English (United Kingdom)French (Fr)Russian (CIS)Espa
Home Library Theory & Research Matrix Theory - The Basics
Matrix Theory - The Basics PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 4
Neurohacking - Theory & Research
Written by Alex   
Tuesday, 01 September 2009 21:21


Matrix Theory: The Basics


Abstract / Summary

Matrix theory (MT) is a developmental theory of general intelligence in living systems.(1)

MT postulates that:

  1. Intelligence is emergent and is a memory- and imagination-based predictive system.

  2. Intelligence in living systems develops in stages or ‘phases’.

  3. Each phase requires a different context or matrix

  4. Each phase proceeds through a cycle inducing gene transcription to synchronize physical, behavioral, neurochemical/hormonal, operational, intellectual and psychological development.

  5. Each phase develops mainly one brain network, its connections to other networks, its processes and the associated abilities and functions.

  6. There is a natural order of phases consistent with the stages of emergence in complex systems in general and if this order is broken development is slowed and dysfunction can result.


As far as I know, MT is the most coherent theory of intelligence development it is possible to assert based on current scientific evidence. It has been deduced by looking at much research that is not commercially oriented and therefore not well-known, some of which I conducted myself, as well as what is discovered in the ‘mainstream’. Over the last 5 years or so, more and more of the ideas in MT are being validated by ‘mainstream’ research, and this creates some interesting questions (as you will see when you grasp the implications). You will not find MT in ‘mainstream’ science itself though, because it’s based on searching for the truth about how intelligence works, rather than on searching for funding, products or services. That means it’s one hundred percent pure home-grown theory, born free right here in the real world.

This introduction gives you all the basics of MT and some background information.


1. Intelligence is emergent and is a memory- and imagination-based predictive system


Intelligence Emergent

Emergence can be defined as: "the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems" (Corning 2002)(3).

Intelligence has qualities not directly traceable to the system's components, but rather to how those components interact. This is a case of ‘strong emergence’.

However, "the debate about whether or not the whole can be predicted from the properties of the parts misses the point. Wholes produce unique combined effects, but many of these effects may be co-determined by the context and the interactions between the whole and its environment(s)." (Corning 2002)(3)

The emergence paradigm of complex systems aligns with MT, as do the majority of current research results relating brain structure to function. In our specific case “the whole” is the developing intelligence and “its environment” is the matrix it is currently in.


Intelligence Definitions Reloaded

Intelligence comes from the Latin verb intellegere, which means "to understand". By this rationale, intelligence (as understanding) is what gives one the ability to adapt to one's environment in order not just to survive, but also thrive. In the past, research has focused on human behavior as an indication of and measure of our intelligence.


Intelligence Is About Memory & Prediction

A behavioral definition of what intelligence is has been the dominant paradigm in neuroscience for a long time. We believe we can tell when a creature is intelligent because it ‘does intelligent things’. Matrix theory however does not assume that intelligence is defined by behavior; rather that this assumption of cause and effect can be seen to work both ways round -behavior is defined by intelligence, and intelligence itself is not behavior-based but behavior-supportive. Intelligence itself is association- and prediction-based; relying on memory and imagination.

Memory and imagination are the foundations of predictive intelligence, and the functions of the rear networks of the brain support the front executive ones accordingly (‘executive’ functions give us skills such as problem solving, strategy, planning and decision.)

These two views, smart behavior relies on intelligence and intelligence relies on smart behavior, are another example of the nature/nurture dichotomy(2), and they are to be solved in the same manner –Both are true. It works both ways: “smart behavior” (intelligence processing input) on the inside of the brain causes smart behavior in the real world, and smart behavior in the real world causes intelligence to grow.

Get used to dichotomy-busting if you’re going to study matrix theory. Often when you meet what looks like an either/or choice you’ll have to reconsider it in terms of “IF = THEN”. (This should be easier for computer programmers.) 

The reason for this is we are dealing with a dynamic system that is inherently responsive to feedback from circumstances and from itself at all times. We need both nature and nurture, genetics and epigenetics.(11)

We stand between the darkness and the light, between the unknown and the known, between the future and the past, between imagination and memory, because that’s the only place to learn anything.


'Memory' Is Not Like Computer Memory, Imagination Is Not About Fantasy (see also Section 5 below)

It should be made clear that by ‘memory’ I do not imply analogy to (current) computer memory, and by ‘imagination’ I do not mean fantasies we make up. More will become clear in Section 5 below, where the theory explains how these processes are working in the brain.

We experience everything through perceiving a series of sensorimotor patterns, those with associations we imagine are important we store and can recall. As we recall them, we match the past up against current context and future predictions constantly. With inbuilt feedback, prediction leads directly to intelligent behavior. Probabilities and possibilities become much easier to compute. We have an ongoing unconscious expectation of what’s about to happen in our circumstances and environment in the immediate future and we predict it by mixing imagination and memory –the future and the past- in with the here and now. This ability leads to both intelligent behavior and the growth of intelligence.


2. Intelligence in living systems develops in stages or ‘phases’


Phases Of Emergence & Matrices

Matrix theory proposes that intelligence in living systems emerges in phases, separated by phase transitions or “matrix shifts”. The period between one phase transition and another is one phase of emergence. Each phase is part of the process of emergence, and each phase develops in a different matrix.

MT postulates six distinct, increasingly sophisticated phases in the emergence and functioning of human intelligence (in both learning and in development), and that there is a recursive cycle of six distinct processes in each phase. Evidence also supports the existence of a sixfold hierarchical memory structure linked to perception by association.


Past Exploration

The idea of intelligence developing in stages or phases is not new. The biologist Jean Piaget(6), amongst others, explored it in his study of 'developmental stages' in the growth of human intelligence. He also found the nonvolitional intent that is behind intelligence which drives all humans to attempt the necessary interactions for its growth (also discerned by Psychologist Carl Rogers(7), who calls it “The Actualizing Tendency”). In matrix theory we call this innate tendency "Innate Intent"; the unconscious striving for entelechy (entelechy means optimal growth and development for survival and thriving). Intent must be understood as different from ‘intention’ (the latter is a conscious, deliberate, contrived phenomenon; the former isn’t.)

Stages in development were later confirmed by biophysicist Herman Epstein(8), who found evidence of brain growth spurts in human children on a genetically timed basis of maturation, which paralleled Piaget's “stages”. These accelerated periods of brain growth occur roughly every four years, between the ages of 2-4, 6-8, 10-12 and so on (now confirmed by MRI studies). In optimal conditions, it is during these brain growth spurts that I postulate matrix 'shifts' occur. Intelligence does go through clear developmental stages, stages that should parallel the physical growth of the brain. With optimal input, they happen every four years or so.

Developmental psychologist Joseph Chilton-Pearce(9) picked up on Piaget’s ideas in his controversial work, Magical Child, and was probably the first researcher to extrapolate the concept of a matrix and a matrix shift.


Development Need Not Be Age-Specific

The major difference between previous work on stages of development and matrix theory is that Piaget and Chilton-Pearce both insisted on an age specific unfolding of intelligence within the confines of physical growth, yet current scientific evidence (and curiously, Piaget’s own discovery of nonvolitional intent!) imply that intelligence is still able to develop (albeit more slowly) even if this synchrony with physical maturation is missed, as long as the correct input triggers for gene transcription are provided. Many other researchers have had this disagreement with Piaget’s conclusions, although the work of Chilton-Pearce is less well known.

Physical brain growth (neurogenesis and arborisation)(22) certainly coincides (or should) with the matrix shifts of childhood, but synaptogenesis coincides with matrix shifts after physical maturity and is a great deal more under volitional control than genetic spurts of brain growth. Because of this, and the fact that we now know neurogenesis can take place in adulthood (12) I do not think that the age of our shift to each matrix is so very easily limited or narrow, in other words we can still fully develop intelligence at a later time than that at which biology intended. The window of opportunity for intelligence development and ability need not close with physical maturity, as I am sure many people already know by experience. Synchrony with the genetic timing of physical maturation may be the optimal time for making these changes, but it is not the only time. Intelligence is not so easily squashed.

As far as it is possible to tell from current research, the only thing that can prevent the growth of intelligence at any age is a lack of the input that causes gene transcription (epigenetic factors)(11). Only severe brain damage or major tissue loss through dementia are likely to permanently prevent this. The major reason intelligence fails to develop optimally at the age biology intended is a lack of signals to do so. (This is explained more fully in section 6 below).

If you have muscles, and you stretch and relax them, they will develop. If you have intelligence, and you stretch and relax it, it will grow. Both will happen regardless of age. Stretching and relaxing are the signals we need. I discuss this further in section 5 below, where we talk about how this is actually working in the brain.


3. Each phase requires a different context or matrix


What Is a Matrix?

A matrix(4) is a context essential for and catalytic to a phase of emergence, and is supportive of and directive in the development of living emergent systems.

In the emergence of intelligence, matrices are the contexts that both house and induce through interaction the maturation of both brain and mind. Each matrix prompts the development of the next brain network and its associated abilities of mind via exploration, at the same time as enabling us to become proficient in the abilities enabled by the current one. In other words, intelligence develops only through interaction with the matrix, and each matrix both enables the current stage of development to unfold and prepares us for the next one.

A matrix as context for intelligence development provides three things: A Platform (safe space in which to interact, explore and learn), a source of Power (energy enough to move about and explore and fuel interaction), and Input (possibilities for exploration and learning -stuff to interact with).  Only when all three factors are present can interaction proceed and the development of intelligence take place.

The best way to extrapolate on matrices is by example.

Our first matrix is the fertilized womb. The unfertilized egg will not develop because its matrix is incomplete. The egg has a safe space in which to develop, enough nutrients and energy to support growth and already has some data (input) ‘hardwired’ into it –it’s own DNA -but it awaits interaction with the third requirement –interaction with input from the matrix (the information carried to it by a sperm).

Now life has a matrix. The interaction of assimilating that data (the unknown input) into its own DNA (the known data) and merging the two, kickstarts the first phase of emergence –development begins immediately; in the first instance by releasing the chemicals that cause the developing organism to bond itself to the matrix (literally, via the umbilicus) and start using the energy and nutrients provided to replicate its cells because in emergence, this is the process during the first stage –“embodiment”. We build a body and brain for intelligence to live in and then it explores the possibilities within its matrix.

A critical mass(23) of similar units gathered together (in this case cells) triggers gene transcription and the cycle of development goes ahead apparently all by itself; the correct sequence of signals is being exchanged between system and matrix constantly and each new part of the cycle can go right ahead. Each consecutive stage is of a totally different and much more complex order –at a critical mass of replication, stem cells are differentiating into tissues. Later, another set of signals for gene transcription will trigger the ordering of tissues into organs and another increase of complexity. The physical body and brain will go through a whole cycle of development, all within the brain’s “Matrix 1” of the womb.

When a critical mass of brain cells and sensory experience is developed (sufficient for the ability to change matrix without a sensory overload) the fetus sends chemical signals to the mother’s body to start the birth process. (Obviously if birth is induced the intelligence is not mature enough to cope with the experience and an overdose of stress hormones results in anxiety, turning down the blood supply to frontal parts of the brain and destroying neurotransmitters that signal for growth).

This is why anxiety is public enemy number one because it can prevent intelligence developing right from our conception (if the mother is full of anxiety hormones, the infant shares them.)

Your environment always affects your state of mind. If at any point anxiety arises, the growth of intelligence cannot help but stop. The gene transcription that makes the proteins with which to build it is turned off. Anxiety hormones arise when the matrix fails, and it usually fails in one of two ways –no input, or inappropriate input. Unfortunately, school is inappropriate input to the stages of development we impose it on, and we are actually retarding intelligence by intentionally trying to educate it. One can see the results not just in the percentage of adults capable of fully mature thinking (see Epstein’s research or more below) but also in the ever-increasing mental dysfunction around us in everyday life, the number of adults on medication and the number of kids on Ritalin. Basically, people’s lifestyles are driving them mad because it’s unconsciously sensory overload; intelligence has never matured enough to cope with it. We pacify our insecurity with mass consumerism and most of us never figure out there’s anything missing, but many of us are too drugged up on sugar to notice.

These are bitter pills to swallow and they indicate the kind of problems society will have to face if matrix theory proves to be correct, as research so far indicates that it may well be. It is not so unfortunate as we may think, because MT also reveals that it is almost always possible to repair damage and outlines specific ways in which we can do so.(20)

Birth and the sequence of events following birth (should) give the signals for epigenetic changes that bring the system fully online and shift intelligence to the next matrix(13) (in our species, this should be the continuum of parental presence, physical contact and facilitation /enablement).

The important point here is that ONLY through interaction with the relevant matrix for its current maturity can intelligence emerge, develop and unfold.


What Is a Matrix Shift or Phase Transition?

The processes associated with emergence are real and measurable, as is aptly demonstrated in many publications.(5)

Throughout the process of the emergence of intelligence, a linear increase of energy in the system will cause non-linear changes in the properties of the system. These major changes are phase transitions, and they correspond with matrix shifts. At each phase transition into a new matrix and level of complexity, entirely new properties appear in the system.


4. Each phase passes through a cycle inducing gene transcription to synchronize physical, behavioral, neurochemical/hormonal, operational, intellectual and and psychological development


In Living Systems a Matrix Shift Is a Parallel Event

It involves changes in physiology, behavior, neuro & body chemistry, processing abilities, cognitive abilities, and intelligence overall.

In optimal conditions, at each matrix shift, the brain is undergoing a growth spurt and forming new connections, which prepare it for very fast and efficient new learning. More hardware is being constructed.(10) The locus of our attention and motivation (guided by innate intent) is shifting platform. Our ‘safe space’ environment will change. Our relation to our ‘power supply’ will change. Our input needs will change and so our behavior will change, orienting us towards the new input we need to interact with in order to further develop. The way our brain actually processes information will change (a new set of processes ‘comes online’ at each matrix shift.) Finally, our intelligence itself has changed, because we have acquired new skills and/or abilities these processes enable.



MT postulates that at maturity intelligence should have formed six main network ‘hubs’ in the brain, each corresponding with a nexus(24) of connected groups of cell bodies, a particular set of processes and a type of memory. What a matrix shift is achieving with each change, in summary, is a shifting of the main locus of intelligence to another physical platform (to a new state inclusive of additional networks). Spurts of brain growth or increases in synaptic connectivity due to increased use are literally building new brain tissue.(10) Each network comes with new processing skills and new aspects of memory, so they provide intelligence with new abilities. Innate intent motivates us to seek the new kinds of input the next set of networks that need to develop while consolidating our use of the current set and integrating it with those that came before. In this way development rolls out from the bottom up, stands on its own shoulders and bootstraps itself up to another level of complexity. Psychologically, resting on the safe space of known experience (memory databases and processing skills), intelligence can take on the unknown and compare it to the known or expected; finding points of similarity that associate the two and assimilating and understanding more and more of it. In MT this is what is meant by ‘stretching and relaxing’ or ‘natural learning’.(14)

In considering the relationship between brain and operations of mind, we encounter the question of cause and effect or correlation: Do the physical, anatomical and physiological design factors and limitations of the brain determine its processing layout, or does the processing layout determine the design of the brain? MT postulates both, with the process of emergence as the causative factor in both cases, imposing a sixfold format on not just hardware but software.

Essentially in processing terms we are looking at a recursive algorithm common to both form (architecture or design) and function (processing and abilities).

Firstly, the cycle within a phase follows the same procedure as the sequence of phases, on a more limited scale.

Secondly, in memory storage terms association follows this same pattern, all associations relating back ultimately to one of six core memories (of six core processes). This view or ‘map’ of intelligence held in memory is so ordered as to have almost universally applicable association across both structure and function.

Thirdly, processing itself follows the same cycle of events as is observed in overall development.


The Sequence Of Phases in Overall Development and Processing Operations(15)

  1. Containment /embodiment /sensorimotor 
  2. Behavioral /spatial 
  3. Associational /eidetic
  4. Sequential /procedural
  5. Individuation /declarative
  6. Unifying /working


The Matrices For Each Phase(16)

  1. The Womb: (is described above).
  2. Local Environment: (permanent carers/parents). Being ‘in arms’ (in the safe space, energy for motion provided), while encountering input from everyday life.
  3. Larger Environment: (natural world). Learning how to interact with our environment in ways that enable both to flourish.
  4. Culture: Interaction with things we have created (tools, our culture, groups) and the processes of creativity.
  5. Ourselves (‘self’): Interaction between brain and mind so that both may improve –at this stage we become our own matrix. Inner intent and outer behavior totally merge.
  6. Mind: Fully mature, we are able to create matrices for further development ourselves. The created becomes the creator.


The Cycle Within Each Phase

Each phase repeats the same ‘pattern of events’, ‘program’, ‘process’, ‘sequence’ or ‘learning cycle’, (call it what you please), each cycle enabling greater complexity by incorporating the abilities gained in the cycles before it and adding its own abilities.

In previous explanations I have explained the cycle in four stages that are clearly differentiated through behaviors, but strictly speaking the cycle is a six-stage process.

The four observable behaviors are Concentration, Observation, Modeling, Practice & variation [COMP], which is an easy mnemonic for following the process, but here in the interests of being strictly accurate I will employ the longer version; ‘COMP VC’:

  • Concentration, intent attention, focus
  • Observation, exploration
  • Modeling, association & empathic copying
  • Practice, repetition
  • Variation, individuation
  • Competence, proficiency, assimilation, understanding, ability


The cycle begins with concentration –for example in the case of learning to walk, this means tuning into ones own state of balance and orientation, noticing what moves are successful and what moves are not, what different moves there are in each sequence, and so on. Observation is that special sort of attention to feedback that tells us what needs to be achieved and helps us to imagine what the right moves are like. Modeling successful moves from others by empathy (successfully imagining and reproducing the processes demonstrated by others) and from memory enables us to copy what they do or what we did yesterday that worked, and try adding a bit more; practice is repetition that after a certain number (critical mass) of instances is able to make the sequence of movements automatic; variation is about trying out similar skills or methods, for example running or climbing;  and the competence stage speaks for itself.

On the surface, what grows intelligence is play. In healthy development, we are automatically attracted to the type of play that is relevant to our current matrix. All play goes through the cycle of the ‘COMP VC’ process and play is the process of learning how to learn; learning about the process itself, when to employ each stage for optimal growth, empathizing with an example, translating that image into motor movements in ourselves, and all that jazz. Play is downloading abilities, states of mind, procedures etc directly into ourselves, and it teaches us everything, including how to talk.

The cycle of play relates to the same core concepts as the types of memory; stage 1 is sensorimotor, stage 2 spatial and so on. For example in learning to talk, stage 1 is developing the hardware; the embodiment of the skill. Stage 2 is spatial –it’s about sound waves in the air and differentiating between them and making the same sounds yourself. Stage 3 is eidetic –what images and feelings are the sounds associated with? Stage 4 is procedural; dexterity with the tools of tongue, teeth and palette and awareness of timing, learning humor, rhyme and the analogical meanings of words. Stage 5 is declarative, we learn the rules of grammar and the formal meanings of words and become expedient at expressing ourselves, Stage 6 being total proficiency in the language.

This is the cycle of play; we build up our memories and abilities from the bottom up. This is referred to in MT as natural learning.


5. Each phase develops mainly one brain network, its connections to other networks, its processes and the associated abilities and functions


How The Wiring Works In The Brain

(Postulated physical & neurochemical mechanisms underlying phases and cycles)

Each matrix supports the development of a single network. Different brain networks perform different types of processing, store different types of memory, and enable different functions as follows: 


Memory & processing




Sensory perception, basic motor skills



Alertness, orientation, attention, navigation



LTP, association, imagination, perception as awareness, empathy, emotional stability, modeling



Dexterity, complex motor skills, tool use, creativity, construction, cooperation, social interaction



Intellect, resource & status assessment, analysis, logic, deconstruction, calculation



Prediction, planning, strategy, judgment, decisiveness, problem-solving


Networks are not considered ‘localized’ apart from their ‘hubs’, the actual networks spreading throughout the brain.(17) 

Memory is not in any way considered analogous to (current) computer memory. MT postulates a different format for each type of memory storage as follows: 

  • Network 1: Sensorimotor (mechanical –memory of individual items or events as intra-cellular movements associated with the physical responses of cell receptors to signals)
  • Network 2: Spatial (memory of known sequences of movements and sounds associated with basic familiar behaviors in self and others)
  • Network 3: Eidetic (memory of images associated with core (hardwired) eidetics indicating benefits and dangers and the types of sequences they fit into; also associated with their ‘weighting’ or importance.) Information that is ‘not important’ will not go into long term memory. It is this network that prompts the release of neurotransmitters to match mood to associated circumstances and behaviors and also to move short term memories into long term storage.
  • Network 4: Procedural (memory of detailed spatio-temporal patterns(25) or interactive sequences (procedures) associated with group events; timing, tool use, social behavior, instruction and construction)
  • Network 5: Declarative (abstracted memory of facts, words, names, dates and information associated with individual things and events)
  • Network 6: Working (Dynamic memory of immediate circumstances and associated interaction in the here and now, reviewed in real time)


When a memory is ‘recalled’ it is assembled from all memory ‘departments’ as an integrated whole, association being automatic, and this ‘assembling’ takes place largely in network 3. We imagine as accurately as we can the patterns of the past and we call it ‘memory’. We imagine the possible and probable patterns of the future and we call it ‘prediction’. We imagine the patterns of the here and now, include our associated memories and predictions and we call it ‘perception’. This same process (in the same networks) is used for perception of the here and now and prediction about the future, for establishing empathy and a theory of mind. In other words imagination as prediction prompts the storing of images, the recall of images, our ongoing assumptions regarding what is about to happen, and the assembling of the ‘inner picture’ we call perception. The process of imagination uses memory as a database, and is responsible for most of its content.  It uses the mirror neuron system and is one of the key processes (possibly THE key process) supporting intelligence, enabling empathy, emotional stability and learning.


Imagination Reloaded

Remember we are looking here at the processes of memory and imagination; not the contents. When someone says “It’s all in your memory”, we imagine the “it” as being in some actual physical location. Some (if they don’t know much about memory) may imagine a corresponding brain part, others may think of a network, or a distributed load of blobs around the brain. When someone says “it’s all in your imagination” we don’t normally do this; we assume the phrase means “you made it up” or “it’s not real”. But we are examining the physiological brain parts involved in a process here, and they are certainly as solid and real as those dealing with memory. So we are going to look at the process, because the process of imagination IS prediction, and it underlies all perception.

We remember (put memories into long term storage) because we imagine they were important. We focus our attention on things because we imagine that they are important. We predict things because we imagine they will be important. We perceive things and can empathize with things because we imagine they are what is going on here and now and we can imagine what they feel like.

You are almost certainly going to misunderstand this. I do not mean we ‘make reality up’, I mean we recreate an inner picture of what we think is going on around us and we do it so accurately that it very closely resembles the original. We get the ‘movie’ so lifelike that we forget it’s not a direct feed but a reflection of reality (via mirror neurons).

A number of recent studies show that imagining the future, or a fantasy scenario, depends on much of the same neural architecture and processing that is needed for remembering the past or perceiving the here and now.(21)

Further exploration has led to the understanding that the central process at work behind many ‘main’ functions like memory, empathy, decision making, planning, creativity and even intellect and strategy is imagination, right from the level of initial processing.  Imagination uses stored information (memories) as well as current input to simulate (perceive) our reality in the here and now, and to predict & direct possible future courses of events.

Imagination’s primary task is not to deal with pretend stuff, it is to deal with real stuff.

Imagination is the ability to form mental images or concepts, period. All of them. Imagination is the process of translating high-dimensional patterns /sequences of mechanical sensorimotor cellular signals into imagery and abstract concepts (behavior into ideas) and manipulating them in order that intelligence can predict and strategize for the most beneficial adaptations, and doing the same thing in reverse (ideas into behavior). If we cannot imagine how something could be done, we cannot do it.

Our perception is our only experience of reality –what we believe or imagine is “out there”, and because we are able to imagine what is real and can experience feedback to confirm it means that we get it right most of the time (the reason why we don’t think of it as ‘imaginary’). A good imaginary copy of reality that behaves just like the original is not going to draw attention to the fact that it is a simulation. This is why we can’t tell that we are constantly imagining, from moment to moment, what is going on “out there”. What we imagine is usually correct, or at least close enough for us not to notice. Besides, much of this processing is unconscious as there is simply no need for conscious awareness of it going on. Association is automatic, and so are neurochemical responses, because these are associated with basic animal behaviors and the appropriate endocrinal  responses.


Linking Structure To Function

Neurochemistry & Animal Behavior

All neurotransmitters are modulated by network 3’s associations, and this central network can transmit to and receive from all systems. In its database, the signals that prompt the release of certain neurotransmitters are associated with certain images and forms of basic animal behavior. The tutorials cover much of this material so I shall not reproduce it here, but the crux of the matter is that sensory input and motor output are both modulated by neurochemicals that induce both emotions and gene transcription for controlling behavior.

We take a great deal of pride in being intelligent mammals, but we often fail to remember that we are intelligent MAMMALS. The sooner we recognize that and start working with our biology, the faster will be the improvement in our intelligence.

Matrix theory proposes a three-part system in evolution that is iterative in ‘higher’  mammals; i.e. networks 1, 2 and 3 make a ‘whole brain’ in creatures without those large frontal lobes.  (I hypothesize that the more complex the system, the more matrices it needs.)


The Brain Evolved In Stages

In the evolution of the brain from reptiles to mammals, a lot of attention is paid to the neocortex; our wonderful frontal lobes that give us fancy executive functions and enable us to write theories. This has been the case at least since Paul D MacLean came up with Triune Brain theory in 1952.(18) To be fair, his ‘reptilian complex’ encompassed networks 1 & 2, his ‘limbic system’ (he invented this term) was basically network 3, and N4, 5 & 6 got lumped together into the ‘neocortex’.

But not half so much attention has been paid to what happened before that bit. Neocortex means new layer, and all the evidence seems to show that the brain has developed in ‘layers’ right from the bottom up.

Our intelligence emerges in the same way intelligence itself emerged from evolution on the earth. Creatures with only one neural network such as amebas are restricted to processing sensorimotor information; the ameba’s nervous system forms an undifferentiated network of receptors and effectors all over its cell membrane that largely serve to move it about. Creatures with two networks (such as reptiles) still function largely on unconscious processing, drives and instincts. Our own early awareness is very like this, and before we develop spatial awareness things that are out of sight are out of mind.

Evolution’s own ‘phase shift’ from reptiles to mammals brought us the ‘old mammalian brain’, which sits on the top of the two reptilian structures (this is what MacLean called the ‘limbic system’ and what we are calling network 3.)

In many creatures, this is it; just these three networks, but these three alone bestow all that a creature needs to indulge in complex behaviors.

In humans, evolution has pulled somewhat of a party piece. The processes carried out by the first three networks largely concern operations in the concrete material world. The three frontal networks (collectively called the prefrontal cortex) repeat these processes in abstract form.

So we have:

  • Network 1 (rear): processing individual things or events
  • Network 5 (front): processing individual facts (cognitive things or events)
  • Network 2 (rear): processing behaviors
  • Network 4 (front): processing procedures (mental behaviors)
  • Network 3 (rear): processing concrete discrimination & value judgments
  • Network 6 (front): processing abstract discrimination (decision) and judgments


Sensory input goes all the way from back to front and motor output goes all the way from front to rear. Brains have always stored memory in the outer layers of the brain, because there’s more room, so much of the network ‘hubs’ are in the cortex.


6. There is a natural order of phases consistent with the stages of emergence in complex systems in general and if this order is broken development is slowed and dysfunction can result


Wherever the conditions are right for growth, wherever there is an appropriate matrix, we will observe development taking place in stages, through interaction with the matrices, in the same order.



Modern imaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) are being used to examine how cognitive development is supported by the maturation of the brain. Developmental neuroimaging studies of cognitive control, as well as other functions, suggest that cognitive development is supported by changes in patterns of brain activation, including enhancement of activation in critical areas, attenuation in others, and changes in the extent of activation as well as shifts in lateralization.(19)


Stages Of Cognitive Development

Sensorimotor stage (in the womb & a short time after birth). Development takes place through sensorimotor interaction and physical biofeedback.

Behavioral stage (shortly after birth until around age 3).  In this period, intelligence develops through motor activity without the use of symbols. Knowledge of the world is limited (but developing) because it is based on physical interactions / experiences. We acquire object permanence at about 7 months of age (memory). Physical development (mobility) allows the child to explore and seek the input needed for developing new intellectual abilities. Some symbolic (language) abilities are developed during the latter half of this stage in preparation for the associational stage.

Associational stage (from around age 3 until around age 7). In this period, intelligence is developed through the use and association of symbols, language use matures, and memory and imagination are developing fast.

  1. Procedural stage (from around age 7 until around age 11).  Intelligence is developed during this period through practical and imaginative manipulation of symbols associated with sequences of behaviors (procedures); construction, creativity, assessment by extrapolation.

  2. Individuational stage (from around age 11 to around age 15). In this ‘concrete operational’ stage (characterized by conscious awareness of types of conservation related to matter (mass), density (weight), and space (area & volume)), intelligence is developed through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete objects. Operational thinking develops (mental actions that are reversible; deconstruction, analysis, assessment by reduction.)

  3. Formal operational stage (from around age 15 to around age 19). In this stage, intelligence is developed through the logical and creative use of symbols related to abstract concepts. We gain the ‘executive functions’ of strategy, planning, problem-solving, judgment and decisiveness that ultimately develop out of memory and imagination.

  4. Only 35% of adults in industrialized countries obtain formal operations; many people still cannot think formally during adulthood.

  5. Data from cross-sectional studies of adolescents do not support the assertion that all individuals will automatically move to the next cognitive stage as they biologically mature. Data from adolescent populations indicates  only 30 to 35% of 18-year-olds attain the cognitive development stage of formal operations (Kuhn, Langer, Kohlberg & Haan, 1977).

  6. It is not yet known what percentage of people attain any given level of maturation, but matrix theory can explain why they don’t.


Matrix Theory States

The successful emergence and ongoing development of intelligence is based on its progression from one 'matrix' (and set of neural networks) to another. In optimal conditions, each matrix 'shift' occurs at first in synchrony with bursts of neurogenesis, then with neural arborisation and later synaptogenesis, psychologically this moves intelligence into a set of unknown, unpredictable experiences which it then assimilates and accommodates into the known using COMP. COMP is iterative; this process should repeat throughout our lives. This is the way intelligence emerges and grows; it is emergent in stages. The stages should parallel shifts to a new matrix; a new platform, new power supply, new input, new tools, new ways of processing information and new abilities.

While this should all happen in a neat synchrony of genetically timed maturation, in humans it currently does not, for reasons largely beyond the scope of this article. Each phase is dependant on specific input triggers for gene transcription to take place. By accidentally interfering with this process we have slowed ourselves down, retarded our development, and caused ourselves all sorts of problems.

Physical brain growth spurts coincide neatly with phase transitions right at the time new skills need to be learned, and brain growth slows down to let the body catch up and develop its own skills and tools just as the mind starts being inspired to use them. It can all unfold like a beautiful symphony with perfect timing and synchronization.

But it may not. The thing about emergence is, it is never a definite given unless it progresses in the right order and without interference. Like baking a cake or running a program, it is a series of steps that can only run to its full conclusion in continuing appropriate conditions. If at any point in development any aspect of a matrix is lost or incomplete, or if interaction with the matrix ceases, emergence will flounder, and development may slow down or stop.

There are two ways this can happen as is mentioned above. In matrix theory  they are referred to as ‘non use’ (lack of input) and ‘wrong use’ (inappropriate input). Both lead a system to atrophy.


We Lack Examples Of Optimal Development

This seems very straightforward and obvious considered on a material level applied to things like plants or physical bodies, but becomes confusing when applied to intelligence because most of us don’t know what appropriate input should be for a system or what matrix is inappropriate for that system. If you grew up in a society where everyone believes that plants need water, vodka and vindaloo, or that prams and school are appropriate for children, your ideas of appropriate input could be confused, and this is exactly the sort of problem currently facing the development of intelligence. ‘Any’ sort of input at any stage will not do.

A complication of the emergence of intelligence slowing down or failing to develop is that it then falls out of sync with physical development, which goes ahead regardless. The physical tools are being built for tasks that the mind cannot yet fathom, but tries to copy anyway. We end up with mature adult bodies and children’s –in some cases infants’- immature minds.

The brain is constructed physically in a certain order and the phases of intelligence developed in a sequence for a reason, and if this sequence is departed from we will develop less than optimal hardware. We are designed to use the relevant matrix to our current stage of neurological development and abilities. If our abilities do not develop as they should (because of insufficient or erroneous input) biological development goes right on ahead anyway, we don't have the required abilities to make a shift and we get stuck in a matrix (we cannot develop mentally beyond that stage).

Our societies and their activities are currently, by various accidental means, failing to provide the relevant input (and replacing it with erroneous input) and preventing our intelligence and abilities from developing as intended.

Without the correct input for the mind, the growth of intelligence is retarded. And our mistake has been twofold; we have not know what the correct input for the mind should be, and we have further exacerbated the problem by replacing it with what is, for a growing mind, something rather noxious.


This is all we have room for in an introduction. If you want to read more about matrix theory, my original book “I’ve Changed My Mind” can be found in the Workshop. ICMM was written in 2002-2004, and a great deal has been discovered since then, so bear that in mind when reading.

The tutorials also refer to matrix theory in the context of neurohacking, and are more up to date. A follow-up to ICMM is planned for whenever I get time to finish it.


A J Ramonsky,

London 2009


Refs & Glossary

1. It may also address how intelligence develops in non-living systems, but there is not currently enough evidence to confirm this. 

2. If you don’t know that the ‘nature/nurture argument’ has been busted, you’ll need to read about that first in order to understand matrix theory. It’s also useful to wise up on emergence. Read: “Intelligence: the basics” in the basics section of the library. 

3. Corning, Peter A. (2002), "The Re-Emergence of "Emergence": A Venerable Concept in Search of a Theory”, Complexity 7(6): 18-30 

4. The appearance of the popular movie 'The Matrix' in the year 2000, with it's archetypal allegories to Matrix Theory and it's skilful use of analogical language, caused me to get a large influx of emails asking me “Is there any connection?” Developmental psychologists were using the term 'matrix' some 40 years ago (I am at least that old), and a great fan of cyberpunk though I am, my only answer must be, 'No, Neo, there isn't'. 

5. The ones I would most recommend are: “Emergence: the connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software” by Steven Johnson and “Sync” by Steven Strogatz. 

6. Piaget, J. (1952). The Origins of Intelligence in Children. 

7. Rogers, Carl (1959). "A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework.". in (Ed.) S. Koch. Psychology: A study of a science.  Vol.  3: Formulations of the person and the social context.. New York: McGraw Hill.

If you want to know more, read “Biological psychology & personality theory: the basics” and “Interaction & core conditions: the basics”, in the basics section of the library. 

8. Epstein, Herman:


9. Chilton-Pearce, Joseph.  Magical Child (1977) ISBN 0-52515-035-8

10. Hebbian plasticity has revealed how developmental changes in cognition coincide with changes in the brain. In order to inform us about the functional organization of the brain, fMRI and DTI investigations have begun to link neuroanatomical development to cognitive changes. A number of studies have also begun to link developmental changes in brain anatomy to behavior (e.g., Olesen, Nagy,Westerberg, & Klingberg, 2003; Sowell et al., 2004).


11. Epigenetic: A factor or mechanism that changes the expression of a gene or genes without changing their DNA sequence. In more general terms, an epigenetic factor is something that changes the phenotype without changing the genotype. If development is taking place in the physical brain, and also taking place in intelligence, psychology and mind, at the same time as the physical development of the body, we might expect to look to DNA for a synchronized unfolding of these events controlled by gene transcription triggered by epigenetic factors, and if human emergence is successful that is precisely what we can observe.

12. Adult neurogenesis is a recent example of a long-held scientific theory being overturned, with the phenomenon only recently being largely accepted by the scientific community.


13. This process is explained in depth in “I’ve Changed My Mind” (ICMM), full text available in the Workshop section of the site, so it is not extrapolated here.

14. This process is explained at length in the tutorials and in ICMM (see reference 13 above).

15. Proposed model incorporating computer programming terminology (compiled by Alex Ramonsky & Scalino Corleone) [Ed.: first semantical approach of potential abstraction layers]:

1. Containment /embodiment /sensorimotor (Encapsulation Layer)
2. Behavioral /spatial  (Event Management Layer)
3. Associational /eidetic (Associational layer)
4. Sequential /procedural (Integration layer)
5. Individuation /declarative (Structural Layer (will generate its own new classes of objects, depending on "substrate" emerging needs)
6. Unifying /working (User interface layer)  Abilities are used all together and a new property emerges in the system.

16. There is simply not room in this introduction to extrapolate on these. For a full explanation see ICMM (reference 13 above)

17. If you want to know more about brain networks, read “Anatomy, physiology and brain networks: the basics” in the basics section of the library.

18. P. D. Maclean (1952). "Some psychiatric implications of physiological studies on frontotemporal portion of limbic system (visceral brain)". Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 4 (4): 407–418.

19. (e.g., Booth et al., 2003, 2004; Bunge et al., 2002; Gaillard, Balsamo, Ibrahim, Sachs, & Xu, 2003; Hertz-Pannier et al., 1997; Luna&Sweeney, 2004;Nelson et al., 2003; Rubia et al., 2000; Thomas et al., 2004).

20. If you want to explore this further, see the Tutorials.

21. Debiec, J., Doyere, V., Nader, K., LeDoux, J.E. (February 28, 2006). Directly reactivated, but not indirectly reactivated, memories undergo reconsolidation in the amygdala. PNAS, Volume 103, Number 9, 3428-3433

One of the most exciting and controversial recent findings in neuroscience: that we alter different parts of our memories just by remembering them. Karim Nader of McGill—the scientist who made this discovery (Aug 2009) —hopes it means that people with PTSD can help themselves by editing their memories.

22. Neurogenesis = birth of new brain cells (neurons). Arborisation = increase of nerve cell branches (axons & dendrites).

23. A critical mass is a threshold number of units needed in order that a change can take place, for example the smallest amount of radioactive particles needed for a chain reaction to begin or the smallest amount of a chemical needed to start a chemical reaction.

24. A nexus is a connection or the center of something.

25. Spatio-temporal: incorporating both space and time.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 14:01