Monthly Archives: July 2015

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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Emergent Complexity | Collage: Emergence – The complex, the complicated, and the chaotic

The scientific evidence is on the side of consciousness being an emergent property. Also have a look at

1) http://www.quora.com/Is-consciousness-an-emergent-property-of-the-brain-or-a-fundamental-property-of-matter

2) http://emergentcognition.com/2015/06/12/emergent-cognition-collage-the-emergence-of-fractals/

The idea that consciousness is a “fundamental property of matter” is mostly built on pure ontological speculations and wishful thinking that life is a gift from some divine being and thus must have a “higher” meaning and goal.

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Emergent Cognition | Collage: The emergence of fractals

The scientific evidence is on the side of consciousness being an emergent property. Have a look at

1) http://www.quora.com/Is-consciousness-an-emergent-property-of-the-brain-or-a-fundamental-property-of-matter

2) http://emergentcognition.com/2015/07/07/emergent-complexity-collage-emergence-the-complex-the-complicated-and-the-chaotic/

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The Teleological Argument From Design

I’ve already recommended a blog called “Refuting God: Exploring the reasons to believe in the existence of God”. And now I’m doing it again.

I like the topics chosen by the blogger (called rounaqb). And his (?) sound, rational, logical, almost humble and always well written way of debating.

He (?) provides a lot of arguments that are useful for people who, like him (?), want to oppose all the theological bullshit reasoning that can be found on the internet.

The article I chose to reblog is just one of many such examples of good refutation of common theistic argumentation and dogmas.

BTW, here you can see some other interesting topics and articles from rounaqb’s Refuting God blog:

Refuting God

infraredDartGrayEarlier in this blog, I tried to respond to the complexetic argument from design. I am now trying to refute the teleological one which is also known as the fine tuning argument. Thanks to the numerous people who advised me to do this and motivated me get my PC and type.

The teleological argument from design asserts that in this beautifully complex universe, everything is in the perfect order and is made for some definite purposes. Like everything is just in the right place at the right time everywhere. For example, the colour of the grass grass is green, the perfect colour for our eyes, if it would have been blue then it would have been awkward. Another example is given that earth is in the exact distance from the sun, not too far not too close as we can live in in it. Further they assert that if the…

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Alien Hand Syndrome

Imagine cruising down the highway, wind in your hair, sunshine on your face. You have the radio on, your favorite songs are playing, and your hands seem fine. That is, until they start taking over the steering wheel and trying to crash you.

Or you are sitting in your chair and your hand is repeatedly slapping you.

This is what is can be like to have alien hand syndrome.

 

And yes, this is the disorder Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s movie had. In fact, alien hand syndrome is sometimes called the Dr. Strangelove syndrome.

 

One sufferer, 55-year-old Karen Byrne, developed alien hand syndrome after having her corpus callosum severed in an effort to control her epilepsy. The corpus callosum is the bundle of nerve fibers running down the center of the brain, connecting the two hemispheres so that they can communicate. Severing the corpus callosum is a last-effort…

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Mirrored-Self Misidentification: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who I See is not Me at all

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who I see is not me at all.
When you look into a mirror, who do you see? Yourself?

Not if you have Mirrored-self misidentification, a delusional belief that your reflection in a mirror belongs to a stranger’s. The stranger just happens to look like you.
The disorder might be because of mirror agnosia, an inability to properly interact with a mirror. There might also be a deficit in facial reading and identification involved.

What is really interesting is that this delusion can be induced in a laboratory via hypnosis. One study took participants and hypnotized them, urging them that when they looked into a mirror, they would either see a stranger’s reflection or not be able to recognize the person. Half of the participants received the suggestion when hypnotized, and the other half received it when fully awake. Needless to say, those hypnotized with…

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Capgras Delusion: Impostors are Everywhere. Or are they?

Impostors, impostors everywhere. Or are they?

David was involved in a bad car accident. He sustained head injuries when he landed head-first on the ground. Seemingly, though, he was fine, retaining the capacity to talk and walk. But there was a problem. Whenever David saw his mother, he would say that she looks like my mother, but really, she is not my mother. She is another woman who is, for some reason, pretending to be my mother. She is an impostor.

In Capgras delusion, the sufferer will look at another person, and claim that that other person is an exact double—an impostor. Never mind the fact that this “impostor” has mannerisms, characteristics, the same voice, as the “original” person. To a Capgras delusion sufferer, these facts do not matter.

David also thought his father was an impostor. Sometimes, he would tell his father, “You know, I think you’d like to…

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Somatophrenia

Look at the right side of your body. It’s yours, right? Or maybe it’s your neighbor’s…

 

Somatoparaphrenia is caused by damage to the right parietal lobe. The similarity of this disorder to BIID, coupled with the childhood onset of these disorders, suggest both may be congenital disorders, that is, present from birth. The disorder is a delusional belief concerning the contralateral lesional side of the body, meaning that the side of the body opposite the side of brain damage is affected.

 

This disorder should not be confused with asomatognosia, which is unawareness, rather than delusional disbelief, of a limb, usually the left arm.

 

Patients with somatoparaphrenia deny ownership of either a limb on one side of their body, or an entire side of their body. A sufferer might be adamant that their right arm and leg are not theirs, not part of their body.in many cases, the…

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Split-Brain Patients

The corpus callosum is the bundle of never fibers that connect the two hemispheres of the brain. It’s the largest single structure in the brain, with some two hundred million fibers. As a last resort for epilepsy, this bundle can be cut in a procedure known as a callostomy. When this happens, a split-brain patient can occur.

What is interesting is that these split-brain patients do not appear outwardly abnormal. There is not any indication that they have a severed corpus callosum if you saw them walking down the aisle at your local supermarket. They do not make weird facial expressions or odd gestures, they do not walk or speak ‘funny.’ They seem just like you or me.

But the evidence for their disorder abounds in the lab.

When the corpus callosum is severed, the two hemispheres of the brain, the left hemisphere (LH) and the right hemisphere (RH), cannot…

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The two Information Processing Systems (IPSs) in your brain; one is woo-ish, the other is rational.

Earlier today I reblogged hessianwithteeth’s article The problem with calling religious beliefs a mental illness.

I myself prefer calling such beliefs a mental disorder, a disturbance, a dysfunction, or a disabilty.

To me religious belief/faith is caused by an all the time ongoing “battle” between the brain’s two Information Processing Systems (IPS): the one we were born with, and the other a sensory processing system we hopefully will acquire when we successively learn to undersland what language, words, grammar, causality, logic etc. are all about.

For more information about the two IPSs in your brain, please have a look at this review of Daniel Kahneman’s book on that topic:   http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/dec/13/thinking-fast-slow-daniel-kahneman .

A short summary: IPS #1 is a “default” emotional, intuitive illogical and Just-believing-is-enough (or: Why-bother-about-knowing?) way of thinking.

Its goal is to quickly find patterns and then attribute them to Hidden Causal Agents (HCAs) like invisible predators, gods, ghosts, demons, guardian angels and so forth.

In short, that’s the way infants and children tend to think and reason.

Later on, when the children begin to master language and start expressing themselves in words instead of emotions, most humans – but unfortunately and regrettably not woos! – add another IPS (= IPS #2) to process sensory information in order to find patterns and explanations. Their ability of understanding the meaning of words and language makes it possible for them to begin reasoning in a logical, analytical, rational, nonemotional way AND to understand what causality means.

In some adult people this process is disturbed. The “upgrading” or, maybe rather, amplification of the brain’s capacity to process incoming sensory information is more or less disabled, due to both genetic and environmental circumstances.

Cf. the strong correlation that has been found between woos and dyslexia (= a general term meaning a disorder or dysfunction that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, see letters and other symbols; all of this usually without general intelligence being conspicuously affected; but their capacity for acquring knowledge and understand logical reasonings is usually impaired, a fact that increases their disposition towards associative and illogical magical & religious bullshit thinking).

Read more about magical & religious thinking here, http://skepdic.com/magicalthinking.html .Or here, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15033500 .

In the beginning of this blog article I mentioned the never ending battle between IPS #1 and IPS #2. This ongoing battle is very obvious in split-brain patients. See for example this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFJPtVRlI64 (listen to the world famous neurologist VS Ramachandran explaining to an audience the case of a split-brain patient with one hemisphere without a belief in a god, and the other with a belief in a god; so where will that patient end up, in Heaven or Hell?) .

Also have a look at this blog, http://neuravinci.com/2014/07/02/alien-hand-syndrome/ (about Karen Byrne, who contracted the Alien Hand Syndrome after having her corpus callosum severed in an effort to control her epilepsy, i.e. her left leg and arm sometimes refused to obey her will and acted very mischievous and even obscenely on its own).

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