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Brain regions associated with awareness of self

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From ABC (Australia):

Who, or what, is ‘I’?

It’s a question that humans have obsessed over for millennia. Philosophers continue to debate whether or not the ‘self’ exists while scientists attempt to define the seemingly indefinable.

Well, isn’t it a bit like “pain”?

Suppose we said:

Philosophers continue to debate whether or not ‘pain’ exists while scientists attempt to define the seemingly indefinable.

There is nothing indefinable about pain as far as the sufferer is concerned.

But by definition one cannot objectively account for subjectivity – though one can certainly convey to other subjects what it is like. So, doubtless, with “the self.”

That said, “The strange science of self” (Olivia Willis and Lynne Malcolm) recounts the case of Graham, a man convinced that he was dead (later he recovered from the delusion). Neuroscientists learned some interesting things from researching the syndrome from which he suffered, Clotard syndrome:

‘What we know now is that there is a network of brain regions that we have that are responsible for internal awareness, awareness of our own body state, awareness of self-related thoughts,’ Ananathaswamy says. ‘When you are daydreaming and thinking about yourself, this internal awareness network is really active.’

In Graham’s case, the metabolic activity in this network was extremely low—’almost to the levels that have been seen in patients who are said to have been in a condition called unresponsive wakefulness’. More.

But Graham also suffered from problems in the frontal lobes, known to be involved with reasoning.

The double whammy helps us understand the problem: Most of us reason that if we act alive, we are alive, whether or not we feel that way. But our approach requires the consistent exercise of reason against emotion, which doesn’t always work at the best of times. 😉

See also: The human mind, the skinny


The conundrum of consciousness

As to 'pain', I found this following comment from Don Piper to be extremely interesting because he described his Near Death Experience as being even more real than all the pain that he went through during his recovery after being run over by a semi-truck. Seeing as pain is just about the most 'real' thing that a person can experience in this life, I thought the comment to be a very interesting comment for Don Piper to make:
"More real than anything I've experienced since. When I came back of course I had 34 operations, and was in the hospital for 13 months. That was real but heaven is more real than that. The emotions and the feelings. The reality of being with people who had preceded me in death." - Don Piper - "90 Minutes in Heaven," 10 Years Later - video (2:54 minute mark) https://youtu.be/3LyZoNlKnMM?t=173
That quote really does not do the pain he went through in recovery justice. I suggest watching the movie '90 Minutes In Heaven' to get a a better idea of the excruciating level of pain that Don Piper went through. Don Piper is hardly alone in his heaven is 'more real than real' claim: In the following study, researchers who had a bias against Near Death Experiences being real, set out to prove that they were merely hallucinations by setting up a clever questionnaire that could differentiate which memories a person had were real and which memories a person had were merely imaginary. They did not expect the results they got:
'Afterlife' feels 'even more real than real,' researcher says - Wed April 10, 2013 Excerpt: "If you use this questionnaire ... if the memory is real, it's richer, and if the memory is recent, it's richer," he said. The coma scientists weren't expecting what the tests revealed. "To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors," Laureys reported. The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. "The difference was so vast," he said with a sense of astonishment. Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich "as though it was yesterday," Laureys said. http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/health/belgium-near-death-experiences/ Memories of Near Death Experiences (NDEs): More Real Than Reality? - Mar. 27, 2013 Excerpt: University of Liège ,,,researchers,, have looked into the memories of NDE with the hypothesis that if the memories of NDE were pure products of the imagination, their phenomenological characteristics (e.g., sensorial, self referential, emotional, etc. details) should be closer to those of imagined memories. Conversely, if the NDE are experienced in a way similar to that of reality, their characteristics would be closer to the memories of real events. The researchers compared the responses provided by three groups of patients, each of which had survived (in a different manner) a coma, and a group of healthy volunteers. They studied the memories of NDE and the memories of real events and imagined events with the help of a questionnaire which evaluated the phenomenological characteristics of the memories. The results were surprising. From the perspective being studied, not only were the NDEs not similar to the memories of imagined events, but the phenomenological characteristics inherent to the memories of real events (e.g. memories of sensorial details) are even more numerous in the memories of NDE than in the memories of real events. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130327190359.htm A Doctor's Near Death Experience Inspires a New Life - video Quote: "It's not like a dream. It's like the world we are living in is a dream and it's kind of like waking up from that." Dr. Magrisso http://www.nbcchicago.com/on-air/as-seen-on/A-Doctor--186331791.html Medical Miracles – Dr. Mary Neal’s Near Death Experience – video (More real than real 37:49 minute mark) https://youtu.be/WCNjmWP2JjU?t=2269 Dr. Eben Alexander Says It's Time for Brain Science to Graduate From Kindergarten - 10/24/2013 Excerpt: To take the approach of, "Oh it had to be a hallucination of the brain" is just crazy. The simplistic idea that NDEs (Near Death Experiences) are a trick of a dying brain is similar to taking a piece of cardboard out of a pizza delivery box, rolling it down a hill and then claiming that it's an identical event as rolling a beautiful Ferrari down a hill. They are not the same at all. The problem is the pure materialist scientists can be so closed-minded about it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ingrid-peschke/near-death-experiences_b_4151093.html

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