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Neuroscience, Mental Health: Thought Pathways in the Brain

Mental Health _ NIH

Image credit : NIH

By David Stephen

What would progress mean for care in complicated cases of mental health? If thoughts move everywhere in some conditions or seem static in others, how does thought travel across the brain? When thoughts emerge and go, what is the picture of that pathway that remains unclear with neuroimaging?

There is neuroimaging for activity centers and others for brain waves and electrical activity, but there is still a discrepancy between what thoughts are to the mind and what neuroimaging shows.

There are brain computer interfaces that allow the imagination of writing to be converted to text (, but imagination is a form of thought, among several variations of it. 

Thoughts remain impenetrable, compared to the exposure of neurons, in anatomy and physiology.

Defining thoughts is not as difficult as pointing out where they may come from, or the rules the follow in the brain. 

In neuroscience, it is established that the thalamus is the relay center ( )of all senses, except smell – relayed at the olfactory bulb.

Senses from the thalamus are relayed to the cerebral cortex. Smell from the olfactory bulb is relayed to the piriform cortex.

There is also the concept of integration. Sometimes, relay and integration are used closely {} when discussing thalamic roles.

Integration roughly means convergence or collect together or into. This subject is studied under what is called multimodal or multisensory integration.

Still, the unit of integration is not known.

The proposal here is that integration of senses is into thought or a form of thought. That thought is the uniform unit that goes to be processed in the cerebral cortex.

Why is this plausible?

Anything seen or heard can be thought about. So there is a connection between what is sensed and what to think.

If there was no integration into thought, it would be unlikely to have this possibility.


Anything seen or heard could be known – already, or learned, so there is a memory function post-integration.

It is proposed that the uniform unit of whatever integration is made is the same as the uniform unit of what the memory stores. Simply, this unit is thought or a form of thought.

There are different locations in the brain where memory is stored, including the prefrontal cortex (  around which several relays arrive, so it is likely some sensory stimulus goes to be known or stored there. 

Thought version

It is the thought version of anything external that the brain uses to relate with the world and know about the world.

The car, house, switch, pen, paper, cable, watch, band, object or anything else, are external, but to the brain or precisely the memory, they exist as thought or a form of thought. It is this thought version of things that is used to know about and relate with the world, or simply, thought version is how consciousness interacts with objects. That thing in the external is no longer the same to the mind, though thought represents an accurate form of it, or most times closely accurate.

Thought transport

If this is how thoughts emerge, the next step is how they transport. It is known that there are brain centers for functions like for pleasure, fear, and so on. But they don’t get activated all the time. They often have minor activity within their neural circuits, or say localized neurons, but they get prioritized from time to time.

It is proposed here that what goes to brain centers to activate them is the thought version of things. For example, when a switch does not work, the thought version of that sense goes to memory – to know what that means, then proceeds to the center for the feeling effect of anger. This is when an individual gets animated as a reaction.

Thoughts at that destination, at that moment can be called active thoughts. Those residents there at all times can be called passive thoughts. Since the memory knows everything going on internally (internal sense or interoception)and externally (external sense or exteroception), it is proposed that there is duality of everything, one physical or biochemical, the other in the form of thought.

So while there is hunger, which can be called a base feeling, there is a feeling effect of that hunger which maybe anger or the active thought equivalent of hunger going to the center for anger. Reaction to anger could be agitation (parallel) or laughter or some calm without expression (perpendicular). With food, hunger goes, memory gets this and thought leaves the spot for anger. There is the physical sensation of pain, or base feeling. There is the thought version at a destination for the feeling effect of anguish.

This is a proposal on the pathways of thought in the brain. In summary: sense something – integration to thought – relay to the memory – then to a center for feeling – then reaction. This reaction is sensed, and the process goes on.

Dopaminergic pathways are known, neural pathways are known, as well as others, but there is no model on the pathways of thought, their rules or transport, this is an attempt at that, towards application to cases of mental health, substance abuse and a chance to giving emotions to artificial intelligence for self-driving safety, if some data can be bisected to simulate thought transport to a fear center.

David Stephen blogs at 

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