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Human self-awareness without cerebral cortex


From Ferris Jabr at Scientific American:

Consciousness, most scientists argue, is not a universal property of all matter in the universe. Rather, consciousness is restricted to a subset of animals with relatively complex brains. The more scientists study animal behavior and brain anatomy, however, the more universal consciousness seems to be. A brain as complex as the human brain is definitely not necessary for consciousness. On July 7 this year, a group of neuroscientists convening at Cambridge University signed a document officially declaring that non-human animals, “including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses” are conscious.

Jabr makes a useful distinction between “conscious” and “self-aware.” Self-awareness is supposed to reside in the cerebral cortex, which is much more developed in humans than in any other life form.

One would expect, then, that a man missing huge portions of his cerebral cortex would lose at least some of his self-awareness. Patient R, also known as Roger, defies that expectation. Roger is a 57-year-old man who suffered extensive brain damage in 1980 after a severe bout of herpes simplex encephalitis—inflammation of the brain caused by the herpes virus. The disease destroyed most of Roger’s insular cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), all brain regions thought to be essential for self-awareness. About 10 percent of his insula remains and only one percent of his ACC.

Despite the brain damage, he still has a sense of self. And even some hydrancephalic children “give every appearance of genuine consciousness. More.”

Jabr references a 2007 paper, “Consciousness without a cerebral cortex: A challenge for neuroscience and medicine”

See also: Are newborn babies really not conscious?

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness


Aired on BBC: Consciousness no different than our ability to digest

Thomas Nagel: Daniel Dennett “maintaining a thesis at all costs” in Bacteria to Bach and Back

Physicist: Regrettably, materialism can’t explain mind

Split brain does NOT lead to split consciousness? What?

Does the ability to “split” our brains help us understand consciousness? (Apparently not.)

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

Or else: Consciousness as a state of matter

Rocks have minds?

Researcher: Never mind the “hard problem of consciousness”: The real one is… “Our experiences of being and having a body are ‘controlled hallucinations’ of a very distinctive kind”

Searle on Consciousness “Emerging” from a Computer: “Miracles are always possible.”

Psychology Today: Latest new theory of consciousness A different one from the above.

Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us

Claim: Science is afraid of animal consciousness. Why? Won’t crackpot theories work as well as they do for human consciousness?

So then: Question: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

Science fictions series 4: Naturalism and the human mind

Naturalistic bias must have been overwhelming when they wrote thusly:
— The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness — We declare the following: “... the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
I would like for them to consider this:
How any distributed patterns of activity, whether they are among hundreds or millions of neurons, can lead to unitary percepts or singular actions remains a mystery. Binding the activity evoked by particular objects does not solve this problem and does little to reduce its scope [Ghose and Maunsell 1999, 83–4].
And also this:
P1: Unification of representations takes place. P2: Only a simple, unified substance can unify representations. Therefore, C1: The human soul or mind is a simple unified substance.
Is this at least partially related to this discussion? http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/25/health/vegetative-state-vagus-nerve-study/ Dionisio
It's a fascinating piece of research but the authors are not suggesting that consciousness is anything other than brain-based, just that it's more widely distributed throughout the brain than previously thought:
Given the evidence of Roger's largely intact self-awareness despite his ravaged brain, Philippi, Rudrauf and their colleagues argue that the insular cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) cannot by themselves account for conscious recognition of oneself as a thinking being. Instead, they propose that self-awareness is a far more diffuse cognitive process, relying on many parts of the brain, including regions not located in the cerebral cortex. [My emphasis]
A recently published observation may open up a "proper" mechanism for understanding how awareness can be in all cells, not just neurons or brains. http://www.nature.com/news/how-the-internet-of-cells-has-biologists-buzzing-1.22645 Cells in all parts of the organism form fine connecting wires, some of which seem permanent and others temporary. Some of these wires act just like synapses, conveying excitatory and inhibitory signals between cells that are NOT neurons. polistra

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