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How Does Consciousness Happen?

Koch, Christof and Greenfield, Susan (2007) How Does Consciousness Happen? Scientific American, 297 (4). pp. 76-83. ISSN 0036-8733 . http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20130816-103305650

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Abstract

How brain processes translate to consciousness is one of the greatest un-solved questions in science. Although the scientific method can delineate events immediately after the big bang and uncover the biochemical nuts and bolts of the brain, it has utterly failed to satisfactorily explain how subjective experience is created. As neuroscientists, both of us have made it our life's goal to try to solve this puzzle. We share many common views, including the important acknowledgment that there is not a single problem of consciousness. Rather, numerous phenomena must be explained—in particular, self-consciousness (the ability to examine one's own desires and thoughts), the content of consciousness (what you are actually conscious of at any moment), and how brain processes relate to consciousness and to nonconsciousness. So where does the solution begin? Neuroscientists do not yet understand enough about the brain's inner workings to spell out exactly how consciousness arises from the electrical and chemical activity of neurons. Thus, the big first step is to determine the best neuronal correlates of consciousness (NCC)—the brain activity that matches up with specific conscious experiences. When you realize you are seeing a dog, what has happened among which neurons in your brain? When a feeling of sadness suddenly comes over you, what has happened in your brain? We are both trying to find the neuronal counterpart of each subjective experience that an individual may have. And this is where we differ. Our disagreement over the best NCC emerged during a lively debate between us at the University of Oxford in the summer of 2006, sponsored by the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio. Since then, we have continued to explore and challenge each other's views, a dialogue that has resulted in the article here. We are bound, nonetheless, by one fundamental commonality: our views stem primarily from neuroscience, not just philosophy. We both have considered a tremendous amount of neuroscientific, clinical and psychological data, and it is from these observations that our arguments arise.


Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican1007-76DOIArticle
http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v297/n4/full/scientificamerican1007-76.htmlPublisherArticle
Additional Information:© 2007 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. The authors would like to thank Joseph Dial of the Mind Science Foundation for his support. Susan Greenfield thanks Michael Hill, Nicholas Shea and Kathleen Taylor for their insights.
Group:Koch Laboratory, KLAB
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130816-103305650
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20130816-103305650
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:40621
Collection:CaltechAUTHORS
Deposited By: KLAB Import
Deposited On:16 Jan 2008 04:10
Last Modified:18 Sep 2013 20:13

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