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Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness

  1. Aug 13, 2008 #1
    Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness

    Damasio utilizes the lesion method for studying and developing hypothesis regarding the nature of human consciousness. This method consists in studying the effect on the brain’s dysfunctions resulting from such things as stroke, disease, or injury. Through this technique Damasio has been able to model brain functions that relate to certain disruption from normal behavior.

    The basic facts made available for analysis give testimony to the hypothesis that consciousness is not a monolith. Most importantly there is an abrupt division between what is identified as core consciousness and extended consciousness. There are also distinguishing levels within extended consciousness it self. When core consciousness fails then extended consciousness follows.

    Damasio identifies wakefulness, low-level attention, specific emotion, and specific actions as aspects of core consciousness. When core consciousness fails extended consciousness also fails. “On the other hand, when an extended consciousness is disrupted, as exemplified by patients with profound disturbances of autobiographical memory, core consciousness remains intact.”

    “It is possible to separate consciousness in general from functions such as wakefulness, low-level attention, working memory, conventional memory, language, and reasoning.”
    Patients who lose wakefulness (REM sleep being an exception) can no longer be judged to be conscious.

    Such aspects of core consciousness as wakefulness, low-level attention, and brief, adequate behaviors can survive a disturbance of consciousness; emotion is lost, along with the sense of knowing and self when consciousness is lost. “The defect of knowing and self and of recognizably motivated emotion goes hand in hand with defects in planning, in high-level attention, and in sustained and adequate behaviors”.

    Damasio finds that “nearly all the sites of brain damage associated with a significant disruption of core consciousness share one important trait…these structures are of old evolutionary vintage, they are present in numerous nonhuman species, and they mature early in individual human development.”

    That is to say that his evidence indicates that core consciousness is centered about the brain’s physical areas that developed very early in the evolution of life on our planet, i.e. human core consciousness is directly evolved from early animal forms.

    Quotes from “The Feeling of what Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness” by Antonio Damasio
  2. jcsd
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