How Neuroscience Is Changing What We Mean by Consciousness
When patients in vegetative states register higher-order thinking on brain scans, our understanding of consciousness achieves an even subtler shade of gray.
What's the Latest Development?
New medical experiments involving anesthetics are revealing essential new distinctions in the age-old attempt to define consciousness, giving us a better understanding of ourselves as human beings and creating a new avenue for medical treatment. By scanning the brains of patients who are put under for surgery, neuroscientists have correlated different brain regions with different degrees of consciousness. When patients come out of anesthesia, the brain's most primitive parts wake up first, such as the brain stem and thalamus, while the neocortex, which controls higher-order thinking, becomes active at a later stage.
What's the Big Idea?
In 2006, Cambridge University researchers reported on a patient in a vegetative state who nonetheless demonstrated higher-order brain functioning, as measured by brain scans, when asked to imagine activities such as playing a game of tennis. This observation struck at the heart of contemporary questions about the relevance of neuroscience. While semi-awake patients, and even vegetative ones, may exhibits traits of consciousness, our understanding of our own self-awareness looks to be caught in more shades of gray than ever.
Photo credit: shutterstock.com
- The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
- Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
- Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.
In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.
The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.
- U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
- A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
- Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.
- Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
- If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
- It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.