The Physiology of Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow

Daniel Kahneman talks about two distinct processes taking place in the brain. Thinking fast, and thinking slow. One process is internal, intrinsic, such as reflexes, visual processing etc. Another is slow and deliberate, memory recollection, mental math etc.

While reading his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, it dawned on me that in the brain we have two distinct networks that communicate with one another. A neural network which science has already established to be fast (milliseconds) and not apparently under voluntary control, and an astrocyte network which we now well know to be slow (seconds) and kludgy. We have yet to discover any underlying neural mechanics directly associated with things like slow conscious thought. Perhaps the slow astrocyte networks may have some answers. It receives input and stimuli from the fast neural network, and is then able to send signals back to it.

This requires more thought. Infact, the whole notion could likely be debunked with some carefully crafted thought experiments about cognitive properties we know to exist. Regardless it is an appealing notion. I leave it here for posterity.

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One Response to The Physiology of Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow

  1. RinRan99 says:

    Hi Nathan,

    I searched google for exactly the heading of this page, “The Physiology of Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow”, and was very happy to see someone else thought about it. After being familiar with Kahneman concepts and taking a 3 day course on brain anatomy it “easily occur” to me, intuitively without much thinking, that the difference between slow and fast thinking could be the speed of the neurotrasnmitters – thus System 1 thinking could be electrical transmission, through an electrical synapse while System 2 would be chemical transmission through a chemical synapse. Long shot worth checking, thus my google search.

    As I understand the functionality of astrocyte, white matter or glia is little known. Perhaps it serves to provide a skeleton or scaffolding to grey mater, and as it happens, structure generates functionality by creating order, by decreasing degrees of freedom and decreasing entropy. Another wild thought.

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