How Brain Reveals Mind Neural Studies Support the Fundamental Role of Conscious Experience
In the last decade, careful studies of the living brain have opened the way for human consciousness to return to the heights it held before the behavioristic coup of 1913. This is illustrated by seven cases: (1) the discovery of widespread brain activation during conscious perception; (2) high levels of regional brain metabolism in the resting state of consciousness, dropping drastically in unconscious states; (3) the brain correlates of inner speech; (4) visual imagery; (5) fringe consciousness; (6) executive functions of the self; and (7) volition. Other papers in this issue expand on many of these points. (Roepstorff; Leopold & Logothetis; Bærentsen; Haggard; Hohwy & Frith). In the past, evidence based on subjective reports was often neglected (e.g., Ericsson, this issue). It is still true that brain evidence has greater credibility than subjective reports, no matter how reliable. What is new is increasing convergence between subjective experiences and brain observations. For that reason it is no longer rare to see the word 'consciousness' and 'subjectivity' in major science journals. No one so far has discovered a gulf dividing mind and brain. On the contrary, the new evidence supports the central role of consciousness as it was regarded over more than two millenia of written thought. In a sense this was predictable. Nature is full of unexpected convergences -- between fruit fly genes and the human body, between the arc of a tennis ball and the orbit of Mars, and between consciousness and the brain. These convergences show once again the remarkable unity of the observable universe.
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Document Type: Research Article
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Publication date: January 1, 2003