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Consciousness

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Each edition of this classic reference has proved to be a benchmark in the developing field of cognitive neuroscience. The fifth edition of The Cognitive Neurosciences continues to chart new directions in the study of the biological underpinnings of complex cognitio—the relationship between the structural and physiological mechanisms of the nervous system and the psychological reality of the mind. It offers entirely new material, reflecting recent advances in the field.

Many of the developments in cognitive neuroscience have been shaped by the introduction of novel tools and methodologies, and a new section is devoted to methods that promise to guide the field into the future—from sophisticated models of causality in brain function to the application of network theory to massive data sets. Another new section treats neuroscience and society, considering some of the moral and political quandaries posed by current neuroscientific methods.

Other sections describe, among other things, new research that draws on developmental imaging to study the changing structure and function of the brain over the lifespan; progress in establishing increasingly precise models of memory; research that confirms the study of emotion and social cognition as a core area in cognitive neuroscience; and new findings that cast doubt on the so-called neural correlates of consciousness.

In this volume, cognitive scientists and philosophers examine two closely related aspects of mind and mental functioning: the relationships among the various senses and the links that connect different conscious experiences to form unified wholes. The contributors address a range of questions concerning how information from one sense influences the processing of information from the other senses and how unified states of consciousness emerge from the bonds that tie conscious experiences together. Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness is the first book to address both of these topics, integrating scientific and philosophical concerns.

A flood of recent work in both philosophy and perception science has challenged traditional conceptions of the sensory systems as operating in isolation. Contributors to the volume consider the ways in which perceptual contact with the world is or may be “multisensory,” discussing such subjects as the modeling of multisensory integration and philosophical aspects of sensory modalities. Recent years have seen a similar surge of interest in unity of consciousness. Contributors explore a range of questions on this topic, including the nature of that unity, the degree to which conscious experiences are unified, and the relationship between unified consciousness and the self.

Contributors
Tim Bayne, David J. Bennett, Berit Brogaard, Barry Dainton, Ophelia Deroy, Frederique de Vignemont, Marc Ernst, Richard Held, Christopher S. Hill, Geoffrey Lee, Kristan Marlow, Farid Masrour, Jennifer Matey, Casey O’Callaghan, Cesare V. Parise, Kevin Rice, Elizabeth Schechter, Pawan Sinha, Julia Trommershaeuser, Loes C. J. van Dam, Jonathan Vogel, James Van Cleve, Robert Van Gulick, Jonas Wulff

How did the human mind emerge from the collection of neurons that makes up the brain? How did the brain acquire self-awareness, functional autonomy, language, and the ability to think, to understand itself and the world? In this volume in the Essential Knowledge series, Zoltan Torey offers an accessible and concise description of the evolutionary breakthrough that created the human mind.

Drawing on insights from evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and linguistics, Torey reconstructs the sequence of events by which Homo erectus became Homo sapiens. He describes the augmented functioning that underpins the emergent mind—a new (“off-line”) internal response system with which the brain accesses itself and then forms a selection mechanism for mentally generated behavior options. This functional breakthrough, Torey argues, explains how the animal brain’s “awareness” became self-accessible and reflective—that is, how the human brain acquired a conscious mind. Consciousness, unlike animal awareness, is not a unitary phenomenon but a composite process. Torey’s account shows how protolanguage evolved into language, how a brain subsystem for the emergent mind was built, and why these developments are opaque to introspection. We experience the brain’s functional autonomy, he argues, as free will.

Torey proposes that once life began, consciousness had to emerge—because consciousness is the informational source of the brain’s behavioral response. Consciousness, he argues, is not a newly acquired “quality,” “cosmic principle,” “circuitry arrangement,” or “epiphenomenon,” as others have argued, but an indispensable working component of the living system’s manner of functioning.

Edited by Richard Menary

Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? In their famous 1998 paper "The Extended Mind," philosophers Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers posed this question and answered it provocatively: cognitive processes "ain't all in the head." The environment has an active role in driving cognition; cognition is sometimes made up of neural, bodily, and environmental processes. Their argument excited a vigorous debate among philosophers, both supporters and detractors. This volume brings together for the first time the best responses to Clark and Chalmers's bold proposal. These responses, together with the original paper by Clark and Chalmers, offer a valuable overview of the latest research on the extended mind thesis.

The contributors first discuss (and answer) objections raised to Clark and Chalmers's thesis. Clark himself responds to critics in an essay that uses the movie Memento's amnesia-aiding notes and tattoos to illustrate the workings of the extended mind. Contributors then consider the different directions in which the extended mind project might be taken, including the need for an approach that focuses on cognitive activity and practice.

Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist

What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bioelectrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience. This engaging book—part scientific overview, part memoir, part futurist speculation—describes Koch's search for an empirical explanation for consciousness. Koch recounts not only the birth of the modern science of consciousness but also the subterranean motivation for his quest—his instinctual (if "romantic") belief that life is meaningful.

Koch describes his own groundbreaking work with Francis Crick in the 1990s and 2000s and the gradual emergence of consciousness (once considered a "fringy" subject) as a legitimate topic for scientific investigation. Present at this paradigm shift were Koch and a handful of colleagues, including Ned Block, David Chalmers, Stanislas Dehaene, Giulio Tononi, Wolf Singer, and others. Aiding and abetting it were new techniques to listen in on the activity of individual nerve cells, clinical studies, and brain-imaging technologies that allowed safe and noninvasive study of the human brain in action.

Koch gives us stories from the front lines of modern research into the neurobiology of consciousness as well as his own reflections on a variety of topics, including the distinction between attention and awareness, the unconscious, how neurons respond to Homer Simpson, the physics and biology of free will, dogs, Der Ring des Nibelungen, sentient machines, the loss of his belief in a personal God, and sadness. All of them are signposts in the pursuit of his life’s work—to uncover the roots of consciousness.

Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts

Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state.

Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers.

Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness

When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear objective comprehension. In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly. Selfless Insight is the capstone to Austin’s journey both as a creative neuroscientist and as a Zen practitioner. His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Proponent Meets Skeptic

Can conscious experience be described accurately? Can we give reliable accounts of our sensory experiences and pains, our inner speech and imagery, our felt emotions? The question is central not only to our humanistic understanding of who we are but also to the burgeoning scientific field of consciousness studies. The two authors of Describing Inner Experience disagree on the answer: Russell Hurlburt, a psychologist, argues that improved methods of introspective reporting make accurate accounts of inner experience possible; Eric Schwitzgebel, a philosopher, believes that any introspective reporting is inevitably prone to error. In this book the two discuss to what extent it is possible to describe our inner experience accurately.

Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel recruited a subject, "Melanie," to report on her conscious experience using Hurlburt's Descriptive Experience Sampling method (in which the subject is cued by random beeps to describe her conscious experience). The heart of the book is Melanie’s accounts, Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel’s interviews with her, and their subsequent discussions while studying the transcripts of the interviews. In this way the authors' dispute about the general reliability of introspective reporting is steadily tempered by specific debates about the extent to which Melanie's particular reports are believable. Transcripts and audio files of the interviews will be available on the MIT Press website.

Describing Inner Experience? is not so much a debate as it is a collaboration, with each author seeking to refine his position and to replace partisanship with balanced critical judgment. The result is an illumination of major issues in the study of consciousness—from two sides at once.

An Experimental Memoir

J. Allan Hobson's scientific experimentation began in childhood, with a soot-filled investigation into the capacity of a chimney to admit Santa Claus. (He discovered that even with the damper open the chimney was far too narrow.) Hobson’s life as an experimentalist has continued through a pioneering career devoted to aligning psychology and biology and to investigating the relationship of dreaming and consciousness. In Dream Life, Hobson conducts an experimental investigation into his life and work.

Hobson charts his developing consciousness through a vividly imagined conception (in October of 1932), birth, and babyhood, offering a theory about "protoconsciousness" in fetuses and infants. He recounts his youthful zeal for scientific discovery, his early sexual experimentation, and his education. He describes taking on the entrenched Freudians at Harvard Medical School in the 1950s, as a maverick psychiatrist who wanted to replace psychoanalysis with biological science. He describes his further studies, his marriages and love affairs, his travels, and what he learned about the brain from his whiplash-induced amnesia after a 1963 automobile accident and from his "brain death" after a stroke in 2001. Through it all, Hobson uses his life as the ultimate case study for his theory that REM sleep provides a test pattern that allows the brain to develop "offline." Dreams—most intense in REM sleep, when the brain is active—need no Freudian-style decoding, he says. Dreaming is a glorious mental state, to be enjoyed and studied for what it tells us about consciousness.

Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon

The question of consciousness is perhaps the most significant problem still unsolved by science. In Inner Presence, Antti Revonsuo proposes a novel approach to the study of consciousness that integrates findings from philosophy, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience into a coherent theoretical framework. Arguing that any fruitful scientific approach to the problem must consider both the subjective psychological reality of consciousness and the objective neurobiological reality, Revonsuo proposes that the best strategy for discovering the connection between these two realities is one of "biological realism," using tools of the empirical biological sciences. This approach, which he calls the "biological research program," provides a theoretical and philosophical foundation that contemporary study of consciousness lacks.

Revonsuo coins the term "world simulation metaphor" and uses this metaphor to develop a powerful way of thinking about consciousness as a biological system in the brain. This leads him to propose that the dreaming brain and visual consciousness are ideal model systems for empirical consciousness research. He offers a comprehensive overview and critical analysis of consciousness research and defends his approach against currently popular philosophical views, in particular against approaches that deny or externalize phenomenal consciousness, or claim that brain activity is not sufficient for consciousness. He systematically examines the principal issues in the science of consciousness—the contents of consciousness, the unity of consciousness and the binding problem, the explanatory gap and the neural correlates of consciousness, and the causal powers and function of consciousness.

Revonsuo draws together empirical data from a wide variety of sources, including dream research, brain imaging, neuropsychology, and evolutionary psychology, into the theoretical framework of the biological research program, thus pointing the way toward a unified biological science of consciousness. Applying imaginative thought experiments, Inner Presence reaches beyond the current state-of-the-art, revealing how the problem of consciousness may eventually be solved by future science.

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