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From Brain to Consciousness to Mind--the biological basis

 
 
salima
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 01:00 am
@Aedes,
Aedes;94160 wrote:

I never said it had to be alive -- but you've already implied that consciousness requires a living organism.

But if you take someone brain dead, a child with anencephaly, someone who has had a major anoxic brain injury, and many other conditions, then you can NOT by any credible measure demonstrate that there is consciousness.

Yes, without question. I've taken care of one in the last week alone.


actually, no i dont believe consciousness can only exist in organisms which are considered to be 'alive'. but i assumed you would be limiting your observation to living creatures.i cant imagine any scientist looking for signs of consciousness in someone after their complete and absolutely inarguable death has occurred!

i think we are having a difference of opinion on what the definition of consciousness is. if it is as agreed upon in prior threads 'the sum of experience' then you cannot know if a person who is unable to relate to you that he is experiencing anything is in fact experiencing anything or not, as in the case of terry schiavo-and kj was able to explain away as insignificant all the bodily responses that her relatives were interpretting as life signs. but at the same time, that to me is not quite enough to prove the consciousness has ended, or cannot be revived.

i will agree that there should be ways to measure completely damaged brains that would not be able to function again...but i am not sure that was shown to be so with terry schiavo. i should go back and check out kj's posts.

are there any reports of people who come out of comas having any recollection of having experienced anything at all during their coma? i am assuming comatose patients cannot have dreams, that would be measurable. does science in fact believe a person can have a subjective experience of something that cannot be measured or observed?

so...science maintains that we can keep zombies alive for years when they havent any function that even remotely can be called consciousness or awareness? arent there a lot of bodies costing a lot of money where in fact the plug should have been pulled? i realize this direction is running off topic now. i guess it seems rather amazing to me that the majority of the general public is unable to believe there can be living corpses...biologically living but without consciousness, when all the scientific proof is there.
Hermes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:22 am
@Aedes,
Aedes;94185 wrote:
I do believe that this happens, but despite sort of boggling the mind (the whole unfathomable, sublime aspect), there's nothing particularly unique about it when you look at other examples. We have all sorts of feedback systems both within cells and within the body. Partial loss of function results in compensation -- so if I cut out one of your kidneys, your remaining kidney will actually increase its glomerular filtration rate above its baseline and the glomeruli change histologically; hearts that survive a myocardial infarction can have some degree of remodeling and regrowth of the infarcted tissue; when part of the liver is removed or injured some biological stimulus/stimuli lead to regeneration.

So we see in stroke patients that some degree of lost function often returns in time, though not usually completely. Brain remodeling has been demonstrated, and people are now looking at bone marrow-derived pluripotential stem cells as a cell that can actually migrate to the CNS and develop into functioning neural tissue. Wild.

My whole point here is that it certainly would NOT be unique among human organs for the brain to find ways to compensate for a loss of function.


Yes, it is common for the brain to compensate for damage. More examples, grey matter perfusion changes in alzheimer's...

Functional compensation in incipient Alzheimer's d...[Neurobiol Aging. 2008] - PubMed Result

And glial scarring is a natural mechanism that serves to prevent nerve regrowth, so trying to prevent this scarring is an attractive method for allowing the natural regrowth of axons, particularly in the periphery (eg. arms and legs).

Glial scar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sooo.... does anybody have any comments on KJs post regarding the evolution of the human mind from ape ancestors? Does anyone disagree with this?
xris
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:33 am
@Hermes,
I thought i had in some small way.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 05:45 am
@Hermes,
Hermes;94222 wrote:
Sooo.... does anybody have any comments on KJs post regarding the evolution of the human mind from ape ancestors? Does anyone disagree with this?


The point has been made that an injured or deficient brain is able to somehow be reconfigured in such a way that consciousness is able to more closely approximate its intended functionality.

This seems to indicate that the heirarchy proposed of brain>consciousness>mind might not be accurate. If consciousness - or are there other candidates here? - is able to reconfigure the brain in such an event, then it implies that consciousness exists in some sense separately to the brain. For if were solely the output of the brain, then how could it cause the brain to be re-configured?

This observation also implies teleology - that is, development towards some kind of optimal end - which I would suggest is the attainment of awareness. However that is a subsidiary argument.

You may well brush this aside by saying 'well brains just do that' but that is hardly an explanation.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 06:44 am
@jeeprs,
If the brain evolved from the animal example, when did it obtain its value as a observer of its own ego? Who can say when we became aware, we might always have had this ability. Where we created complete by evolution? Looking at us as a progressive animal infers that humans developed this consciousness from the animal example but show me the evidence we never had this ability. Recorded examples of our rock art infers we might just have had a this self examining, introvert personality, from the dawn of humanity.
0 Replies
 
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:04 am
@KaseiJin,
jeeprs wrote:

If consciousness - or are there other candidates here? - is able to reconfigure the brain in such an event, then it implies that consciousness exists in some sense separately to the brain. For if were solely the output of the brain, then how could it cause the brain to be re-configured?


I don't think it's the consciousness making the reparations or reconfiguring. The tissue cells are making the reparations, improved (for lack of a better word) consciousness is a result. There's no power that is consciousness which instructs the body to repair (just as there is no power which makes liver cells repair) - it's a phenomenom after the fact, as far as I can tell.

---------- Post added 09-29-2009 at 09:15 AM ----------

xris wrote:

If the brain evolved from the animal example, when did it obtain its value as a observer of its own ego?


It may have been as far back as the Homo erectis. We know they made tools and had a rudimentary language (not as advanced as ours, but moreso than chimps).

Quote:
Looking at us as a progressive animal infers that humans developed this consciousness from the animal example but show me the evidence we never had this ability. Recorded examples of our rock art infers we might just have had a this self examining, introvert personality, from the dawn of humanity.


I agree. It seems the genus of Homo has always had consciousness, it's just the intelligence which seems to differ. Perhaps the consciousness wasn't as pronounced as we now experience it (due to an increase in sensory perception), but it appears like it was there.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:30 am
@Zetherin,
So if we always might have had this ability, is it necessary to say it developed or was it gifted to us . It does not appear to be present in our near relatives, it appears as we appear. Its a gift of the gods, so that we might worship and admire them. Seriously if our spiritual demands made us more than mortal can it be denied our ego came from more than biological advances. Are we zombies with a soul or zombies with attitude?
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:34 am
@salima,
salima;94207 wrote:
if it is as agreed upon in prior threads 'the sum of experience' then you cannot know if a person who is unable to relate to you that he is experiencing anything is in fact experiencing anything or not
We can't always know in all individual cases -- but that is a practical medical issues -- in some cases we DO. The case I'm referring to is a patient who had a cardiac arrest a year ago, recovered cardiac function after about 30 minutes of resuscitation, knocked off his brain, his kidneys, and about 80% of his heart function in the process, and is in a permanent vegetative state with no cortical activity and will not even respond to deep pain.

salima;94207 wrote:
are there any reports of people who come out of comas having any recollection of having experienced anything at all during their coma?
Plenty. But coma is not necessarily death of the brain. I can induce a medical coma with (for instance) propofol, the drug that did in Michael Jackson, but that effect is only as long as the duration of the drug's effect (so long as the person is supported in the meantime).

salima;94207 wrote:
so...science maintains that we can keep zombies alive for years when they havent any function that even remotely can be called consciousness or awareness? arent there a lot of bodies costing a lot of money where in fact the plug should have been pulled?
Yes, absolutely (see above -- the family believes in miracles). But we have a model of patient autonomy in this country that puts major decisions like that in the hands of patients and their guardians. So to maintain that ethic, we need to acknowledge that the occasional extreme, inappropriate case will happen.
0 Replies
 
salima
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:40 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;94226 wrote:
The point has been made that an injured or deficient brain is able to somehow be reconfigured in such a way that consciousness is able to more closely approximate its intended functionality.

This seems to indicate that the heirarchy proposed of brain>consciousness>mind might not be accurate. If consciousness - or are there other candidates here? - is able to reconfigure the brain in such an event, then it implies that consciousness exists in some sense separately to the brain. For if were solely the output of the brain, then how could it cause the brain to be re-configured?

This observation also implies teleology - that is, development towards some kind of optimal end - which I would suggest is the attainment of awareness. However that is a subsidiary argument.

You may well brush this aside by saying 'well brains just do that' but that is hardly an explanation.


i see mind as adjacent to consciousness rather than being derived from it. suppose the hierarchy be first brain, which has various activities, i.e. mind being one, consciousness another, emotions another. some articles i have read propose that it is the thoughts that reconfigure the brain. i believe neuroscience has verified there are marks on the brain due to thoughts or thinking patterns, as there are with memory which would also be a faculty of the mind activity of the brain.

but this in turn suggests that an organ can produce activity which in turn comes back and makes adjustments to its actual physical makeup. are there examples of this happening in biology?

i dont really think this is the same as regrowth or rejuvenation, or even the portions of the brain taking on new duties that it didnt have before, such as when stroke victims learn to speak or walk anew with other portions of their already existing brain.
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 09:02 am
@salima,
salima;94253 wrote:
but this in turn suggests that an organ can produce activity which in turn comes back and makes adjustments to its actual physical makeup. are there examples of this happening in biology?


... yes - life itself ... under the concept of autopoiesis, life is a network of processes that interact with each other and the environment in ways so as to continuously perpetuate and regenerate themselves ... the complexity of life today belies its subtle beginnings (e.g., autocatalysis), but great things can "take on a life of their own" from subtle beginnings when reinforcing feedback is brought to bear in open thermodynamic systems (witness the "Great Ocean Conveyor Belt" - The Environmental Literacy Council - The Great Ocean Conveyer Belt) ... can the concept of autopoiesis provide insights into consciousness? ... that is, can consciousness be viewed as a network of processes that interact with each other and the environment in ways so as to continuously perpetuate and regenerate consciousness? ... and similar to how the processes of life can repair damage to the very vehicle that enables them to persist (to the extent that the damage does not catastrophically disrupt those life processes), might not the processes of consciousness be able to repair a damaged brain? ... that rehabilitation programs leverage the conscious activity of patients to stimulate the rewiring of the brain around damaged areas seems to be consistent with this view ...
salima
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 09:14 am
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;94261 wrote:
... yes - life itself ... under the concept of autopoiesis, life is a network of processes that interact with each other and the environment in ways so as to continuously perpetuate and regenerate themselves ... the complexity of life today belies its subtle beginnings (e.g., autocatalysis), but great things can "take on a life of their own" from subtle beginnings when reinforcing feedback is brought to bear in open thermodynamic systems (witness the "Great Ocean Conveyor Belt" - The Environmental Literacy Council - The Great Ocean Conveyer Belt) ... can the concept of autopoiesis provide insights into consciousness? ... that is, can consciousness be viewed as a network of processes that interact with each other and the environment in ways so as to continuously perpetuate and regenerate consciousness? ... and similar to how the processes of life can repair damage to the very vehicle that enables them to persist (to the extent that the damage does not catastrophically disrupt those life processes), might not the processes of consciousness be able to repair a damaged brain? ... that rehabilitation programs leverage the conscious activity of patients to stimulate the rewiring of the brain around damaged areas seems to be consistent with this view ...


but you also see this as being purely biological and physical? a network of processes...that perpetuate and improve and evolve themselves? by the process of natural selection at least in part? you dont see any need for intent or initiative or motivation, it is more or less a matter of events or meetings serving as catalysts for change?

---------- Post added 09-29-2009 at 08:57 PM ----------

KaseiJin;93258 wrote:

As further, slightly more precise definitions come onto the field, we will be able to consider mind in relationship to both consciousness, and come to understand areas of overlap, and difference, in broadness of term/concept. At the same time, we will be able to explore the depth and nature of correlation between brain and mind, and by extension the foundational, biological basis of mind and consciousness. Thus in summation on the approach, we first arrive at brain (evolutionary history), and in consideration of that (neurosciences and plausible philosophical takes) look next to consciousness, and then mind (subjective observation leading to subjective investigation). However, it would be good to work back down again, in an effort to further refine the 'what, why and hows' of the relationship between the three things. In this manner, I argue the position that mind, and consciousness are robustly involved with, and foundationally determined by, brain, and that thus it is more accurate and especially fair enough to contend that they are foundationally biological concerns.


kj, i think from reading the above, you want to discuss the biological aspect of consciousness as being an activity of the brain, also as relates to mind. that is fine...i am interested in that. but i fail to see there is any philosophy involved...what do you mean by "plausible philosophical takes"?
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 10:01 am
@salima,
salima;94265 wrote:
but you also see this as being purely biological and physical? a network of processes...that perpetuate and improve and evolve themselves? by the process of natural selection at least in part? you dont see any need for intent or initiative or motivation, it is more or less a matter of events or meetings serving as catalysts for change?


... I see intent and initiative and motivation as good names for processes that form part of the networks of both life and consciousness ... that the life processes of a bacterium can be cast in these terms (in a very rudimentary way) can lead to insights into their subtle beginnings ... e.g., a bacterium is motivated to find glucose, for without glucose it will cease to exist ... when it senses a glucose gradient, this gradient has meaning (there's glucose over there!) ... given this meaning, the bacterium takes the initiative to turn and head for the source of glucose with the intent to consume that glucose as sustenance ... some may see this as an over-anthropomorphization of what it is that bacterial life processes do; I see it more as approaching the phenomenon of life with humility Smile ...
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:20 pm
@salima,
Much of what comes to me about this topic has been well expressed by salima. What I see in the thread is a problem of joining each other in a common perspective: narrow vs. broad.

Biology is closely linked to healthcare. Historically, medicine and spirituality have been linked. Has the link disappeared?

Models for understanding the human organism change over time. I don't know of any point in human history that compares to the last fifty years in terms of profound change in all aspects of science. Today, people from all over the world gather to exchange ideas. It's been said that the single greatest accomplishment of humanity could be the defeat of small pox. A host of people are alive and well today who, just ten years ago, would have died from the diseases they present with. It's a heady experience and the horizons don't appear to be closing as we look ahead: to the contrary. The problem salima mentioned about living corpses is a testament to the struggle of the community at large to cope with the change.

It may not be obvious when you look out at the realm of religion, but over approximately the same time period, a global revolution has been brewing here as well. As it happens, a central theme emerging has been the relationship of the mind to the body and the world.

One place that modern science and spirituality meet is the issue of the placebo effect. This factor lurks in the shadows of every medical trial. No medical research has any hope of being taken seriously unless it has demonstrated that this factor has been ruled out. But as we know, once the trial is over and the substance is being prescribed... there's no longer any way to separate it out from results. It's impact can be as great as a 30-60% variation in the outcome. Studies have also shown that the outcome of surgery can be significantly effected by the "attitude" of the patient prior to surgery.

What does any of this have to do with the link between consciousness and the brain? Perhaps it's a sign that as much as we've learned we're still like our anscestors in this: we're still using models to understand things. It's not for the scientist to ponder over whether the model he's using explains all questions. The model is a tool that requires confidence.

But it's the philosophical types in any generation who step back and bravely explore issues that have no apparent practical value. It would have been a philosopher who would have asked the doctors of 200 years ago to step back and consider that the model which has disease arising from "humours" is one that they themselves had created.

So I say bless the scientists whose efforts are truly helping people. What they do for patients and their families is something that doesn't show up in any statistics. Even when they fail, they are filling a need in the community... the need to care about each other.

Maybe we've reached the end of the parade of models. But if not, when the time comes to explore new ones, we'll be ready. It's at that point that all the philosophical rambling comes in handy. This is the part of humanity that's in the habit dwelling behind all the models... seeing all of them as languages for the ever evolving expression of who we are... whatever that may actually be.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 08:13 pm
@KaseiJin,
Well said, Arjuna.

Let me add, abstractly, that the endeavor to understand ourselves biologically IS a sort of placebo effect unto itself. We take ownership of our physical being, we understand ourselves, and by internalizing the locus of control we feel empowered.

Science and spirituality can complement one another in a mind that is internally comfortable. I'm very much in the scientist camp, being one of sorts, but I also have a type of spirituality (and appreciation of it in others) that I don't submit to science. That doesn't mean I use one to overrule the other. They just serve their roles comfortably.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 12:40 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;94244 wrote:
I don't think it's the consciousness making the reparations or reconfiguring. The tissue cells are making the reparations, improved (for lack of a better word) consciousness is a result. There's no power that is consciousness which instructs the body to repair (just as there is no power which makes liver cells repair) - it's a phenomenom after the fact, as far as I can tell.


Hmmm. I don't find this totally convincing, really. When you say 'the tissue cells are doing something', how does this happen? I suppose we could say, that is just the way living organisms operate. If they are injured, they heal. This is certainly one respect in which living organisms are different to mechanical devices. I think some of these neuro-plasticity findings are quite confounding actually - parts of the brain that are typically associated with one type of functionality can be found in some cases to be re-purposed to do something else altogether. It seems to me to suggest something about living beings whereby the 'functional template' is in some respects holographically imprinted on every cell, so that the organism can somehow sense which function is missing or damaged, and re-purpose other parts to compensate. Spooky. But will defer to the experts in this case.

I have another study which suggests that thought can directly influence neural structure. I would be interested in feedback on this.

In 1995 a study was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology which examined aspects of nerual structure through transcranial magnetic stimulation in relation to the acquisition of new fine motor skills.

In this study, four groups of individuals were asked to participate in a five-day study that involved practicing the piano, in order to measure the changes that might take place in the brain. The first group of subjects learned and memorized a specific one-handed, five-finger sequence that they physically practiced every day for two hours during the five day period.

Group two were asked to play on the piano for the same amount of time, with no instructions.

Group three never touched the piano, but were asked to observe what was taught to group one until they could remember it. They then mentally rehearsed these exercises by imagining themselves practicing for two hours daily, for five days.

Group four were given no instructions and did no exercises.

Interestingly, at the end of the study, group three showed almost exactly the same neural development patterns as group one, even though they had never touched a piano. These changes involved the expansion and development of neural networks in the same areas of the brain, in both groups.

Groups two and four showed little or no change in the brain.

So - on the basis of this study, can it be stated that neural configuration may be altered by thinking? Does this illustrate 'downward causality' from mental acts to neural structure? If so, how does this undermine the idea that the mind is a epi-phenomenon of the brain?

[Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol 74, Issue 3 1037-1045]
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 06:51 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;94370 wrote:
It seems to me to suggest something about living beings whereby the 'functional template' is in some respects holographically imprinted on every cell, so that the organism can somehow sense which function is missing or damaged, and re-purpose other parts to compensate. Spooky. But will defer to the experts in this case.
Cells are heavily influenced by the environment they're in. So the paracrine mileux (the environment of chemical signals sent from one cell to its neighbors) guide the development of cells. This is one of the basic tenets of embryonic stem cell research, that you can take an uncommitted cell and get whatever kind of cell you want by exposing it to the right environment. This is true for cell recruitment too, just as tissue inflammation recruits white blood cells, and vascular injury recruits platelets (because there are chemical gradients along which a cell can find its appropriate site of activity).
0 Replies
 
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 10:47 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;94370 wrote:
I think some of these neuro-plasticity findings are quite confounding actually - parts of the brain that are typically associated with one type of functionality can be found in some cases to be re-purposed to do something else altogether. It seems to me to suggest something about living beings whereby the 'functional template' is in some respects holographically imprinted on every cell, so that the organism can somehow sense which function is missing or damaged, and re-purpose other parts to compensate. Spooky.


... I think there are a few things going on here ... there is the environmental contribution to the gene expression regulation network (as noted by Aedes), where DNA is akin to your "holographic imprint" ... there is also the multifunctionality of cortical columns (see Hawkins' "On Intelligence" for a pop-sci discussion), which can be likened to the swiss army knife of the brain ... when "wired up" in interesting ways, a network of cortical columns can perform some pretty amazing feats of information processing ... that brain cells fan out dendrites in all directions to connect to other brain cells, the connections of which become stronger with use and weaker with disuse, allows for the dynamic rewiring of cortical columns ... the use and disuse of these connections depend upon the inputs to the brain cells, and so cortical columns are continuously rewired in response to inputs to the brain (such as sensory inputs) ... that some inputs to the brain are also outputs of the brain (via feedback) means that to some degree the brain continuously rewires itself in response to itself ... so if consciousness is an "output" of the brain, doesn't that imply that to some degree the brain continuously rewires itself in response to the very consciousness that it gives rise to? ...
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 11:04 am
@KaseiJin,
This is a 5 star thread right here, yo! Some great stuff being brought to the table. I'm very interested in all this, but don't feel as though I have the knowledge to really make any educated conclusions. Thanks guys for the food for thought!
0 Replies
 
Hermes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 11:22 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;94415 wrote:
... I think there are a few things going on here ... there is the environmental contribution to the gene expression regulation network (as noted by Aedes), where DNA is akin to your "holographic imprint" ... there is also the multifunctionality of cortical columns (see Hawkins' "On Intelligence" for a pop-sci discussion), which can be likened to the swiss army knife of the brain ... when "wired up" in interesting ways, a network of cortical columns can perform some pretty amazing feats of information processing ... that brain cells fan out dendrites in all directions to connect to other brain cells, the connections of which become stronger with use and weaker with disuse, allows for the dynamic rewiring of cortical columns ... the use and disuse of these connections depend upon the inputs to the brain cells, and so cortical columns are continuously rewired in response to inputs to the brain (such as sensory inputs) ... that some inputs to the brain are also outputs of the brain (via feedback) means that to some degree the brain continuously rewires itself in response to itself ... so if consciousness is an "output" of the brain, doesn't that imply that to some degree the brain continuously rewires itself in response to the very consciousness that it gives rise to? ...


You are right that the neuronal wiring is influenced by mental activity/experience, and the piano example was a very nice demonstration of that. But this process is identical to the feedback mechanisms inherent in other organs of the body. You eat more food, your liver expresses more digestive proteins, do more exercise, muscles undergo hypertrophy. It is indicative of the relative design of the body, which is meant to adapt - many parts of itself - in response to environmental experience.

The brain is a slightly different example, because it has some form of "will" whereby it can perform Action which thereby affects itself. But we shouldn't confuse this with any primacy of "consciousness" which jeeprs proposed. I would agree, however, that because of this feed-forward mechanism there probably is some aspect of the mind that is stabilising which allows it to home in on an equilibrium as you suggest. I strongly doubt this is "consciously" done, though.
KaseiJin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 11:24 pm
@KaseiJin,
I would like to ask for all of your understanding, please, in my not being able to get back here in a more proper timeliness . . . my bad ! :deflated: Surprised I do apologize ! (the Fall/Winter semester is yet in its early weeks, the uni fesitval next week [my seminar students'll have an outdoor booth selling burritos], and my graduating students need advice with their theses [the school year finishes at the end of this semester; Feb])

Now there are a number of points which have been raised (more in the tone of objections to the position I (yes, but others too) have been putting forth) which I most certainly intend to deal with at some length, and in some detail, and thus demonstrate more than fair enough cause for setting the objections aside. I ask, as I have in the OP, and as has been touched by reference towards in a few spots (Hermes' #36, #13) that we all maintain this good skill of making the effort, that I by far mostly see here on this thread so far, to develop our thoughts and questions as fully as possible, to strive for clarity and conscientiousness in reading, understanding, and cognizing, as well as in our presenting--even if that means a slow thread!! Good job !!

I would like to now (as mentioned in the OP) bring in some posts (maybe 3, and one at a time to prevent automerge) which will deal more closely with the understanding of 'consciousness' as a defined thing, so that I can hopefully better relate that to some issues being put on the table--as jeeprs' posts dealing with brain affecting brain (as in essence, it much more thinkably turns out to be). I will do my best to keep up, yet may not be as fully participating as I can, until after the third week of October.



It far more clearly presents itself as being true that in describing consciousness, we have to include the element of 'having knowledge of, and being aware of our own existence (and of objects and events internally) and the existence of others and objects and events outside ourselves.' We thus have an internal perspective, and an external one--this latter being a matter of the observer's perspective.

Jumping a little, we will find that the most productive-in-outcome line of inquiry will be that of looking from the observer's perspective. The down-to-earth reason for that, is that to understand consciousness we must be able to relate with the third party of the same (since it only goes without speaking that we have many actors in the world, of, firstly (but most obviously not only) our own spieces).

We will look for wakefulness. In doing so we'll first catagorize slow wave sleep (SWS) as an opposite of a full 'alert and awake' state (state of consciousness). REM sleep presents no trouble because it too is a state of consciousness; but simply a lower saturation (or intensity) of the fuller state of consciousness. We look for objective signs like, being able to open eyes upon request, muscular tone compatible with movements against gravity, and a characteristic awake EEG pattern. Another thing that we'll have to keep in mind, is that while consciousness will require wakefulness, wakefulness does not guarantee consciousness. (vegetative states (VS), epileptic automatisms, and akinetic mutism will be discussed later in the thread)

Next, we will look for background emotions. This is not considered to be the primary emotions (fear, anager, sadness, happines, etc.) or social emotions (embarressment, guilt, compassion, etc.) but that of expressed configurations of body movement (overall posture, range of motion of limbs relative to the trunk, spatial profile of limb movements, etc.) that inform us about the likes of fatigue or enery level, discouragement or enthusiasm, malaise or well-being, etc. It is only true that these 'pre-verbal' signs are all checked out when we approach or observe others, and are used in assessing that other party's 'state of mind.'

We will then check for attention. This will be observations that the third party will exhibit attention, orient themselves towards objects and concentrate on such as needed--in a relatively coherent and coordinated fashion. We must keep in mind that while the mere presence of attention towards an object will usually be a criterion for consciousness, that is not always the case.

Then, at this level of analysis, we have one more--and NO less important at all--factor, viz., LACK of attention towards an external object when that object (or event) could be recognized as being sufficient to draw attention. This, however, is true if it is on a temporary basis (as opposed to, for example, drowsiness, stupor, confusional states, etc.). If lack of attention is a sustained state, such as in VS, coma, or general anethesia, the description of consciousness is not applied to the being.

Then, we should fill this out with a fuller description in relation to brain states and functions that give rise to the above considerations, and also investigate how function, activity, and events which do happen at a level below that of consciousness fit in. This will bring out a matter which some have objected to, but which I have not yet fully demonstrated yet, and which is most secure in understanding. It will also put away the old 'ego' of psychoanalysis, and the 'immaterial spritism' of animistic folklore.
 

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