cuestiones en torno a la continuidad y la discontinuidad entre la vida y la mente. Inicia examinando dichas cuestiones desde la perspectiva del principio de energía libre (PEL). El PEL se ha vuelto considerablemente influyente tanto en la neurociencia como en la ciencia cognitiva. Postula que los organismos actúan para conservarse a sí mismos en sus estados biológicos y cognitivos esperados, y que lo logran al minimizar su energía libre, dado que el promedio de energía libre a largo plazo es entropía. El texto, por lo tanto, argumenta que no existe una sola interpretación del PEL para pensar la relación entre la vida y la mente. Algunas formulaciones del PEL dan cuenta de lo que llamamos una perspectiva de independencia entre la vida y la mente. Una perspectiva de independencia es la perspectiva cognitivista del PEL, misma que depende del procesamiento de información con contenido semántico, y por ende, restringe el rango de sistemas capaces de exhibir mentalidad. Otras perspectivas de independencia ejemplifican lo que llamamos la demasiado generosa perspectiva no-cognitivista del PEL, que parecen ir en dirección opuesta: sugieren que la mentalidad se encuentra casi en cualquier lugar. El texto continúa argumentando que el PEL no-cognitivista y sus implicaciones para pensar la relación entre la vida y la mente puede ser útilmente delimitado por las recientes aproximaciones enactivas a la ciencia cognitiva. Concluimos que la versión más contundente de la relación vida-mente las considera fuertemente continuas, y esta continuidad se basa en conceptos particulares de vida (autopoiesis y adaptabilidad) y mente (básica y no-semántica).


A Role for Enhanced Functions of Sleep in Psychedelic Therapy?

This is the start of a fascinating new collaboration: we found that psilocybin can mitigate the negative effects of sleep disruption on memory consolidation in a dose-dependent manner!

I am particularly excited given that sleep disruption in this paradigm, the Morris Water Maze, has been proposed as surrogate for understanding pathological and aging-related loss of memory functions in humans!

Here is the paper:

A role for enhanced functions of sleep in psychedelic therapy?

Tom Froese, Iwin Leenen, and Tomas Palenicek

After a hiatus of several decades there has been a resurgence of studies into the therapeutic potential of serotonergic psychedelics. When administered in controlled settings, they have been reported to induce a wide variety of long-lasting positive psychological changes. However, the mechanisms by which psychedelics impart these long-lasting benefits remain poorly understood. Here we highlight one possibility that has remained underexplored: a beneficial interaction with the self-optimizing functions of sleep.

Explaining the origins of the genetic code without vertical descent

Here is the result of my two-month stay at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which was made possible by ELSI’s Origins Network. I quite like the implication that life could have been an inherently social phenomenon from its very origins!

Horizontal transfer of code fragments between protocells can explain the origins of the genetic code without vertical descent

Tom Froese, Jorge I. Campos, Kosuke Fujishima, Daisuke Kiga, and Nathaniel Virgo

Theories of the origin of the genetic code typically appeal to natural selection and/or mutation of hereditable traits to explain its regularities and error robustness, yet the present translation system presupposes high-fidelity replication. Woese’s solution to this bootstrapping problem was to assume that code optimization had played a key role in reducing the effect of errors caused by the early translation system. He further conjectured that initially evolution was dominated by horizontal exchange of cellular components among loosely organized protocells (“progenotes”), rather than by vertical transmission of genes. Here we simulated such communal evolution based on horizontal transfer of code fragments, possibly involving pairs of tRNAs and their cognate aminoacyl tRNA synthetases or a precursor tRNA ribozyme capable of catalysing its own aminoacylation, by using an iterated learning model. This is the first model to confirm Woese’s conjecture that regularity, optimality, and (near) universality could have emerged via horizontal interactions alone.

Special issue on ALIFE and society published

The organizers of 2016 edition of the International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE VX) have edited a special issue of the journal Artificial Life by inviting extended versions of selected conference papers.

Emphasis was placed on papers related to the conference theme of “Artificial Life and Society”.

Here is a preprint of the editorial introduction:

ALife and Society: Editorial Introduction to the Artificial Life Conference 2016 Special Issue

Jesús M. Siqueiros-García, Tom Froese, Carlos Gershenson, Wendy Aguilar, Hiroki Sayama and Eduardo Izquierdo

Artificial life (ALife) research is not only about the production of knowledge, but is also a source of compelling and meaningful stories and narratives, especially now when they are needed most. Such power, so to speak, emerges from its own foundations as a discipline. It was Chris Langton in 1987 who said that “By extending the horizons of empirical research in biology beyond the territory currently circumscribed by life-as-we-know-it, the study of Artificial Life gives us access to the domain of life-as-it-could-be […]” [1]. The very notion of life-as-it-could-be opened up many possibilities to explore, and released the study of life from its material and our cognitive constraints. The study of life did not have to be limited to carbon-based entities, DNA or proteins. It could also be about general and universal processes that could be implemented and realized in multiple forms. Moreover, while ALife was about biology at the beginning, its rationale and methods are now shared by many other domains, including chemistry, engineering, and the social sciences. In other words, the power to envision and synthesize “what is possible” beyond “what is” has transcended disciplinary boundaries. It also produces the material for the exploration of narratives about how things can be in principle and not only about their current state of being.

Measuring the role of passive touch in social perception

We were able to demonstrate that we have the clearest awareness of the presence of another person when we feel them touching us. This conclusion is perhaps not entirely unexpected, but it is nice because it is the first time that the notion of passive touch, which was developed by phenomenological philosophy and developmental psychology, has been empirically measured and quantified.

A Sensorimotor Signature of the Transition to Conscious Social Perception: Co-regulation of Active and Passive Touch

Hiroki Kojima, Tom Froese, Mizuki Oka, Hiroyuki Iizuka, and Takashi Ikegami

It is not yet well understood how we become conscious of the presence of other people as being other subjects in their own right. Developmental and phenomenological approaches are converging on a relational hypothesis: my perception of a “you” is primarily constituted by another subject’s attention being directed toward “me.” This is particularly the case when my body is being physically explored in an intentional manner. We set out to characterize the sensorimotor signature of the transition to being aware of the other by re-analyzing time series of embodied interactions between pairs of adults (recorded during a “perceptual crossing” experiment). Measures of turn-taking and movement synchrony were used to quantify social coordination, and transfer entropy was used to quantify direction of influence. We found that the transition leading to one’s conscious perception of the other’s presence was indeed characterized by a significant increase in one’s passive reception of the other’s tactile stimulations. Unexpectedly, one’s clear experience of such passive touch was consistently followed by a switch to active touching of the other, while the other correspondingly became more passive, which suggests that this intersubjective experience was reciprocally co-regulated by both participants.

Kojima et al. 2017 - Figure 8

Commentary on alignment in social interactions

This commentary was just published in Frontiers in Psychology:

Commentary: Alignment in social interactions

Tom Froese and Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca

We welcome Gallotti et al.’s (2017) proposal to shift the study of social cognition from focusing on types of representation to types of interaction. This aligns with the enactive approach to social cognition (e.g., Froese and Di Paolo, 2011), which has long been arguing for this kind of shift (e.g., Varela, 2000; De Jaegher and Di Paolo, 2007). We offer some clarifications from this latter perspective, which will hopefully benefit the development of their proposal.

Chapter for OUP Handbook of 4E Cognition

Here is a pre-print version of my contribution to The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition, edited by Newen, de Bruin, and Gallagher.

Searching for the conditions of genuine intersubjectivity: From agent-based models to perceptual crossing experiments

Tom Froese

Enactivists are searching for the conditions of genuine intersubjectivity. Theory of mind approaches to social cognition have come a long way from folk psychological theorizing by paying more attention to neuroscientific evidence and phenomenological insights. This has led to hybrid accounts that incorporate automatic processing and allow an instrumental role for perception and interaction. However, two foundational assumptions remain unquestioned. First, the cognitive unconscious: explanations assume there is a privileged domain of subpersonal mechanisms that operate in terms of representational personal-level concepts (belief, desire, inference, pretense, etc.), albeit unconsciously. Second, methodological individualism: explanations of social capacities are limited to mechanisms contained within the individual. The enactive approach breaks free from these representationalist-internalist constraints by integrating personal-level phenomenology with multi-scale dynamics occurring within and between subjects. This formal and empirical research on social interaction supports the possibility of genuine intersubjectivity: we can directly participate in the unfolding of each other’s experience.

Article in support of life-mind continuity

Prof. Dr. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic and Dr. Robert Lowe guest-edited a special issue of the journal Entropy on the topic “Information-Processing and Embodied, Embedded, Enactive Cognition” to which I contributed an article with Michael Kirchhoff.

Where There is Life There is Mind: In Support of a Strong Life-Mind Continuity Thesis

Michael D. Kirchhoff and Tom Froese

This paper considers questions about continuity and discontinuity between life and mind. It begins by examining such questions from the perspective of the free energy principle (FEP). The FEP is becoming increasingly influential in neuroscience and cognitive science. It says that organisms act to maintain themselves in their expected biological and cognitive states, and that they can do so only by minimizing their free energy given that the long-term average of free energy is entropy. The paper then argues that there is no singular interpretation of the FEP for thinking about the relation between life and mind. Some FEP formulations express what we call an independence view of life and mind. One independence view is a cognitivist view of the FEP. It turns on information processing with semantic content, thus restricting the range of systems capable of exhibiting mentality. Other independence views exemplify what we call an overly generous non-cognitivist view of the FEP, and these appear to go in the opposite direction. That is, they imply that mentality is nearly everywhere. The paper proceeds to argue that non-cognitivist FEP, and its implications for thinking about the relation between life and mind, can be usefully constrained by key ideas in recent enactive approaches to cognitive science. We conclude that the most compelling account of the relationship between life and mind treats them as strongly continuous, and that this continuity is based on particular concepts of life (autopoiesis and adaptivity) and mind (basic and non-semantic).

Editor-in-Chief of Adaptive Behavior

After many years of service to the community, Ezequiel Di Paolo​ has stepped down as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Adaptive Behavior.

I will take over the reins from the current issue onward.

It’s going to be a tough act to follow, but I hope that I will be able to further consolidate the journal as a truly interdisciplinary forum for current research in the mind sciences.

For more information, please read the editorial we co-authored to mark this transition.

Please consider sending us your latest work! 🙂

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