The experiences of the autoconscious mind are related to neural activity in the association areas of the brain, with a relative grade of correspondence but not identity. The unity of the conscious experience is based upon the autoconscious mind but not from the complexity of the neuronal wiring/ conexions in the association areas in the cortex. The hypothesis of Karl Popper of the Three Worlds permits to comprehend the reality and the autoconscious mind, trying to solve the perennial quest between body and mind.
The process of the consciousness as a field, implies conceptually to bring it out from the skull. Progress in theoretical physics during the past decade has led to a progressively more unified understanding of the laws of nature, culminating in the recent discovery of the so called completely unified field theories. The parallel discovery of a unified field of consciousness raises fundamental questions concerning the relationship between the two (2). A detailed consideration of the relationship between the unified field and consciousness would benefit from a precise and comprehensive theory of consciousness comparable to the understanding of the unified field available through modern theoretical physics. A key issue from a physiological standpoint is how the nervous system could conceivably interface with the super-unified scale in any significant way. Perhaps the first question to consider in this context is to what extent the nervous system actively participates in the experience and phenomena of pure consciousness. The physiological basis for such an interface is presently unclear, and would probably require some as yet undiscovered quantum-mechanical neurological mechanism (2). A review of relevant research areas, as well as the anesthesia data, leads to a postulation that consciousness is a property of quantum-like processes, within a brain field resonating within a core of structures, which may be the neural substrate of consciousness. This core includes regions of the prefrontal cortex, the frontal cortex, the pre- and paracentral cortex, thalamus, limbic system, and basal ganglia (3). It is mentioned (1) “Looking for consciousness in the brain is like looking in the radio for the announcer.” – Nasseim Haramein, director of research for the Resonance Project “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi “A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.” – R.C. Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University , “The Mental Universe” ; Nature 436:29,2005) Noam Chomsky would say, our consent to accept the present reality has been manufactured. If we continue down this path and continue to perceive and view reality as “this is just the way it is,” we will, in essence, prolong that type of existence and experience for the human race without ever changing it.
Definition of consciousness
The main risk of definition of consciousness is that a meaning judged too wild for inclusion, could eventually turn out to be the most worthwhile, thus delaying progress. For instance, the american philosopher Danah Zohar, describes consciousness as “something that includes general capacity for awareness and purposive response”. By this description, she accepts the above two meanings of the word consciousness. She deems the consciousness is the bridge between the classical world and the quantum world. One of Quantum Mechanics’ shortcomings is that it doesn’t truly explain how reality emerges from the quantum world of elementary particles and probability waves.
Any approach to consciousness in solving the brain-mind problem is how does the brain-mind bind together millions of dissimilar neuron activities into an experience of a perceptual whole. Consciousness is “a difference that makes a difference” at the level of massive neuronal interactions in the most parallel-interactive anatomical structure of the mammalian brain, the cortico-thalamic (C-T) system. Other brain structures are not established to result in direct conscious experiences, at least in humans. Edelman deems that brain events corresponding to attentional selection are prominent and widespread. And attention generally results in conscious experiences, which may be needed to recruit widespread processing resources in the brain. But on the contrary, many neuronal processes never become conscious, such as the balance system of the inner ear (10). Making a “definition of consciousness”, De Sousa (11) provided lists of phenomena which we all recognize as conscious — the waking state, the contents of momentary experiences, and then the propositional experiences of hope and belief in conscious thinking. Complementarily on their side Singh & Singh (12), following their International Seminar on Mind, Brain, and Consciousness, lay out an overlapping but somewhat broader conception of consciousness, referred to as the called Consciousness Tetrad:
Default consciousness: The state that separates the living from the non-living.
Aware consciousness: Ranging from wakefulness, through drowsiness, to sleep — and also altered states from delirium to the comatose.
Operational consciousness: Sensory, motor, cognitive, emotive, aesthetic, creative, etc.
Exalted consciousness: A form of awareness, characterised by some, and by metaphysicians, as spiritual or a contact with a divine entity. For the authors, “Consciousness is a tetrad of brain functions (CT)”.When is recognized that brain imaging has been and can continue to be valuable in identifying a neural correlate of categories of mental activity — from the waking and altered awareness states to classes of conscious states, from sensory modalities to mental episodes such as recollection or even symptoms, arises a materialistic point of view in which medically, neurocognitively, and philosophically, Mind is the functioning of the brain.An approach to define ‘consciousness’ is to describe its uses and determine its boundaries, its essential nature, and mechanisms. It can be distinguished between ‘normal waking consciousness’; altered forms of waking consciousness underlying trance, absorption, hypnosis, dissociation, meditative states, drug states, and out of body experiences; and REM/dreaming and slow-wave/deep sleep — examining them by the basic characteristics and mechanisms of normal waking consciousness: cortical arousal, qualitative experiences, first-person subjectivity, intentionality, knowing objects and self (16).Going up with Dulany (11), consciousness the medium by means we live our lives — and it must have a special explanatory role in what it permits mentation and action by virtue of the symbolic representations it can carry. With symbolic contents we represent the present in sensory and perceptual experience, the past in beliefs and recollections and senses of familiarity — and a possible future as intended or expected or wished or feared or only imagined. We can even symbolically represent our own past or future mental activity in higher-order awareness. The name qualia is an attribute of quality when the experience about past and futures has an impact on our introspective experience.
Even though his materialistic conception, David Chalmers states that “consciousness just is not the sort of thing that can be measured directly. What, then, do we do without a consciousness meter? How can the search go forward? How does all this experimental research proceed? I think the answer is this: we get there with principles of interpretation, by which we interpret physical systems to judge the presence of consciousness.” We might call these pre-experimental bridging principles.
They are the criteria that we bring to bear in looking at systems to say (a) whether or not they are conscious now, and (b) which information they are conscious of, and which they are not (13). Classically, measures of conscious perception in awake humans distinguish between objective performance, such as the ability to discriminate the presence, absence, or identity of distinct stimuli, from subjective reports, such as subjective ratings of the visibility of stimuli or confidence ratings of the accuracy of perceptual decisions, which are associated with conscious perception. Studies taking this approach have benefited from the application of “signal detection theory” (SDT), which provides robust methods for distinguishing objective performance from subjective performance (14).
There is a panpsychist approach which gives us a new perspective on our own human mentality, and it allows, by extension, a better understanding of non-human minds. We can see both as existing on one continuum, comparable to and parallel with the physical continuum of being that we have long accepted. This provides us with a more naturalistic and parsimonious account of mind and consciousness (17).
Briefly, the Quantum Mechanics
These features were first explicitly formulated in the paper by A. Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen, reformulated later in a more convenient form by John Bell, and experimentally confirmed in the experiments of A. Aspect (20). What does quantum mechanics describe? It might seem, since it is widely agreed that any quantum mechanical system is completely described by its wave function, that quantum mechanics is fundamentally about the behavior of wave functions (21). Paradoxes of quantum mechanics and the resulting so-called “problem of measurement” are known from the early years of quantum mechanics, but are not finally resolved up to now. An essential step in the attempts to solve these problems was made by Everett in its famous “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. In the sixties the Everett’s approach became much more popular. The Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics states that there are many worlds which exist in parallel at the same space and time as our own. The existence of the other worlds makes it possible to remove randomness and action at a distance from quantum theory and thus from all physics. But many physicists think MWI is a very controversial approach, and most of them who work in quantum physics seem to believe that spending time questioning the (essentially untestable) interpretations of quantum physics is a waste of time. When describing wave function, Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 referred: “That it is an abstract, unintuitive mathematical construct is a scruple that almost always surfaces against new aids to thought and that carries no great message.” Schrödinger noted that it may happen in radioactive decay that
the emerging particle is described … as a spherical wave … that impinges continuously on a surrounding luminescent screen over its full expanse. The screen however does not show a more or less constant uniform surface glow, but rather lights up at one instant atone spot.
Consciousness and quantum physics
Evolving concepts of neuroscience
Linking quantum mechanics and consciousness
The union between quantum mechanics and consciousness is shown to open up qualitatively new avenues for the unification of physics and psychology and, more broadly, of the sciences and the humanities. This may lead to an extension of the theory of consciousness and shed light on significant and previously misunderstood phenomena in the sphere of consciousness (19). During early decade of twenties of past century, physicist Wolfgang Pauli in collaboration with the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, they supposed particularly that quantum mechanics may help to explain strange psychic phenomena observed by Jung and called “synchronisms”. Jung told of a synchronism if a series of the events happened such that these events were conceptually close but their simultaneous (synchronous) emergence could not be justified causally. The idea of connecting consciousness with quantum mechanics was suggested not only by Pauli and Jung, but others as the physicist Roger Penrose. So, everything could be explained by natural sciences, on the grounds of quantum laws. Therefore, in order to explain consciousness, it has to apply quantum mechanics for analysis of the work of brain. It is now experimentally proved that reality in our world is quantum, and the conclusions based on classical concept of reality, are not reliable. The comprehension of the concept of quantum reality was achieved after long intellectual efforts of many scientists linking theory of consciousness with the realm of quantum mechanics (starting by Pauli and Jung and now close to being accomplished) marks a qualitatively new level of understanding quantum mechanics itself (18).
Quantum phenomena and living matter
Although to the light of modern physics the natural phenomena are reducible to quantum events in principle, the quantum mechanics does not always provide the best level of analysis. A growing body of evidence in biological models now describes for instance, in quantum context, the coherent transport in photosynthesis and magnetoreception in birds up to the quantum olfaction and single-photon effects in vision, so the field of quantum biology is making a “leapfrog” into the mainstream. Recent experimental results and theoretical analyses have shown that thermal energy may assist, rather than disrupt, quantum coherent transport, especially in the ‘dry’ hydrophobic interiors of biomolecules. Specifically, evidence has been accumulating for the necessary involvement of quantum coherent energy transfer between uniquely arranged chromophores in light harvesting photosynthetic complexes. The ‘tubulin’ subunit proteins, which comprise microtubules, also possess a distinct architecture of chromophores, namely aromatic amino acids, including tryptophan (7). Protein conformational dynamics and pharmacological evidence suggest that protein conformational states-fundamental information units (‘bits’) in biological systems-are governed by quantum events, and are thus perhaps akin to quantum bits (‘qubits’) as utilized in quantum computation. ‘Real time’ dynamic activities within cells are regulated by the cell cytoskeleton, particularly microtubules (MTs) which are cylindrical lattice polymers of the protein tubulin (8). One of the issues in which there is more bridging between consciousness and quantum phenomena has been explores by Hameroff, when describes the microtubules acting as quantum processing units, with individual tubulin dimers conforming the computational elements. This model requires that the tubulin is able to switch between alternative conformational states in a coherent manner, and that this process may be rapid on the physiological time scale (9).
The near-death experiences are a complex phenomenon that occurs across different cultures and times. NDE is experienced at the time of being near to death, or before biological death. NDEs are caused by various situations such as accidents, serious illness, suicide attempts, surgery or birth, they do not influence the content of the NDE. Observations on OBE (Out of Body Experience) and NDE (Near Death Experience ) show that while the body is in an anaesthetized or inactive state, consciousness can remain dis-embodied, observe events from outside the body, and later re-localize in the brain. Neurophysiological research link the described phenomena of NDE consisting in cognitive, emotional, paranormal and transcendence components, with neurological substrate at temporal lobe, the amygdala, dorsal raphe nucleus, and with different neurotransmitter systems, given the findings of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy . In another hand, the field of consciousness is a concept which has been approached by different disciplines, called in different ways, seems to behave with the physical properties of the fields in the order of physics. Concepts have been proposed as primary order, implicate order, which have conceptual approach and definition from physics. The nervous system does not produce the consciousness field and consequently to seek consciousness “within” the physical circuitry of the brain is useless, just that it is seeking the screen image in the physical circuits of a TV. The inherent complexity and neurophysiological neuronal necessary for transduction or perception of the larger field of consciousness, and this field is accessed when someone is near to death, or dies (6).
The autoconscious mind
The debate between body and mind is perennial, these fascinating question has been addressed and traditionally focused by religion, philosophy, then in more recent times by psychology, psychiatry, cognitive neural science and physics. Currently the search on the structure and nature of conscious experience shows that consciousness can be considered an irreductible entity that exists at a fundamental level and from a holonomic point can not be understood as the sum of simpler parts (22). Based on a theory of Karl Raimund Popper, Eccles (23) deemed the hypothesis of the three worlds and propose that autoconscious mind interacts with cortical modules to explain how the interaction between body and mind occurs in nervous system in the brain and how the neuronal electrical activity is coordinated in a way that allows complex spatial-temporal model that conceptually integrates the concepts of matter and energy, subjective experiences, states of consciousness and culture as a product of human knowledge. The autoconscious mind continuously scrutinize the confirmation of cortical modules allowing reciprocity between modules and autoconscious mind. Once autoconscious mind slightly modifies the depolarized cortical modules for the convenience and preference of the case, these modules (probably hundreds) react as a whole, releasing information on the commissural fibers. In contrast, when the modules are in repolarization function, autoconscious mind can not find a pattern to interpret, and consequently deals no information which is equivalent to unconscious states. In states of rapid eye movement sleep, autoconscious mind regains its ability to interact with some depolarized cortical modules, causing the states of consciousness we call dreams. Probably autoconscious mind selects the depolarized cortical modules according to quantum laws of probability.This form of selection according to quantum laws are based on the small size of the synaptic cleft (between 200-300 nanometers) and the exocytosis of synaptic vesicles, which at that time did not depends for its movement in a viscous medium, but the particle size, magnitudes are in the range of quantum mechanics (24). Thus, autoconscious mind somehow selects the vesicles in the synaptic cleft when they are on their way to exocytosis, depending on the individual intention to act in a quantum field of probabilities.
The elegance and importance of this model of consciousness linked to the model of quantum mechanics, explains many of the observed properties of human consciousness, bonding simultaneously physics, neuroscience, psychology and traditional knowledge of eastern cultures. All of this hypothesis on consciousness and quantum mechanics theory account with a growing body of neuroanatomical and neuroscientific evidence, are accordingly with biological evolution, not only describes how are used the most highly evolved structures of the cerebral cortex but the most interesting, explains how quantum physics phenomena may occurs in ultrastructure sites of the brain.
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Eccles J.C. Evolution of consciousness. Proceedings of Natural Academy of Sciences USA 1992; 89; 7320-7324. In the link it appears Figure 3, which is particularly interesting because it depicts the concept of telodendrón conceptually bonded to the concept of psychon. This ultrastructure is the boundary as per Eccles of the interaction between body and mind.25. Schrödinger, E., 1935, “Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik,”Naturwissenschaften, 23: 807–812, 823–828, 844–849; English translation by Trimmer, J. D., 1980, “The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics: A Translation of Schrödinger’s ‘Cat Paradox’ Paper”, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 124: 323–338, reprinted in Wheeler and Zurek 1983.
It is well known the decaying of the gray matter with age. A growing body of research suggests that meditation practices are associated with substantial psychological as well as physiological benefits. In searching for the biological mechanisms underlying the beneficial impact of meditation, studies have revealed practice-induced alterations of neurotransmitters, brain activity, and cognitive abilities (1).
When correlating global and local gray matter with age, it is detected negative correlations within both controls and meditators, suggesting a decline over time. However, the slopes of the regression lines were steeper and the correlation coefficients were stronger in controls than in meditators.
This particular quality of non-evaluative awareness can improve one’s physical and psychological health status, and therefore several approaches generally called “mindfulness-based interventions” (MBIs) have been developed and tested in the last 40 years (9), although only over the last three decades the mindfulness meditation practices have been increasingly incorporated into psychotherapeutic programs, to take advantage of these benefits . Evidence about their efficacy and effectiveness in improving mindfulness and health is rapidly accumulating.
The role of meditation
The anatomy of the hippocampus has been repeatedly reported to differ between meditators and non-meditators. The human hippocampus shows structural differences between meditators and non-meditators as well as between men and women.
With the exact underlying neuronal mechanisms remaining to be established, studies linking meditation and brain structure are relatively sparse, but the hippocampus is consistently implicated as one of the structures altered in meditation practitioners (2).
Surprisingly, there are scanty published studies that have addressed the question of whether meditation diminishes age-related brain degeneration (4).
It has been suggested that this process is associated with a perceptual shift (12), in which one’s thoughts and feelings are recognized as events occurring in the broader field of awareness.
An underlying mechanism
Nothwithstanding, experiments using positron emission tomography or functional MRI (fMRI) within samples of novice or expert meditators indicated increased brain activation (compared to baseline) during meditation or mindfulness exercises in left and right hippocampal and parahippocampal regions (5)
When deeming the neural basis of the complex mental task of meditation, there are a lot of involved changes in cognition, sensory perception, affect, hormones, and autonomic activity (6)
Neuroimaging studies have begun to explore the neural mechanisms underlying mindfulness meditation practice with techniques such as EEG and functional MRI (12).
Group differences in the hippocampus and the right anterior insula, however, have each been identified in at least two of the studies. Furthermore, activation in both regions has been reported during meditative states, namely the hippocampus and the insula. The hippocampus is known to be critically involved in learning and memory processes, the modulation of emotional control, while the insula has been postulated to play a key role in the process of awareness, functions which have been shown to be important in the process and outcomes of mindfulness training (12).
Cross-sectional studies have established that differences in regional gray matter are associated with performance abilities (13, 14), suggesting that an increase in gray matter corresponds to improved functioning in the relevant area.
What the evidence show
In the first study conducted by Eileen Luders et al, within a relatively large sample of meditators and well-matched controls, where global measures (hippocampal volumes) were complemented with refined local measures (radial hippocampal distances from surface to central core). After manually have labeled the hippocampus with a described procedure, the global left and right hippocampal volumes were established in mm3. Altogether, evaluated hyppocampal sizes were larger in meditators compared to controls, with up to 15% difference. ! These local effects were observed in several hippocampal regions in the left and right hemisphere though achieved significance primarily in the left hippocampal head (3).
Larger hippocampal dimensions in long-term meditators may constitute part of the underlying neurological substrate for cognitive skills, mental capacities, and/or personal traits associated with the practice of meditation (2).
In another exploratory single-group pilot longitudinal study it was examined the local gray matter changes over a six-week period of Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). The participants included six older adult community volunteers (M=66.5 years of age, SD=5.5, range=58-75; 66% female) with sleep disturbances. The Mindfulness-based interventions was delivered as a weekly, two-hour, six-session, group-based course in mindfulness meditation. Gray matter was measured voxel-wise pre- and post-intervention. It was found a significant gray matter increase identified within the precuneus, (posterior region of the medial parietal cortex, known to belong to the associative cortices, which is the widely distributed network sharing connections with other cortical and subcortical regions allowing the brain to integrate both external and self-generated information and to produce much of the mental activity that characterizes Homo sapiens sapiens) (10), possibly implicating meditation-induced changes of the default mode network. In contrast, observed significant gray matter decreases may have been driven by MBI-related remediation of brain architecture subserving sleep complaints (7).
Toward a mindfulness
The so called dispositional mindfulness (DM), is the tendency to be more mindful in daily life seems to be a sum of individual genetics and life experiences, and DM is not necessarily related to having participated in an mindfulness based intervention or practicing meditative exercises. DM can be measured by scales addressing mindfulness trait, e.g., the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) and the Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and it has been significantly related to several indicators of psychological and physical health including: higher levels of positive affect, improvement in personal stress management skills, and in adaptive emotional regulation (16).
The mindfulness may encourage self-regulation, may enhance values clarification, as well as cognitive, emotional and behavioral flexibility and tolerance for facing difficult emotional states. Increasing the objectivity through which internal experience is viewed is intended to change one’s relationship to the thoughts, as opposed to changing the thoughts themselves. For instance, the tendency to be more mindful in daily life has been associated with better psychological functioning and reduced overall distress in cancer patients. Being aware of the present moment and refraining from judging inner experience were the 2 most important mindfulness skills for improvements of psychological functioning among cancer patients (17).
The mindfulness based intervention
The psychological construct of mindfulness refers to an awareness that emerges by intentionally paying attention to the present experience in a non-judgmental way, as was described by Kabat-Zinn (15). In other words, a “mindful” mind brings together attentional and attitudinal features at the same time, self-regulating the attention toward present-moment, direct experiences and attitude in a non-judgmental tone toward internal and external phenomena (physical, affective and behavioral). Interest in mindfulness has increased exponentially in recent decades in academic and clinical contexts.
When approaching this mindfulness based intervention, a definition describes it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” It has described mindfulness as a “way of being,” choosing to think of the work as a dynamic process, embedded within all of life, both intra- and inter-personal, rather than a static technique, practiced only “on the cushion” and thereby compartmentalized to “x” minutes per day (8)
This particular quality of awareness has been associated to several indicators of physical and psychological health, and can be developed using mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), and therefore MBIs have been successfully applied as preventive and complementary interventions and therapies in medicine and psychology. Together with quiet sitting and lying meditation practices, mindful physical exercises such as “mindful walking” and “mindful movement” are key elements in MBIs and couple muscular activity with an internally directed focus, improving interoceptive attention to bodily sensations. In addition, MBIs seem to share similar mechanisms with physical fitness (PF) by which they may influence cardiovascular responses to stress (9).
A growing body of literature has demonstrated that neural systems are modifiable networks and changes in the neural structure can occur in adults as a result of training. These findings not only imply a close link between meditation and brain structure, but also suggest possible modulating effects of meditation on age-related brain atrophy. Given that normal aging is associated with significant loss of brain tissue, meditation-induced growth and/or preservation might manifest as a seemingly reducing brain age in meditators (i.e., cerebral measures characteristic of younger brains).
These results add to a growing literature depicts the impact of mindfulness and its relationship to improved psychological health. Moreover, specific mindfulness skills may be important in supporting these improvements, mainly taking into account the rising incidence and prevalence of brain atrophy conditions.
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Perhaps no aspect of mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness and our conscious experience of self and world. The problem of consciousness is arguably the central issue in current theorizing about the mind. Despite the lack of any agreed upon theory of consciousness, there is a widespread, if less than universal, consensus that an adequate account of mind requires a clear understanding of it and its place in nature. We need to understand both what consciousness is and how it relates to other, nonconscious, aspects of reality..