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Thomas S. RayProfessor, Biology Sutton Hall 210 405-203-0703 tray at ou dot edu http://tomray.me/ Ph.D., Biology - Harvard University, 1981
• My current research: The diverse set of psychoactive drugs collectively represents a rich set of tools for probing the chemical architecture of the human mind. These tools can be used to explore components of the psyche whose discreteness is normally obscured by their being embedded in the complete tapestry of the mind. By activating specific components of the mind, they are made to stand out against the background of the remainder of the psyche. Thus both their discreteness and their specific contribution to the psychic whole can be better appreciated. This work suggests that the human mind is populated by mental organs, which are defined as populations of neurons which bear specific neurotransmitter receptors on their surface (e.g.: serotonin-7, histamine-1). Some mental organs provide consciousness (in separate adult and childhood forms); others function to shape consciousness (in long and short time scales); others give salience, meaning or significance to the contents of consciousness, while others provide content to consciousness. Some mental organs support the facilities of language, logic and reason, which appear to be fully developed only in adult humans. Other mental organs provide affective ways of knowing the world, through feeling alone, which provide the complete archaic mind in our developmental and evolutionary antecedents. Mental organs evolve by duplication and divergence, and are the mechanism by which evolution sculpts the mind. Mental organs provide a direct linkage from genes, to proteins, to neural structures, to psychology, providing the missing link between biology and psychology. When seen from this perspective, the mind comes into focus. It has tremendous explanatory and predictive power. The mind has structure, function, process, genetics, development, and evolution. It provides understanding of psychoactive drugs, both psychiatric and recreational. It helps us to understand ourselves and others. It provides new approaches to understanding the etiology and treatment of mental disorders. I am in the process of understanding how variation in the proportioning of these various elements in individual minds, contributes to the peculiarities of the personality, and in extreme variations or interactions, to a variety of mental disorders: schizophrenia, autism, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, mental retardation, learning disorders, bipolar disorder, addiction, disorders of rage, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Have a look at some of my publications on the human mind.
• In the summer of 2001, I began an exploration of the newly created genome databases, with a broad interest in whatever interesting discoveries might be made there. I am using the genome databases to study the origin and evolution of gene families. I am also exploring the possiblity that the genomic data may provide new approaches for understanding the human mind. The new genome databases can provide a complete catalog of chemical communication systems in the brain. They have the potential of providing a comprehensive understanding of the processes of development and differentiation that generate the architecture of the brain. And by comparing human and ape genomes, they can point to the genetic and neural structures that make us uniquely human.
• From 1990 to 2001, I conducted research on digital evolution, which means exploring what happens when evolution by natural selection is embedded in the medium of digital computation. This work began with the creation of Tierra, a system in which self-replicating machine code programs evolved by natural selection. This work received considerable media attention. In 2000, I implemented a new system called Virtual Life, which is a derivative of Evolved Virtual Creatures originally created by Karl Sims. In June of 2003 I began a collaboration with Ivan Tanev to develop the VirtualLife project in new directions. This kind of work is known to many people as Artificial Life. I have some thoughts on evolvability. Have a look at some of my publications on artificial life.
• From 1974 to 1989, I was a tropical biologist who studied the evolution and ecology of a variety of organisms inhabiting rain forests. My work focused primarily on the foraging behavior of vines in the family Araceae, however, I also studied ants, butterflies, and beetles. Most of my field work was conducted in Costa Rica. After 1982, I worked principally at Finca El Bejuco biological station located in the lowland rain forests of northern Costa Rica, which I built, and own and operate. I was deeply involved in rain forest conservation in Costa Rica. Have a look at some of my publications on tropical biology.
Ray, T. S. (2016) Constructing the ecstasy of MDMA from its component mental organs: Proposing the primer/probe method. Medical Hypotheses 87: 48–60.
Ray, T. S. (2010) Psychedelics and the human receptorome. PLoS ONE 5(2): e9019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009019