Mind Uploading

Have we been looking for consciousness in the wrong place?

Posted in Scanning techniques by fuzzyengineering on July 15, 2010

Consciousness equals awareness of self and of the exterior environment. While studying neurology, I learnt about the Glasgow Coma Scale to identify consciousness states by measuring 3 outputs:

– the verbal response

– the eye response

– the motor response

The neural doctrine prevails in the mainstream literature , but some articles in the Journal of Consciousness Studies by Johnjoe McFadden made me think whether we have been looking in the wrong place for the neural correlates of consciousness.

While the neural doctrine asserts the neural synapses as the physical storage of memory and information transmission being made with the help of action potentials and chemical neurotransmitters, it does not identify the physical equivalent of consciousness. The electromagnetic field theories of consciousness identify the brain’s endogenous electromagnetic field as the substrate of consciousness.

An electromagnetic field is produced by electrically charged objects and can be described by the Maxwell’s equations :

and by the Lorentz force law:

In Seven Clues to the Origin of Consciousness, Johnjoe McFadden identified these clues to the origin of consciousness:

Clue 1: Consciousness generates phenomena in the world. It is a cause of effects.

Clue 2: Consciousness is a property of living (human) brains. As far as we know, it is not a property of any other structure.

Clue 3: Brain activity can be conscious or unconscious.

Clue 4: The unconscious mind can perform parallel computations but conscious appears to be serial.

Clue 5: Learning and memory require consciousness but recall may be unconscious.

Clue 6: Information that is encoded by widely distributed neurons in our brain is somehow bound together to form unified conscious percepts.

Clue 7: Consciousness and awareness are associated not with neural firing per se but with neurons that fire in synchrony.

The main arguments for this specific theory – the cemi theory- are:

– the relationship between firing synchrony of neurons and consciousness

– the research techniques that influence the nervous system or identify its endogenous electromagnetic field with the help of static charges or dynamic charges (currents).

These include:

– transcranial direct current stimulation

– transcranial alternating current stimulation

– transcranial magnetic stimulation

with their cranial equivalents and:

– electroencephalography

– electrocorticography which is intracranial EEG

– magnetoencephalography

When I first read about this theory I thought it is very suitable to experiments. Indeed the author makes a series of testable predictions detailed in cemi_theory_paper from which I quote:

(1) Stimuli that reach conscious awareness will be associated with em field
modulations that are strong enough to directly influence the firing of motor
(2) Stimuli that do not reach conscious awareness will not be associated with em
field modulations that affect motor neurone firing.
(3) The cemi field theory claims that consciousness represents a stream of infor-
mation passing through the brain’s em field. Increased complexity of con-
scious thinking should therefore correlate with increased complexity of the
brain’s em field.
(4) Agents that disrupt the interaction between the brain’s em field and neurones
will induce unconsciousness.
(5) Arousal and alertness will correlate with conditions in which em field fluctu-
ations are most likely to influence neurone firing; conversely, low arousal
and unconsciousness will correlate with conditions when em fields are least
likely to influence neurone firing.
(6) The brain’s em field should be relatively insulated to perturbation from
exogenous em fields encountered in normal environments.
(7) The evolution of consciousness in animals should correlate with an increas-
ing level of electrical coupling between the brain’s endogenous em field and
(receiver) neurone firing.
(8) Consciousness should demonstrate field-level dynamics.

In the end, these 2 videos present an intracranial EEG after right frontal craniotomy and a transcranial magnetic stimulation.