Where Does Consciousness Come From?
- Where Does Consciousness Come From?
ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2009) Consciousness
arises as an emergent property of the human mind.
Yet basic questions about the precise timing,
location and dynamics of the neural event(s)
allowing conscious access to information are
not clearly and unequivocally determined.
Some neuroscientists have even argued that
consciousness may arise from a single "seat"
in the brain, though the prevailing idea
attributes a more global network property.
Do the neural correlates of consciousness correspond
to late or early brain events following
perception? Do they necessarily involve coherent
activity across different regions of the brain,
or can they be restricted to local patterns of
A new paper suggests that four specific, separate
processes combine as a "signature" of conscious
activity. By studying the neural activity of
people who are presented with two different
types of stimuli one which could be perceived
consciously, and one which could not Dr. Gaillard
of INSERM and colleagues, show that these four
processes occur only in the former, conscious
This new work addresses the neural correlates of
consciousness at an unprecedented resolution,
using intra-cerebral electrophysiological recordings
of neural activity. These challenging experiments
were possible because patients with epilepsy who
were already undergoing medical procedures requiring
implantation of recording electrodes agreed to
participate in the study. The authors presented
them with visually masked and unmasked printed
words, then measured the changes in their brain
activity and the level of awareness of seeing the
words. This method offers a unique opportunity to
measure neural correlates of conscious access with
optimal spatial and temporal resolutions. When
comparing neural activity elicited by masked and
unmasked words, they could isolate four converging
and complementary electrophysiological markers
characterizing conscious access 300 ms after word
All of these measures may provide distinct glimpses
into the same distributed state of long-distance
reverberation. Indeed, it seems to be the convergence
of these measures in a late time window (after 300 ms),
rather than the mere presence of any single one of
them, which best characterizes conscious trials.
"The present work suggests that, rather than hoping
for a putative unique marker the neural correlate
of consciousness a more mature view of conscious
processing should consider that it relates to a
brain-scale distributed pattern of coherent brain
activation," explained neuroscientist Lionel
Naccache, one of the authors of the paper.
The late ignition of a state of long distance
coherence demonstrated here during conscious
access is in line with the Global Workspace
Theory, proposed by Stanislas Dehaene,
Jean-Pierre Changeux, and Lionel Naccache.
1. Gaillard et al. Converging Intracranial
Markers of Conscious Access. PLoS Biology, 2009;
7 (3): e61 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000061
Adapted from materials provided by Public Library
of Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
- No Dimensions Meditation
This is a powerful method for centering one's energy in the hara - the area just below the navel. It is based on a Sufi technique of movements for awareness and integration of the body. Because it is a Sufi meditation, it is free and non-serious. In fact it is so non-serious that you can even smile while you are doing it.
This one-hour meditation has three stages. During the first two stages the eyes are open but not focused on anything. During the third stage the eyes are closed.
The music, created especially for this meditation, begins slowly and gradually becomes faster and faster as an uplifting force.
First stage: SUFI MOVEMENTS 30 minutes
A continuous dance in a set of six movements. With your eyes open, begin by standing in one place and placing the left hand on the heart and the right hand on the hara. Stand still for a few moments just listening to the music to get centered. This stage of the meditation starts slowly and builds up in intensity.
If you are doing this with others you may get out of synchronicity with the others and think you have made a mistake. When that happens, just stop, see where the other people are, and then get back into the same rhythm and timing as everyone else.
When the bell rings, start the sequence as described below. The movements always come from the center, or hara, using the music to keep the correct rhythm. The hips and eyes face the direction of the hand movement. Use graceful movements in a continuous flow. Loud "Shoo" sounds are made from the throat in synchronicity with the sounds from the recording.
Repeat this six-movement sequence continuously for 30 minutes.
1) Touch the backs of the hands together pointing downward on the hara. Breathing in through the nose, bring the hands up to the heart and fill them with love. Breathing out make the sound "Shoo" from the throat and send love out to the world. At the same time move the right arm (with fingers extended, palm downward) and right foot straight forward, and move the left hand back down to the hara. Return to the original position with both hands on the hara.
2) Repeat this movement with the left arm and foot. Return to the original position with both hands on the hara.
3) Repeat this movement with the right arm and foot, turning sideways to the right. Return to the original position with both hands on the hara.
4) Repeat this movement with the left arm and foot, turning sideways to the left. Return to the original position with both hands on the hara.
5) Repeat this movement with the right arm and foot, turning directly behind from the right side. Return to the original position with both hands on the hara.
6) Repeat this movement with the left arm and foot, turning directly behind from the left side. Return to the original position with both hands on the hara.
This stage is over when the music comes to a stop. The second stage begins with new music.
Second stage: WHIRLING 15 minutes
Begin by placing the right toe over the left toe. Fold your arms across your chest and embrace yourself. Feel love for yourself. When the music starts bow down to existence for bringing you here for this meditation. When the tempo changes, begin whirling either to the left or to the right, whichever feels best for you. If you whirl to the right put the right foot and the right arm to the right and the left arm in the opposite direction.. As you start to whirl you can change your hands to any position which feels good to you.
If you have not whirled before then go very very slowly at first and once your mind and body get acclimated to the movements the body will naturally go faster. Do not force yourself to go too fast too soon. If you do get dizzy or it feels like it is too much for you, it is okay to stop and stand or to sit down. To end the whirling, slow down and fold the arms over the chest and heart.
Third stage: SILENCE 15 minutes
Lie down on the belly with your eyes closed. Leave your legs open and not crossed to allow all the energy you have gathered to flow through you. There is nothing to do except to just be with yourself. If it is uncomfortable to lie on your belly, lie on your back. A gong will indicate the end of the meditation.
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