Science of Consciousness

In class, we’ve been discussing the connection between mind and body. I decided to look up some scientific discoveries related to consciousness. fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) produces vivid images of the areas of the brain that respond to a variety of stimuli. Instead of trying to measure a purely subjective response, such as “that made me feel good”, scientists can also see what part of the subject’s brain is responding, for how long, and to what degree. Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed one of the most promising theories for consciousness, known as integrated information theory. Integrated information theory starts with consciousness itself, and tries to work backward to understand the physical processes that give rise to the phenomenon. Bernard Baars, a neuroscientist at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, developed the theory known as the global workspace theory. This idea is based on an old concept from artificial intelligence called the blackboard, a memory bank that different computer programs could access. Anything from the appearance of a person’s face to a memory of childhood can be loaded into the brain’s blackboard, where it can be sent to other brain areas that will process it. According to Baar’s theory, the act of broadcasting information around the brain from this memory bank is what represents consciousness. What do you think about Baar’s theory? I think it makes sense and explains why we feel a certain way about something because of past experiences.

4 thoughts on “Science of Consciousness

  1. Those are very interesting theories. Personally, I am more convinced by the Global Workspace theory because I feel that our past experiences and memories undoubtedly influence our consciousness. For example, if I burnt myself by touching a hot stove as a child, I would internalize the pain that resulted and store it in my memory bank. If in the future I were to approach a hot stove, this memory would trigger and my conscience would tell me to avoid touching the hot stove. In this way, this theory makes sense to me and is an interesting response to consciousness.

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