Q: When does the human fetus become a conscious being? A: When the thalamus is able to connect to the cortical regions of the brain.

I just reblogged two very fascinating articles from the blog Emergent Cognition, see

1) https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/emergent-complexity-collage-emergence-the-complex-the-complicated-and-the-chaotic/ and

2) https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/emergent-cognition-collage-the-emergence-of-fractals/ .

I recommended this site, http://www.quora.com/Is-consciousness-an-emergent-property-of-the-brain-or-a-fundamental-property-of-matter , too.

Now, if you’re interested in how the human fetus develops awareness and consciousness – I hope and think you should be –  then I strongly recommend you to read this neuroscientific paper, The Emergence of Human Consciousness: From Fetal to Neonatal Life (by Hugo Lagercrantz and Jean-Pierre Changeux, and published in Pediatric Research (2009) 65, 255–260; doi:10.1203/PDR.0b013e3181973b0d .

The full text is available here,   http://www.nature.com/pr/journal/v65/n3/full/pr200950a.html .

Here’s the abstract:

A simple definition of consciousness is sensory awareness of the body, the self, and the world. The fetus may be aware of the body, for example by perceiving pain. It reacts to touch, smell, and sound, and shows facial expressions responding to external stimuli.

However, these reactions are probably preprogrammed and have a subcortical nonconscious origin. Furthermore, the fetus is almost continuously asleep and unconscious partially due to endogenous sedation.

Conversely, the newborn infant can be awake, exhibit sensory awareness, and process memorized mental representations. It is also able to differentiate between self and nonself touch, express emotions, and show signs of shared feelings.

Yet, it is unreflective, present oriented, and makes little reference to concept of him/herself. Newborn infants display features characteristic of what may be referred to as basic consciousness and they still have to undergo considerable maturation to reach the level of adult consciousness.

The preterm infant, ex utero, may open its eyes and establish minimal eye contact with its mother. It also shows avoidance reactions to harmful stimuli. However, the thalamocortical connections are not yet fully established, which is why it can only reach a minimal level of consciousness.

They also mention that most neuroscientists argue that consciousness is a progressive, stepwise, structural, and functional evolution of its multiple intricate components.

And the authors conclude, A pending question is the status of the preterm fetus born before 26 wk (<700 g) who has closed eyes and seems constantly asleep. The immaturity of its brain networks is such that it may not even reach a level of minimal consciousness. […]

[Furthermore,] the timing of the emergence of minimal consciousness has been proposed as an ethical limit of human viability […].

Here’s my own conclusion: If you after reading this paper still believe in a soul (brought to us by a divine being), then you seemingly must be a pure (pseudo)religious woo. The concept of soul is a mass delusion a.k.a.magical & religious woo-bullshit thinking.

That’s my humble opinion. ;o)


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Filed under Brain, Consciousness, Delusions, Evolution, Genetics, Mind, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Religion, Soul, Theological bullshit, Woo

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