June 12, 2011

News about consciousness

This is my favorite topic, bar none. It's the year 2011 and we still don't know how consciousness occurs. Somehow the brain creates a sense of being, of awareness. We call this consciousness and it is why we feel we have a "self". It's a stunning feat yet we don't understand the process that makes this happen. Consciousness is the quintessential experience of our lives -- and we don't even know what it is. How could this not be everyone's favorite topic?

Today there's an important story on physorg.com about the opposite end of the spectrum -- how consciousness disappears when we go to sleep or are put under an anesthetic. Scientists were able to monitor changes in the brain as consciousness fades away -- and the results bolster the notion that there are sub-assemblies in the brain that create the illusion of consciousness by linking together as one. I say "illusion" because that's what consciousness is: a virtual reality phenomenon caused by the brain's activities.

In the study, they monitored the brain as these sub-assemblies lost their ability to communicate with one another. As they became unlinked, consciousness faded away -- and therein lies the story. This fits perfectly with the sub-assembly theory. It's like your brain is composed of various electrical devices which, when wired together, focus as a unit on sensory input. This act of "focusing as a unit" is consciousness. I love this.

2 comments:

Artichoke Annie said...

On the slim chance you have not seen Charlie Rose: The Brain Series, I offer this up for your consideration -

http://www.charlierose.com/view/collection/10702

I have seen most if not all and found it most interesting.

writenow said...

I watched a few of those episodes when you mentioned the series a few months back, Annie. But there were so many episodes! I wish they distilled the good parts into two hours, or some shortish, watchable span. But I will go back to watch more. I'm glad you reminded me.