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- The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics
- sharing our passion for learning
- The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
- Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality (eBook, PDF)
Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either.
The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics
Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself, such as thoughts, feelings, memories, or sensations. It has also been defined in the following ways: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive-control system of the mind. At one time, consciousness was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, but in recent years, it has become a significant topic of research in psychology and neuroscience.
Despite the difficulty in coming to a definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. Philosophers since the time of Descartes and Locke have struggled to comprehend the nature of consciousness and pin down its essential properties. Issues of concern in the philosophy of consciousness include the following: whether consciousness can ever be explained mechanistically; whether non-human consciousness exists, and if so, how it can be recognized; how consciousness relates to language; whether consciousness can be understood in a way that does not require a dualistic distinction between mental and physical states or properties; and whether it may ever be possible for computers or robots to be conscious.
The mind-body problem is essentially the problem of consciousness; roughly speaking, it is the question of how mental experiences arise from a physical entity. How are our mental states, beliefs, actions, and thinking related to our physical states, bodily functions, and external events, given that the body is physical and the mind is non-physical?
The explanation behind Cartesian dualism is that consciousness resides within an immaterial domain he called res cogitans the realm of thought , in contrast to the domain of material things, which he called res extensa the realm of extension. He suggested that the interaction between these two domains occurs inside the brain.
He further suggested the pineal glad as the point of interaction, but was later challenged several times on this claim. These challenges sparked some key initial research on consciousness, which we will discuss shortly.
For over years, questions surrounding human consciousness—such as how the everyday inner workings of our brains give rise to a single cohesive reality and a sense of an individual self—have been baffling philosophers from Plato to Descartes. Descartes, as previously mentioned, is noted for his dualist theory of consciousness, in which the physical body is separate from the immaterial mind.
He pointed out that there is no reason to assume that consciousness is tied to any particular body or mind, or that consciousness cannot be transferred from one body or mind to another. Today, the primary focus of consciousness research is on understanding what consciousness means both biologically and psychologically.
It questions what it means for information to be present in consciousness, and seeks to determine the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness. Issues of interest include phenomena such as perception, subliminal perception, blindsight, anosognosia, brainwaves during sleep, and altered states of consciousness produced by psychoactive drugs or spiritual or meditative techniques. The majority of experimental studies assess consciousness by asking human subjects for a verbal report of their experiences.
However, in order to confirm the significance of these verbal reports, scientists must compare them to the activity that simultaneously takes place in the brain—that is, they must look for the neural correlates of consciousness.
The hope is to find that observable activity in a particular part of the brain, or a particular pattern of global brain activity, will be strongly predictive of conscious awareness. Several brain-imaging techniques, such as EEG and fMRI scans, have been used for physical measures of brain activity in these studies.
Higher brain areas are more widely accepted as necessary for consciousness to occur, especially the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in a range of higher cognitive functions collectively known as executive functions. Prefrontal cortex : This image shows the location of the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain heavily involved in consciousness.
Theories of consciousness include developmental, cultural, neural, computational, and moral perspectives. First appearing in the historical records of the ancient Mayan and Incan civilizations, various theories of multiple levels of consciousness have pervaded spiritual, psychological, medical, and moral speculations in both Eastern and Western cultures. Consciousness can be defined as human awareness to both internal and external stimuli. Because of occasional and sometimes substantial overlap between hypotheses, there have recently been attempts to combine perspectives to form new models that integrate components of separate viewpoints.
The Ancient Mayans were among the first to propose an organized sense of each level of consciousness, its purpose, and its temporal connection to humankind.
Because consciousness incorporates stimuli from the environment as well as internal stimuli, the Mayans believed it to be the most basic form of existence, capable of evolution. The Incas, however, considered consciousness a progression not only of awareness but of concern for others as well.
John Locke, a 17th-century philosopher, was one of the first to speak and write on consciousness. He also asserted that our consciousness is not tied to our physical bodies, and that it can survive even after our physical bodies die. In fact, Locke held that consciousness could be transferred from one soul to another.
He set out to answer the question of how it is possible that our consciousness, a non-physical thing, can come from our bodies, a physical thing. While Eastern perspectives on consciousness have remained relatively stable over the centuries, fluctuations in theory have come to define the Western perspective.
One of the most popular Western theories is that of Sigmund Freud, medical doctor and father of psychoanalytic theory. Freud divided human consciousness into three levels of awareness: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. The conscious level consists of all the things we are aware of, including things we know about ourselves and our surroundings. The preconscious consists of things we could pay conscious attention to if we so desired, and is where many memories are stored for easy retrieval.
Freud saw the preconscious as comprised of thoughts that are unconscious at the particular moment in question, but that are not repressed and are therefore available for recall and easily capable of becoming conscious for example, the tip-of-the-tongue effect.
The unconscious consists of things that are outside of conscious awareness, including many memories, thoughts, and urges of which we are not aware. Much of what is stored in the unconscious is thought to be unpleasant or conflicting; for example, sexual impulses that are deemed unacceptable.
While these elements are stored out of our awareness, they are nevertheless thought to influence our behavior. The part above water is known as the conscious level; the top level of waves just below the surface and above the white line is the preconscious level; and the bottom level is the unconscious.
It is important to note that these perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, just different approaches to the same questions. Developmental psychologists view consciousness not as a single entity, but as a developmental process with potential higher stages of cognitive, moral, and spiritual quality. Abnormal development also affects consciousness, as do mental illnesses.
Social psychologists view consciousness as a product of cultural influence having little to do with the individual. For instance, because different cultures speak different languages, they also codify reality differently. That difference in codification leads to differences in the experience of reality, and therefore of consciousness.
Language is the main mechanism for transmitting a mode of consciousness, and an analysis of language can to some extent reveal the mentality of people who speak that language. Neuropsychologists view consciousness as ingrained in neural systems and organic brain structures. A major part of the modern scientific literature on consciousness consists of studies that examine the relationship between the experiences reported by subjects and the activity that simultaneously takes place in their brains—that is, studies of the neural correlates of consciousness.
The hope is to find activity in a particular part of the brain, or a particular pattern of global brain activity, that will be strongly predictive of conscious awareness. The neural correlates of consciousness NCC refer to the relationship between the experiences reported by subjects and the activity that simultaneously takes place in their brains. Consciousness is the awareness of the self, the environment, and the relationship between these two distinct worlds.
From ancient philosophers to modern-day scientists, many people have struggled to understand, research, and document the processes involved in human consciousness. Thanks in large part to advances in medicine, science, and psychology, we have learned much about how states of consciousness are created. Current research studies the neural correlates of consciousness by examining experiences reported by subjects and recording the simultaneous activity that takes place in their brains.
Researchers continue to search for brain activity or global brain patterns that can be predictive of conscious awareness. The physical world is perceived by human consciousness through the senses, which funnel stimuli and information into the central nervous system, and eventually the brain. The brain is the major organ implicated in turning physical stimuli into thoughts and actions.
The study of NCC seeks to link objective, observable, neural activity to subjective, unobservable, conscious phenomena. While discovering and characterizing neural correlates cannot offer its own theory of consciousness, the data and findings may one day lead to such a discovery. Neural correlates of consciousness : The study of neural correlates of consciousness seeks to link activity within the brain to subjective human experiences in the physical world.
Neural networks have been found to have a large amount of redundancy and parallelism, such that activity in one set of neurons cannot necessarily be said to correlate with the same perception over time.
Scientists believe it may be the case that every phenomenal, subjective state has its own neural correlate. Continued advances in the ability to stimulate or induce activity in certain brain regions or sets of neural networks will help scientists answer ever more complicated questions about the characteristics and commonalities among neural correlates.
The science of consciousness sets out to explain the precise relationship between subjective mental states and brain states, the relationship between the conscious mind and the electro-chemical interactions in the body.
Progress in this arena has come from focusing on the body rather than the mind. In this context, the neuronal correlates of consciousness may be viewed as its causes, and consciousness may be thought of as a state-dependent property of some complex, adaptive, and highly interconnected biological system. Most neurobiologists assume that the variables giving rise to consciousness are to be found at the neuronal level, governed by classical physics. More than ever before, neuroscientists are able to manipulate neurons using methods from molecular biology combined with state-of-the-art optical tools e.
Neuronal analysis and brain imaging techniques have become so fine-grained that a rational understanding of consciousness is within reach. In order for the brain to be conscious of any type of content, it must be in a high state of arousal. While awake and dreaming states are fundamentally different states of consciousness, they are both high-arousal, and thus allow for perception. Sleep is just one of the many types of consciousness we can experience and comprises several states of consciousness itself.
Consciousness can also be phenomenal, such as our experiences in real time, or access, such as recalling a state of being or feeling. Another idea that has drawn attention for several decades is that consciousness is associated with high-frequency gamma band oscillations in brain activity. This idea arose from proposals in the s, by Christof von der Malsburg and Wolf Singer, that gamma oscillations may link information represented in different parts of the brain into a unified experience.
Several studies have demonstrated that activity in primary sensory areas of the brain is not sufficient to produce consciousness: it is possible for subjects to report a lack of awareness even when areas such as the primary visual cortex show clear electrical responses to a stimulus. Higher brain areas are seen as more promising, especially the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in a range of executive higher-order functions.
The prefrontal cortex is not the only candidate area, however: studies have shown that visually responsive neurons in parts of the temporal lobe reflect the visual perception in the situation when conflicting visual images are presented to different eyes. One popular theory implicates different patterns of brain waves in producing different states of consciousness. Researchers can record brain waves, or tracings of electrical activity within the brain, using an electroencephalograph EEG and placing electrodes on the scalp.
The four types of brain waves alpha, beta, theta, and delta each correspond with one mental state relaxed, alert, lightly asleep, and deeply asleep, respectively. Functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI scans, can also be used to measure physical activity in the brain that correlates with different conscious states and perceptions.
The ease in which visual perceptions can be manipulated in time and space has made visual studies, such as the Necker cube, one of the most preferred modalities for studying the neural correlates of consciousness. These studies take a seemingly simple and unambiguous visual stimulus and record differences in its subjective perception by a study participant. The cube, for instance, is 12 basic lines that can be interpreted in two different depths, creating a visual illusion.
Scientists are interested in locating which neural correlates lead to differing mental interpretations. The Necker cube : The Necker cube is a popular visual stimulus used to study differences in human visual perception. It is possible to perceive the front of the cube at two different angles.
sharing our passion for learning
Concise insights from neuroscience and Christian theology. Over several years now, notable research has been undertaken on consciousness from various disciplines in the natural sciences, especially in neuroscience and Christian theology. This paper will therefore attempt to add to the current literature in these areas by addressing briefly the following three main aspects, namely, 1 Presenting a succinct explanation of the various views of consciousness by select scholars. The purpose of this article is to briefly explore and appreciate the symbiotic nature of the brain and mind and its evolutionary pathway in generating consciousness, especially spiritual consciousness, leading to spiritual experiences. A concise discussion will also be undertaken to explore how consciousness could have emerged, and the importance of specific brain areas in the function of qualia consciousness and spiritual experiences. Consciousness cannot be defined. Few would argue that over recent decades the relationship between the brain and the mind in producing consciousness has garnered substantial attention.
Recent Publications. Rossano, M. Ritual in human evolution and religion. London: Routledge more info see. Henley, T.
Individual chapters discuss new areas of research, such as near death studies and neuroscience research into spiritual experiences, and report.
The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
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Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality (eBook, PDF)
Jetzt bewerten Jetzt bewerten. Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality presents a variety of perspectives by leading thinkers on contemporary research into the brain, the mind and the spirit. This volumes aims at combining knowledge from neuroscience with approaches from the experiential perspective of the first person singular in order to arrive at an integrated understanding of consciousness. Individual chapters discuss new areas of research, such as near death studies and neuroscience research into spiritual experiences, and report on significant new theoretical advances. From Harald Walach's introductory essay, …mehr. DE
Table of contents. Search within book. Front Matter. Pages i-viii. PDF · Neuroscience, Consciousness, Spirituality – Questions, Problems and Potential Solutions.
MSc Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology Graduation 2016
Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself, such as thoughts, feelings, memories, or sensations. It has also been defined in the following ways: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive-control system of the mind. At one time, consciousness was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, but in recent years, it has become a significant topic of research in psychology and neuroscience. Despite the difficulty in coming to a definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. Philosophers since the time of Descartes and Locke have struggled to comprehend the nature of consciousness and pin down its essential properties. Issues of concern in the philosophy of consciousness include the following: whether consciousness can ever be explained mechanistically; whether non-human consciousness exists, and if so, how it can be recognized; how consciousness relates to language; whether consciousness can be understood in a way that does not require a dualistic distinction between mental and physical states or properties; and whether it may ever be possible for computers or robots to be conscious.
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