MOST IMPORTANT PAPER
OUTLINE OF A FUNCTIONAL MODEL OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
PAPER published in GENERAL SYSTEMS
ORIGIN OF ORDER IN BEHAVIOR
of ďTYPED PAPERSĒ 1958-74
Peter Putnam (b 1927, d 1989) was not widely known in his lifetime, however he exerted a powerful influence on his immediate circle of friends and colleagues. His influence is likely to spread in the decades to come as the world catches up with his pioneering studies on the operation of the nervous system. Armed with this insight, (how the nervous system works) Putnam worked out its implications for virtually every branch of human knowledge, from the foundations of mathematics and physics, to psychology, the arts, social science, the diversity of human cultures, history, religion, and philosophy.
his book "The Organization of Behavior, A Neuropsychological
Theory", published in 1949, Donald O. Hebb enunciated what is now
known as the "Hebb Postulate", which states that "When an
axon of cell A excites a cell B and repeatedly and persistently takes part
in firing it, some growth process or chemical change occurs in one or both
cells such that A's efficiency in firing B is increased." (p. 62)
Peter Putnam's "Neural Conditioned Reflex Principle" (NCRP) is an alternative statement of Hebb's Postulate, and involves an expansion of it to include the establishment and strengthening of inhibitory or negative facilitations, as well as the excitatory or positive correlations, which are encompassed in the Hebb Postulate.
Putnam's NCRP (Neural Conditioned Reflex Principle) reflects the critical importance of the inhibitory activity of the nervous system in the shaping of the pathways of relative dominance whose excitation leads to the emission of behavior. No stable neural pathways or circuits of relative dominance with associated learned behavior could ever emerge without the fundamental activity of inhibition within the nervous system as the source of self-regulation of neural circuitry.
nervous system model provides an elaborate and detailed explanation of the
interaction between both positive and negative facilitations within the
nervous system that result in the differentiation of the patterns on
neuronal activity that lead to learning of new behaviors and the
ever-increasing complexity of the organization of the nervous system and
of its effective behavioral emissions in the widest variety of
is perhaps most original in PP's work is that he tried to place our
subjective experience of consciousness -- all the stuff we tell ourselves
about our "selves" -- in the context of a mechanistic view of
mind which sees it arising out of electrical interactions governed by the
laws of physics, chemistry, etc. In other words there is the view that all
brain function, including man's, is a Darwin machine in action, and on the
other hand there is the interior view we have of ourselves as being
"Barry" who likes X and hates Y and feels this and that and
reacts this way and that way and it is all so very important to Barry
whether he lives or dies, etc., etc., and how can this be made consistent
with the idea that we are embodied in a very special type of
self-organizing neurobiochemical machine operating in accordance with the
laws of physics.
a phrase how does consciousness relate to mechanism. PP explored this and
probably did more to square these two perspectives than any other
physicist/theoretical neuroscientist/ philosopher to date.
Nervous System model had antecedents, especially in Hebb, and also the
whole class of experimental findings of the neuroscience of his time (late
50ís early 60ís). However,
he was the first to see (late 50ís early 60ís) that the time was ripe
and enough experimental evidence was available to begin the construction
of an overall functional model of the operation of the nervous system.
The accumulating evidence from the neurosciences to date continues
to confirm the broad outlines of his NS model.
plasticity; distributed neural networks; computational and connectionist
modeling; the idea of conflict and conflict resolution Ė these are ideas
in Putnamís model that date to the late 50ís and early 60ís.
The model of the brain that is currently emerging within
neuroscience gets closer and closer to Putnamís ideas, set down so many
best exposition of Peter Putnamís model is in: OUTLINE OF A FUNCTIONAL
MODEL OF THE OPERATION OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: Peter Putnam/Robert Fuller,
1964. This paper is included
on the website, below.