Despite the massive advances in medical science, the hunt still goes on for the source of our individual consciousness. The boffins have made huge strides in mapping the brain with their growing array of neuroimaging equipment, but it’s clear that the goal of finding out where the ‘we’ resides in our mind is not going to be that easy.
A recent study by David Rdrauf et al of the University of Iowa in the US, for example, has just exploded the idea that there are certain parts of the brain which correspond to our ‘conscious’ being, the centre of our self-awareness. Previous studies had suggested that three parts of our cortex were essential for self-awareness, but the new research has shown that even when a patient has severe damage to these critical parts of the brain, he still retains definite self-awareness.
The patient in question suffers from severe amnesia, but still functions as a person with ‘basic self-recognition and sense of self-agency’. As the report goes on to say, this fits in with a hypothesis that our conscious mind is more likely to be distributed around a wider range of locations in the body, including the brain stem, than simply located in a few discrete locations of the brain itself.
The other factor which seems fascinating from this study, is the possibility that our consciousness has the ‘ability’ to re-map itself under situations of extreme trauma or destruction, in rather the same way that the Internet was designed to route around damage and still maintain fundamental communication connections.
Wouldn’t that be funny, if we somehow unconsciously modeled the ultimate global knowledge network on one of the most complex computational organs in existence, our brain? [Via]