Chapters 6- Cognition 03. Conscience

03. Conscience

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"Conscience is the psychologist that gravity is the physicist. Inevitable" Baars.

1. Problems of consciousness:

Consciousness [ 73 , 119 , 133 ] is a very difficult topic to study for several reasons [ 119 ]. First, because there are many definitions of consciousness, we use the word conscience different sauces [ 164 ], and then because it involves a lot of encephalic structures [ 166 ] and other higher functions such as memory [ 73 ] and language [ 170 ].

Another element is added to the complexity of the subject, is that consciousness is a purely subjective experience [ 166 ] and thus is accessible to the person who experiences it, so its study must be done through subjects, and the animal model is very contributory because we do not yet know with certainty what kind of consciousness assign [ 41 ].

2. General:

2.1. Definition:

Consciousness can define several things:

  • The power to focus attention;
  • The waking state;
  • The faculty of abstraction;
  • Faculty of verbalization, that is to say, to express events in words;
  • The ability to develop projects and establish new mental relationships from past experiences;
  • Awareness of self;
  • The ability to establish values ​​...

2.2. The unconscious:

Speaking of the brain and consciousness leads us to speak of the unconscious. The brain has in fact a multitude of specialized circuits that process each time about 1 billion data per second on various aspects of our environment [ 142 ]. It is only infinitely small quantity of the data that emerges in our consciousness.

2.3. Sleep:

Any out of consciousness is not pathological, because unlike coma [ 57 ], syncope or fainting that pathological origins indeed, sleep is a state of physiological breakdown of consciousness is to Indeed very interesting to study [ 91 , 119 ].

3. Classification:

We distinguish between two forms of consciousness: the so-called primary [conscience 170 ] responsible for alertness or wakefulness that is mostly defined by its opposite (loss of consciousness), and higher-order consciousness [ 171 ] such as the definition and distinction of (self) which is more difficult to study and explain.

The approach itself was always the work of philosophers and psychologists and is the subject for some time and several studies have been unanimous on the conclusions.

It is therefore necessary to define what level of consciousness we mean when we try to associate brain structures.

4. Mechanisms:

Consciousness implements short-term memory, processes occurring in the memory long after joining consciousness passing through the short-term memory [ 133 ].

Several brain structures controlling consciousness in the sense of enlightenment are well known.

First the reticular formation [ 38 , 42 , 57 ], whose level of activity influences our state of alertness, wakefulness and sleep. Indeed, being awake requires an interaction between the reticular formation and other brain structures including the cerebral cortex. For this reason, the ascending pathways of the reticular formation are named: ascending reticular activating system or RAAS [ 45 ].

Then the thalamus, the yard all signals from the body [ 38 ]. And finally the cerebral cortex [ 44 ], which are crucial to all forms of perception and control of voluntary movements [ 73 ].

The projection [ 166 ], the raphe nuclei and the locus coeruleus structures are also involved in the maintenance of primary consciousness [ 41 ].

For there to be aware, so it seems there must be exchange or resonance between different brain regions. With functional brain imaging techniques, we can see the steps that lead to the emergence of a conscious mental image.

5. Callosal disconnection syndrome:

The most memorable experience in the history of the study of consciousness is probably the study of disconnection syndrome horny [ 133 ].

In forms of epilepsy rebels any medication and that spread to the two cerebral hemispheres, sometimes makes a section of the corpus callosum.

Even though it is about 200 million nerve fibers [ 39 , 80 ] sectioned after the operation the subjects are aware of any significant deficit. But elaborate experiments find something fascinating. Each hemisphere develops its own independent consciousness of the other hemisphere [ 73 ]!

If you put an object in the left hand of the subject concerned bandaging his eyes, he does not recognize the object as the area of ​​language, located in the left hemisphere does not have access to sensitive information in the case of left hand end up on the right hemisphere, though the subject happens to draw the object with his left hand [ 39 , 166 ]!