Questions About Consciousness and the Brain

Questions About Consciousness and the Brain

I think it would be a good idea to investigate relations between consciousness and the brain that are not usually investigated. I don’t say these investigations are feasible, now or in the future, but the idea of them is worth pondering; they reveal how little we really know about brain-mind relations. Nor do I claim that answering these questions would solve the mind-body problem; on the contrary, this would at best provide data for a theory.

  1. How localized is consciousness? Is it spread diffusely over large sections of the brain or is it more sharply confined to key areas? How many distinct areas is it localized in, if any?
  2. Is the rate of neural firing correlated with consciousness? Is there a threshold rate? Is a high rate associated with increased conscious activity?
  3. Which areas of the brain are the first to produce consciousness? Presumably this occurs in the womb, so the question is what part of the fetus brain first lights up with conscious states? What type of consciousness is this?
  4. What were the first conscious brains like? How similar were they to today’s animal brains? How many millions of years ago was this, and how soon after the first life forms evolved?
  5. How complex does a neural net have to be in order to produce consciousness? What kind of complexity is involved?
  6. How do the unconscious parts of the brain compare to the conscious parts? Is there any discernible neural difference?
  7. Is the simultaneity of conscious processes correlated with the simultaneity of neural processes, e.g., the simultaneity of perception and thought? How precise is the correlation?
  8. How far does neural density affect the presence of consciousness? If you stretch the brain out, does consciousness change? Does the distance between (connected) neurons matter?
  9. Does extracting particular chemicals from the brain matter to consciousness? If so, which? Are some chemical elements more important to consciousness than others?
  10. How much similarity is there between the neural correlates of language and those of consciousness? Is this greater than the similarity between the neural correlates of consciousness and other psychological faculties?
  11. Do phenomenological similarities map onto neural similarities? Are there are any laws governing such a mapping?
  12. Is the physics of the brain any different from the physics of other things? What about the chemistry?
  13. Are the dynamics of the brain the same as the dynamics of consciousness?
  14. To what extent do subatomic events affect consciousness? Are there any quantum psychophysical effects?
  15. How many neurons does it take to produce a conscious event?
  16. Does the cellular structure of the brain have any bearing on the structure of consciousness?

Are there any other similar questions that need to be added?

6 replies
  1. Mark L
    Mark L says:

    Relates to question 4 : Did consciousness evolve in a mammal/ reptile ancestor or has it evolved independently in each species.

    Relates to question 14: is there any evidence of retro-causality in brain imaging

    Are all of the communication routes and mechanisms known (pertinent considering the very recent discovery of calcium-mediated dendritic action potentials (don’t ask me – I just copied and pasted))

    Relates to question 5: Does a neural net actually create consciousness or is consciousness substrate based or invoked using some other system.

    Which animals would we be confident in saying are conscious vs how intelligent are they? Would an animal visually experiencing pain or even joy be a good marker for consciousness?

  2. Giulio Katis
    Giulio Katis says:

    Are there (mental) experiences which are correlated with neural activity in organs or nerves outside of the brain. Eg in the gut, in the heart, the vagus nerve. If so, can we associate different phenomenal types of experience to neural activity in these body parts?


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