Consciousness – a brief overview
A person’s ability to be in a state of awakening, cognition, alertness, thinking, and many such phenomena are all attributed to consciousness. Among its many aspects, two main characteristics of consciousness are thoughts and experiences. There can be varied explanations if we try to explore what we mean by consciousness. Then, there is always that debate about whether consciousness is an element of the brain or consciousness is an aspect of a separate metaphysical non-material entity that operates the brain. Depending on this view, we can say there are broad categories of thinkers in the world. One category categorically believes that the brain somehow creates consciousness and that nothing is immaterial in this world. The other category believes that consciousness is metaphysical and a subjective matter, more by direct experience and also based on various knowledge gathered. Assuming that consciousness is metaphysical, there is this question of how it interacts with physical matter and whether there is any “physical proof” or “evidence” that says consciousness does interact with matter. As scientists study the brain intensely with key advancements in technology, a few things that may contradict each other are apparent.
On the one hand, it is claimed that much information exists about the brain. The brain is mapped in complete detail, with almost every voxel, region, and neuron accounted for. The resulting information apparently shows that scientists are able to explain every activity of the human being.
On the other hand, not much is clear about consciousness. The research in neurosciences has not been able to explain accurately what we all intuitively know as the “mind,” the thinking faculty. The brain remains an organ of mystery because the mind has been a mystery. As neuroscientists dig out more information, the mystery also deepens, with many activities of human beings not being explained with the current understanding of medical science, especially neuroscience, that accounts for consciousness. In the following sections, we will explore consciousness through a combination of scientific studies and direct experiences.
Dissecting the brain
A wealth of enlightening literature is available on how thoughts and consciousness arise. There are many valuable updates to this field based on patients’ ongoing diagnoses and treatment. However, we can safely make the following statements by sifting through much of the information based on vast studies, experiments, observations, and interpretations.
Given its apparent high complexity, a consensus on the precise meaning and understanding of numerous phenomena related to consciousness is lacking. One perspective within the literature suggests the following:
A lot needs to be understood about the nature of thoughts, consciousness, and mind.
Precisely how thoughts are created is unclear.
How consciousness arises in the brain remains unknown. Nevertheless, this lack of understanding does not
hinder the effectiveness of general anaesthesia, making the patients unconscious.
Another perspective in the literature presents the following viewpoints:
Neuroscientists’ view is that neuronal firing generates thoughts.
The collective activity of billions of neurons somehow gives rise to the experience of consciousness.
The mind is the product of the brain.
Scientists are able to map every brain voxel to a related activity – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and sensing.
These conclusions have been drawn from the results obtained through deep brain stimulation, which has demonstrated a significant impact on the thought patterns of previously untreatable patients with depression. Specific information extraction based on specific neuronal firing has provided further insights. The brain consists of 87 billion nerve cells and forms trillions of connections. While a significant portion of brain functioning remains elusive and inconclusive, the sheer complexity of its connectivity gives the impression that it holds answers to numerous unexplained phenomena. It is anticipated that advancements in technology in the future may unveil many of these mysteries, shedding light on currently unresolved aspects of brain function.
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