Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is Consciousness a Factor of Electrical Activity?

Researchers have found that consciousness is likely a function of electrical brain activity. A team of neurophysiologists at Milan University in Italy discovered through magnetic imaging that consciousness is a level of electrical brain activity that creates cohesive patterns of rippling activity. It is a process of neural firings where individual neurons act individually but within a collective sequence that creates what we call experience. 

The activity has been described as an echo whereby an electroencephalography can measure and create a score between 0 and 1 based upon this pattern. The research has some implications that include the ability to determine if a person is aware but not responsive to the outside world or if they are unconscious. 

The researchers developed a baseline between .33 for unconscious and .44 for a low conscious score. The results help medical practitioners understand at what level people are aware of their surroundings and the activities of the environment  Such methods could help in saving lives, communicating with people, and further developing anesthesia for surgery. 

However, the results raise an interesting concept. If consciousness is a level of stimulant activity of connected neurons than does additional associated firings mean higher levels of awareness? Other research has indicated that intelligence is a function of the level of electro activity based in the strength of signals between various areas of the brain. Einstein was believed to have higher levels of mental activity based in his neural firings and insulated neural fat that allowed those signals to travel farther. 

Let us imagine for a moment that the philosophical consciousness level is one of greater environmental awareness based upon neural activity in the brain. One who is at a higher conscious state is simply more able to collect, process, store and connect such information at greater levels. Does it then become possible that this level of conscious is really a simple reflection of brain activity?

Assuming that consciousness (i.e. awareness) is a level of brain activity then it is also possible that some are more aware than others of the finite details of their environment. They may be able to make and see connections that others can’t seem to understand or have knowledge of. They would live in a quantitatively and qualitatively different world than the bell curve average because they have greater capacities for understanding based within this electrical brain activity.

Casali, et. al (August 14, 2013). A Theoretically Based Index of Consciousness Independent of Sensory Processing and Behavior.  Sci Transl Med, 5 (198). Retrieved August 15th, 2013 from

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