• Question: Do you think there is a neurological explanation for consciousness or is it beyond scientific reasoning?

    Asked by anon-284017 on 27 Mar 2021.
    • Photo: anon

      anon answered on 8 Mar 2021:

      Hi Anastacia Thompson,

      Firstly, I don’t think there is anything beyond scientific explanation! And secondly, to answer your question, to some degree, yes.
      We as humans have been trying to answer this for as long as we have been alive as a species. It really is as illusive and intriguing to us as the start of the universe! How do we get from a 3lbs lump of grey stuff to the basis of who we are and how we think?!
      It’s really hard to answer compared to other scientific questions as we can’t really just look inside someone’s head, but…
      The best explanation that we have is the ‘default mode network’. Essentially when we are not thinking, such as daydreaming or mind wandering activity lights up in certain areas of the brain. It has been suggested that this brain activity and how the neurons seem to fire together could be the answer (to an extent) of what exactly consciousness is.
      Though it does beg questions like is there anything outside of the context of our brain? Even are we in the matrix!? And it also really brings into question other parts of psychology like behaviourism that saw thoughts as ‘black box’ and not worthy of study.

    • Photo: Alex Baxendale

      Alex Baxendale answered on 8 Mar 2021:

      Hello! This is a really deep, and difficult question to answer and I don’t think we’re anywhere near close enough to really know the answer. We have small ideas of things that we can kinda stitch together to get a good idea. The brain has lots of different areas that perform very specific functions, and then it puts together those specific functions to create something much bigger, so for consciousness we know that there isn’t just a ‘consciousness’ area, but it is in fact made up of lots of different functions that come together!
      One of the largest functions in consciousness is something called ‘working memory’, it’s basically the voice you hear in your head – you can put information in a box that you can remember for a short amount of time, and you can manipulate it – you can imagine a triangle, then you can rotate that triangle in your head. Working memory is heavily involved in our idea of consciousness, but it’s not the only part! Some other functions, like our ability to experience memories on the spot (remember that time you went to the cinema with your friends? When we remember it we can experience it again, pictures, sounds, smells and emotions linked to it).
      There are lots and lots of different functions that all work together to make consciousness, perhaps another scientist can suggest some others that are also involved!