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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Day in the Life of the Brain by Susan Greenfield: Consciousness

Steven Rose
The Guardian
Originally posted October 12, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Neuroscientists are rarely trained in philosophy, but a little modesty might not go amiss. Some committed reductionists among them maintain that consciousness is merely a “user illusion” – that you may think you are making conscious decisions but in “reality” all the hard work is being done by the interactions of nerve cells within the brain. Most, however, are haunted by what their philosophical sympathisers call the “hard problem” of the relationship between objective measures – say of light of a particular wavelength – and qualia, the subjective experience of seeing red.

Within their restricted definition there are two potentially productive questions that neuroscientists can ask about consciousness: first, how and when it emerged along the evolutionary path that led to humans? And second, what and where in the brain are the structures and processes that enable conscious experience? The evolutionary question has been discussed extensively by the neurologist Antonio Damasio, who has mapped the transitions between reflex responses to external stimuli in primitive animals through awareness to fully developed self-consciousness, on to the emergence of increasingly complex, large brains.

Greenfield is concerned with the second question, the identification of the neural correlates of consciousness.

The article is here.