Tuesday, December 13, 2011

368: The Brain and Consciousness

Today we have reached a milestone in our quest of the Mystery of the brain. After dozens of attempts to formulate a theory of the mind, from dualism to connectionism, we have reached the point of no return.


"This era is at once the most exciting and the most frustrating for the study of consciousness in my intellectual lifetime:

exciting because consciousness has again become respectable, indeed almost central, as a subject of investigation in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and even neuroscience;

frustrating because the whole subject is still plagued with mistakes and errors I thought had been long exposed.", says John Searle (1932 - …) in the Preface of "The Mystery of consciousness (1997).

As a pragmatic choice I started our quest with the assumption that the mind and consciousness are a product of the brain.

Neuroscience has proven that a number of mysterious experiences, like experiencing the presence of an invisible entity or person near to you,

or voices in our head, or flashes of revelations, or the appearance of the holy Virgin, or out-of-body and near - death experiences are all tricks that the brain plays on us.

For consciousness we need at least three crucial parts of the brain: the cortex, the thalamus and the white matter, in which are embedded all neural connections between cortex and thalamus.

The thalamus (from Greek θάλαμος = room, chamber) is a midline paired symmetrical structure within the brains of vertebrates, including humans.

It is situated between the cerebral cortex and midbrain, both in terms of location and neurological connections. Its function includes relaying sensation, spatial sense, and motor signals to the cerebral cortex, along with the regulation of consciousness, sleep, and alertness.

Any damage to one of these parts affects the state of consciousness of a person.

A stroke that damages the right brain, for instance, can make the person loose consciousness of the left side of his body or left spacial consciousness.

When you approach such a person from the left he doesn't notice you at all, from the right he does. Such a person eats only the food on the right half of his plate. Turn it 180 degrees and he can eat the left half.

Coma is another source of information on how to understand the relation between brain and consciousness.

The brainstem controls all functions which are vital to survive, respiration, heartbeat, body temperature and so on. As its name suggests, it is positioned below the cortex.

When the cortex gets damaged, we may loose consciousness, but the brainstem continues to perform its duties. Consequently we stay alive, but unconscious.

Of course there are many more medical examples, but my main point here is, that brain and consciousness are inextricably linked

and that the final stage of our quest is to learn to understand how a bunch of general purpose molecules in a certain configuration can give birth to the mind and consciousness.

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:18] herman Bergson: To answer Farv....
[13:18] herman Bergson: subconsciousness is a psychological term
[13:19] herman Bergson: while consciousness as meant here is a neurological or biological term
[13:19] Teleo Aeon: what is it to be considered (conscious) of something ?
[13:19] herman Bergson: in that sense subconsciousness and consciousness here are hardly related to each other
[13:20] Lizzy Pleides: there is no location for subconsciousness?
[13:20] herman Bergson: there is no location for subconscious nor consciousness.
[13:21] herman Bergson: To be conscious of something....
[13:21] herman Bergson: there are two things in the organism....
[13:21] herman Bergson: a consciousness of the environment with which it interacts and an awareness of the self
[13:21] Teleo Aeon: so this is a proposed consciousness, which is the kind of being counscious of being aware ?
[13:22] Teleo Aeon: or just a mechanism of consciousness
[13:22] Teleo Aeon: or for
[13:22] herman Bergson: not sure what you mean Teleo... ㋡
[13:24] Teleo Aeon: well one could argue that being conscious of being aware, might be different in humans, in the sense that we are actually constantly thinking about outcomes and causes and effect... but we are aware of that AND aware of being aware
[13:24] herman Bergson: I see.....
[13:25] herman Bergson: On the one hand we have self awareness....
[13:25] Teleo Aeon: what the actual biological mechanism underlying that is.. is maybe a search in a different respect, to consciousness
[13:25] herman Bergson: and yes you can play the game of being awere that you are aware of that you are aware of that you are a wre...
[13:25] herman Bergson: ad infinitum....
[13:26] Mick Nerido: We are conscious beings means that matter has that potential...
[13:26] herman Bergson: on the other hand....consciousness is just one word....but it refers to a number of mental states...not to just one state....
[13:26] Teleo Aeon: yeah.. which is I guess, the primary reason that often makes me wonder if it is anything actual at all.. as a phenomena.. or we just end up thinking we are sure, it must be. :)
[13:26] herman Bergson: in future lectures we'll look into the analysis of the concept of consciousness
[13:27] Teleo Aeon: sounds interesting :)
[13:27] Mick Nerido: It's a state of mind?
[13:27] herman Bergson: I mean ..consciousness....itis about our memories....
[13:27] Farv Hallison: one way of being aware is to have a bunch of sentence fragments we can sort through to figure out what to say... Is there anything else?
[13:28] herman Bergson: but also about our awareness of our ideas, our desires, drives....and so on
[13:28] herman Bergson: So there is a lot to tell about the concept itself already
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: is it alllow is it allowed to say that brain works with facts and consciousness with feelings, ... and both interact
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: ?
[13:29] herman Bergson: if you want a straight answer LIzzy.....
[13:29] Mick Nerido: I think of it like a 3 way bulb the brightest setting is consciousness the lower settings unconscious thought
[13:29] herman Bergson: I would not allow such a manner of speaking
[13:29] herman Bergson: because you make the brian an agent and consciousness two....as if we are split in two...
[13:29] herman Bergson: that cant be correct
[13:29] herman Bergson: Besides that....
[13:30] herman Bergson: the brain causes, generates, is the origin of th emind and consciousness
[13:30] herman Bergson: the brain is the material thing....actually just molecules....
[13:31] herman Bergson: How can that generate what we experience as consciousness....that is the big question
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: so consciousness is a special function of the brian beside the working with facts, and supervising this?
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: in a special way
[13:31] Teleo Aeon: the more I think about it.. the more I buy into the emergent propertys, position
[13:32] herman Bergson: that is a better way of stating it it Sybyle, but in stead of brain I would use the word mind
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: okay
[13:32] herman Bergson: in fact...the word brain only refers to that grey matter that is in your skull
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: got it
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: : )
[13:33] herman Bergson: as such it isn't an acting entity...
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: oh it continues
[13:33] herman Bergson: however, as I said before....that brain generates our consciousness....that is the mystery
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: but we start the next big arc within it
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: ups
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: sorry
[13:36] Teleo Aeon: they must mean, the point where an organism becomes aware I guess ? or is it limited to humans as being the only species ascribed with consciousness
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well...today we have opened the final chapter of the philosophy of mind....
[13:36] herman Bergson: Oh no Teloe......
[13:36] herman Bergson: a number of animals have some kind of self awareness
[13:37] herman Bergson: Dolphins, elephants, chimps...they all showed to recognize themselves in a mirror....
[13:37] herman Bergson: even a bird…don't know the english name did so
[13:37] DOMINATRIX Babii: is consciousness not programmed into our mind by what we observe and learn as we grow up?
[13:38] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): rico
[13:38] Farv Hallison: What is the evidence that anyone else or any other animal is conscious?
[13:38] herman Bergson: consciousness and self awareness is not s specific human ability
[13:38] Teleo Aeon: nods.. well in an important sense, I ascribe most creatures to be conscious in a central and important sense... but I think humans are a special case... so there are other problems with that then
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes indeed Teleo....
[13:38] herman Bergson: there is a difference in degree of consciousness
[13:39] Teleo Aeon: thats why I tend to often prefer awareness I suppose.
[13:39] Teleo Aeon: as a differentiator between what I'd call consciously human
[13:40] herman Bergson: I don't think you can uphold that 100%
[13:40] herman Bergson: Indeed an insect reacts to it environment....
[13:40] Farv Hallison: WE have visual and language images, even smell.
[13:40] herman Bergson: so you could assume a kind of consciousness there....
[13:40] DOMINATRIX Babii: all animals have those senses
[13:40] herman Bergson: but that is far away from our level.....
[13:41] herman Bergson: but self awareness is a special feature of us....
[13:41] herman Bergson: but as of some animals....not all, far from that
[13:41] herman Bergson: but some animals are self aware....
[13:41] herman Bergson: so we are not unique in that sense
[13:41] Farv Hallison: we have the ability to deside whether to react to a sense datum.
[13:41] DOMINATRIX Babii: when animals preen...is that not a form of self awareness?
[13:42] herman Bergson: preen?
[13:42] Teleo Aeon: good point DOM
[13:42] herman Bergson: don't know the word...I am sorry ㋡
[13:42] Sybyle Perdide: its may be too much mechanical
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: clean themselves
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Farv…we do not necessarily behave according instincs
[13:43] Teleo Aeon: well maybe that points to self awareness as a more instictual level than one would normally consider.. perfectly possible I gues
[13:43] Teleo Aeon: DOM
[13:43] DOMINATRIX Babii: yes
[13:43] Farv Hallison: preen is like when a girl fluffs her hair so you notive her.
[13:44] herman Bergson: Ahh..I see....
[13:44] herman Bergson: among humans it can be a culturally determined behavior
[13:44] herman Bergson: for animals it is just instinct
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: so the difference is, that we can decide if we do so?
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: it seems to be dependent of brain structure, an amoeba surely hasn't a consciousness
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: and react against all rules?
[13:45] herman Bergson: They do it to survive.....not to look pretty ㋡
[13:45] Teleo Aeon: the advertising agencies might argue with you about that herm. :)
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: we do look pretty to survive too
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: after darwin
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: or better according to
[13:46] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:46] DOMINATRIX Babii: a peacock raises its tail to attract a female...
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: yess
[13:46] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): we cán survive ugly...
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: thats why we can decide how to act#
[13:46] druth Vlodovic: not if we want kids
[13:46] herman Bergson: yes....ugly men exist and have a wife
[13:46] DOMINATRIX Babii: lol
[13:46] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): yes...true
[13:46] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): if they have money...
[13:46] Mick Nerido: Seeing your reflection in a mirror is conciousnes
[13:47] Teleo Aeon: and I've seen the other way round too
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: but maybe they are intelligent
[13:47] Teleo Aeon: it's just the media doesn't seem to like to show those pictures :p
[13:47] herman Bergson: true Teleo
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: beatuy means not automatically attractivity
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: and vice versa
[13:47] druth Vlodovic: but if they preen doesn't that imply that they can imagine how they look to another creature?
[13:48] herman Bergson: Well...I notice that you are conscious of a lot of things ^_^
[13:48] herman Bergson: This means that we have a lot to discuss in coming lectures:)
[13:48] Teleo Aeon: you should see these amaizing constructed gardens the Bird of PAradise makes for it's mating ritual... pretty outstanding
[13:48] herman Bergson: Thank you all for you participation....
[13:48] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): we never stop to discuss here:)
[13:48] Teleo Aeon: thanks herm
[13:48] herman Bergson: I know the solution Beertje
[13:49] herman Bergson: CLASS DISMISSED ㋡
[13:49] Sybyle Perdide: great Herman.. you led us well
[13:49] Lizzy Pleides: brilliant Herman, Thank you!
[13:49] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): smiles..
[13:49] DOMINATRIX Babii: thank you herman :)
[[13:49] herman Bergson: Druth , are you there?
[13:50] Farv Hallison: Thank you professor Bergson
[13:50] druth Vlodovic: somewhere :)
[13:50] herman Bergson: I see a clould behind Beertje even without a name tag
[13:50] Farv Hallison: hello druth
[13:50] herman Bergson: Must be you Druth
[13:51] Farv Hallison: you look like a cloud druth.
[13:51] Lizzy Pleides: can a cloud have consciousness?
[13:51] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): you can see Druth now?
[13:51] herman Bergson: no...
[13:51] druth Vlodovic: ah, I didn't realize I was so well hidden, old computer
[13:51] Farv Hallison paid you L$100.
[13:51] Guestboook van tipjar stand: Farv Hallison donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:51] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i can only see here head
[13:52] Farv Hallison: You still look pretty, druth.
[13:52] Teleo Aeon: thanks :)
[13:52] CONNIE Eichel: great class, i was a bit lost in IMs :)
[13:52] druth Vlodovic: that's al I brought, saves bandwidth
[13:52] CONNIE Eichel paid you L$50.
[13:52] Guestboook van tipjar stand: CONNIE Eichel donated L$50. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:52] DOMINATRIX Babii: it was wonderful...thank you so much :)
[13:52] herman Bergson: My pleasure Domi
[13:53] CONNIE Eichel: great class, as always :)
[13:53] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman..it was great
[13:53] herman Bergson: thank you CONNIE ㋡
[13:53] CONNIE Eichel: :)
[13:53] CONNIE Eichel: time to go... till next time, kisses :)
[13:53] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): sorry about your floor..
[13:53] Sybyle Perdide: bye Connie
[13:53] herman Bergson: Bye CONNIE
[13:53] Farv Hallison: kiddrd CONNIOE
[13:53] CONNIE Eichel: bye bye :)
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: Good byee Herman
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: bye conny
[13:54] herman Bergson: Bye Lizzy
[13:54] Sybyle Perdide: good bye Herman, FArv
[13:54] druth Vlodovic: bye herman, thank you
[13:54] Sybyle Perdide: druth
[13:54] herman Bergson: You have your name tag now druth
[13:55] druth Vlodovic: I see it
[13:55] herman Bergson: try Ctr + Alt + R
[13:56] druth Vlodovic: I'm off to a pseudo-buddhist thing now, I don't know if you are interested in such things
[13:56] druth Vlodovic: you're welcome to come if you are
[13:56] herman Bergson: I was there once with you...
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: what did you think?
[13:57] herman Bergson: the meditation place
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: related
[13:57] herman Bergson: not really ㋡
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: ok :)
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: I hope I can make it on time next time
[13:58] druth Vlodovic: see you then
[13:58] herman Bergson: take care druth
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