Where Is Consciousness Located in the Brain?

York College behavioral scientist Robert Duncan addresses whether researchers have successfully located consciousness in the brain's biology and what that might mean. 

What's the Latest Development?


Behavioral scientist at York College, Robert Duncan addresses how far neurology has come in finding consciousness by looking closely at the brain's biology. Currently, consciousness is thought to be a result of metacognition, i.e. planning, reasoning and social intelligence. Those activities are mainly controlled by the brain's prefrontal cortex region, but because the region serves other functions and is well-connected to other regions, it is probably necessary but not sufficient for consciousness to arise. Scientists have therefore looked at the prefrontal cortex across species. 

What's the Big Idea?

Though dolphins and apes both exhibit self-awareness, their brains look completely different. For this reason, some scientists believe consciousness is caused by a confluence of factors, including larger brain size or a higher degree of connectivity between different areas of the brain. "The difficulties we have assessing self-awareness demonstrate that it is a complex trait and support the idea that no single brain area is dedicated to it," says Duncan. But given the ethereal nature of consciousness, will it help our understanding of ourselves to know how it emerges from the brain?

Photo credit: shutterstock.com


​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less