How We Think with Neurons

Figure 1. How we think? A veil hangs between external reality and internal thoughts. Neural properties give specific characteristics to the form of the veil.

Figure 1. How we think? A veil hangs between external reality and internal thoughts. Neural properties give specific characteristics to the form of the veil.

Mental Construction constructs a theory of how we think based on properties of neurons in the mind. It builds from neural threshold to abstraction and up the conceptual ladder. Mental Construction bridges the explanatory gap between neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Neuroscience informs us that cortical neurons have an All-or-None neural threshold, while cognitive psychology notes that associations link together our thoughts and memories.

Is there a sensible relationship between the All-or-None neural process and thoughts that are associated? Mental Construction develops the affirmative answer and many consequences.

To be clear, the importance of logic is not denied by Mental Construction. Deduction and logic are taken as given. They contribute greatly to our thoughts and behavior.  Mental Construction focuses on highlighting the importance of association and induction, including how they interact with logic and words to support overall cognition.

How We Think. Eternal Questions

  • How do we conceive a stable reality when reality changes every instance?
  • Do you wonder how we get a complete view of reality when we only see a part of reality?
  • Are there innate ideas we are born with or is everything we know learned? Or what is the mixture and how do they relate?
  • Do you pride yourself on always being logical? Or perhaps you follow your hunches, no matter the logical arguments made against them?
  • What role do emotions have in thoughts?

Most people accept that logical, verbal thinking occurs and already have theories about that. It’s the intuitive, the common sense, the hunches, the leaps of faith, the creative that are shrouded in mystery. This site ties these ideas to their neurological origin.

Mental Construction Model

Mnetalk construction model

The Mental Construction Model of cognition (thinking plus mental activity that occurs before consciousness ) has many aspects that will make more sense as the terms become clearer.

The neural threshold with its All-or-None output results in the Almost Gate function. Any set of inputs that are almost the same will be treated as if identical. Thus when sensory input is processed, an automatic loss of detail, a simplification, an abstraction occurs.

Of course, in one step, the loss of detail is slight, but there is not a single Almost Gate separating external reality from internal worldview. A rule of thumb, the 100-Step rule, estimates 100 neural exchanges are crossed from sensory receipt to our first reaction to it. Thus about 50 neural exchanges to arrive at our conscious awareness and 50 more on the way out to an observable response. This neural cascade of 50 steps results in a loss detail and an increase in abstraction at each threshold.

All ideas are inherently abstracted as they shuttle though our neural brain. When two abstracted ideas both exceed the Almost Gate, the downstream neurons see both ideas as the same. If the downstream result has been useful for one idea before, the other one will be creatively linked to it. This is not a logical link, but an associated link.

Particular Details


  • Mindset. Exterior reality to internal worldview  Although external reality is clearly different than our internal view of it, so much so that classical philosophers like Descartes and Berkeley considered them of separate existences, our senses deliver the outside world to the brain stem and cortical lobes where we incorporate that information with previous experiences and build our internal mindset.
  • Maps in the brain  Sensory and semantic meanings are grouped
  • Brain building  Biological necessity precedes cortical lobes. Accumulated knowledge is learned over many years
  • Cognition Roles of induction and deduction

I am a generalist, not a specialist in neuroscience and cognitive psychology (see Author’s Page). Mental Construction focuses on association, similarity, and abstraction, how they arise and the impact they have. I presenting results only in the detail necessary to make the argument. The Brain from Top to Bottom hosted by McGill University is a solid, well-organized resource. Since words are but one way to organize ideas, Mental Construction presents many diagrams to visually make points for those of us who don’t think primarily in words.

Ordered Explanation

The Table of Contents presents the points in a sequential order. It is always available in the navigation bar at the page top.

  • First, we examine the physiological-to-psychological path that sensory input takes on its way to becoming our internal view of the world.
  • Then, we’ll look into the brain’s cortex and the neural features that underlies our pattern-matching (association processing) that supports the psychological insights of association, categorization, and mapping.
  • After that, I will present the highlights in the brain development, from the earliest animals to humans and from baby to adult, which will contribute to the understanding of our behaviors and thoughts.
  • Our cognition (thinking, both conscious and preconsious) is discussed from source of thought to concept elevation, the neural probability cascade, and the intertwined relationship of association and logic.
  • Next, association’s role in long-standing mystery of the source of creativity.
  • Mental Construction closes with its process of induction and deduction working together.

Most of the information is on pages, but there are a few posts that tie the ideas and information together in a more discursive manner. The posts present their points, without retracing the base arguments, instead providing links to the relevant background pages.

Sensory data into Thought

Sensory data from external to internal, with emotional weigh and more

Neural Connections have Some Regularities, shown mouse cortical neurons

Neural Connections have Some Regularities

Neural connections lead to Almost Gates; with Hebb’s Law, mental maps

Chart of organisms leading to humans

Each organism is built upon the prior

Brain Building starts with what is already available to develop new powers

Angel contemplating the world's disorder

Cognition has many depths

Understanding cognition and thinking has absorbed attention since antiquity

Creativity. And applied with logic. Newton Calibrating the World

Creativity. And applied with logic

Creativity Divine inspiration. Working Together


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