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Brain consciousness

  1. Apr 29, 2016 #1
    How many states of awareness can the brain be in? For example awake and conscious, asleep and unconscious, sub conscious. Are there any other states? Is there a point where the brain is in a state of all of them? And finally when a person is day dreaming is he both conscious and unconscious. Please refrain from discussing anything to do with spirituality (Google loves spirituality).
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  3. Apr 29, 2016 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    J Neurol. 2013 Apr;260(4):1087-98. doi: 10.1007/s00415-012-6766-1. Epub 2012 Nov 30.
    Clinical and imaging correlates of EEG patterns in hospitalized patients with encephalopathy.

    This reference mentions theta, theta/delta/delta, and triphasic patterns in EEGs of patients with encephalopathies.

    The point I'm trying to make is EEG patterns and brain "states" reflected by those patterns can be diverse and some are the result of disease/trauma. I personally do not know if EEGs map to psychologically defined categories of mental states. Like subconscious.

    I am taking that to mean these ideas are more related to psychology than biochemistry. There is an area of AI that deals with consciousness. Here is a Sparc-notes like version of Marvin Minsky's book on the subject of consciousness and emotion:
  4. Apr 29, 2016 #3
    I think this depends on what you define as 'state of awareness'.
    Happy/Sad, excited/bored, love/hate, interested/apathy are all candidates, at least for humans.
  5. May 3, 2016 #4
    I suppose really the brain can't be "in" any state of consciousness, while consciousness, mind, self ect. are all products of the brain, biology generally is not a good level of explanation. A lot of neurologists would interpret this question as being something about states of cortical arousal, the brain is always active but consciousness implies something about awareness. Things like being aware involves some types of brain activity, thinking adds or subtracts from this in terms of activity and the activity isn't even very consistent for the same processes even in the same person. Being asleep involves several distinct types of activity, someone who is unconscious through trauma is in quite different states.
    I suppose what I'm saying is that when it comes to associating brain activity to higher mental functioning we don't really have much of a clue and a great deal of the current research output from neuroscience, which is awash with money from all sorts of international projects, is of such poor quality its becoming an embarrassment, especially to the neuroscientists that take their job seriously. Try googling terms like neurotrash or neurotwaddle there is lots written about it.
  6. May 4, 2016 #5

    Fervent Freyja

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    Something I came across the other day::Consciousness has less control than believed, according to new theory

    One of my favorite pacifiers has always been learning. Processing information helps to keep my sanity in-check. Not that it doesn't slip every now-and-then... Hormonal and lifelong emotional issues that I can't seem to control end up driving me to seek answers for some sort of relief. That or music, writing, arts and crafts, or creating something to get me out of that state of mind. Raising my daughter has been the most challenging, but rewarding aspect I could ever have in life. It's difficult to think about the real human condition or my own childhood when she is shining so brightly. So encouraging and healing to her faithless mother. How to express my gratitude to her for something so meaningful to me? My first thought after she was handed to me had been an incredibly painful and stabbing foresight- she wouldn't be mine for long, I grieved. The next thought had been that I wanted to keep her smiling, give her an illusion that the world wasn't so bad. Oh, how often I fell and lost those first years!

    Environmental factors and routine also affect behavior to a large extent. I like to experiment with both to see what cognitive changes come along. I didn't like the way my living room had been arranged last week, and though I usually move things around when the weather changes anyway and do spring cleaning, this year I decided new visual elements would help liven up the room. So, excited about the new weather, I went out to hunt new pieces to redecorate. I was so in love with my imitation poor boys, the painting reminded me of my harsh childhood and had me crying when I brought them home to study. I also found some other touching pieces in the same collection, but haven't gotten around to investigating them entirely, much less putting them into place.

    Anyway, in the process of that and spring cleaning, I put two rooms in a state that is bothering me something terrible. I can't finish it until some furniture is picked up. Insane to do this with just a little over a week before finals (2 projects, one portfolio, one paper, and 2 exams for 3 classes). I did this last semester with my daughters room and didn't sleep for over two days. I should know better, but it isn't always easy to control my thoughts or reason. Probably need to be getting more than four hours of sleep a night for the next week. I'll have to enlist my Husband to make me go to sleep earlier.

    The human mind can keep tabs on numerous frames. Allow it to run free and you end up with nutty, almost incoherent states such as the above. Which does no good for me- good work has rarely came from letting myself do this. I need stimulation that is firmly rooted in reality that can be validated by others. A textbook will do.
  7. May 5, 2016 #6


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    EEG's are really just a statistical measure of the electric field at a point. And classifications like alpha, beta, deta are frequency ranges with some overlap that aren't universally defined. I think there has been a lot of history of people saying ooh maybe delta waves ARE consciousness but I don't think that's ever yielded any predictions or deeper understanding. That being said, certain waves can be associated with certain states and they are a useful tool for inferring what's going on in conjunction with other observations.

    There aren't really clearly defined states. As humans, we pick out a set of traits and group them together and classify them as a state when they are relevant to us and our experience. It's not a particularly robust classification system. There are anxious states, tranquil states, any number of pharmaceutically induced states, REM states, deep sleep states, dissociative states. Similar to pharmaceuticals, neural injury or atypical neural development, trauma, and other abnormal psychological phenomena likely come with less typical states that aren't experienced by everyone.

    The reason it's not really a robust classificaiton system is we generally experience a mixture of these ideal pure states at any given time, not a single one, and we're depending on subjective reporting to a large degree. Especially since we're trying to describe these states from a phenomenological point of view to pair with the physiological observations. This is one of the things psychiatrists do when they prescribe drugs - they're trying to fine tune your phenomenological state by making changes to the physiological state. There are working theories about how this all works, but a lot of it is trial and error (some people find the right drugs to fix their states quickly, others spend years trying different cocktails and not getting the right results). So you can see this a very complicated problem with lots of variability in it.

    Did you have somewhere you were going with the question that perhaps we could skip to to focus it?
  8. May 5, 2016 #7

    jim mcnamara

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  9. May 19, 2016 #8


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    I think that was well said.
    How much of any one particular task or function that a person does involves being "conscious" of doing it? Still an unsolved question.
  10. May 19, 2016 #9


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    The OP asks for a quantitative answer but offers no quantitative definition of what "state of awareness" is. Assuming that "awareness" is a function of all neural inputs to the brain over some small time period and that "states" indicates the potential number of distinct processes which could be occurring in the brain during that same period, I'd guess the answer is "a lot". Given the difference between individuals, I doubt if such a question is useful or can be meaningful. How about: awake or asleep? Live or dead? Psychotic or neurotic? Angry or sad. In love or in hate. In a state of bliss or in a state of agony. What is the number of states for the human condition?
  11. May 23, 2016 #10
    Awareness can only be when the brain is quiet, if thought is involved then you are simply re-using old input/information in new various ways. I don't think there is any clear defined states, its all relative to what the context is or what "answer" you are trying to get out of it. As subjective as this is, I don't think one can derive much meaning by going deeper into this, without getting lost in the definitions of ones own framework of thought. That said, I've done some pretty powerful psychedelics in the past and wow, thought doesn't come close to describing it. I've done a lot of research on neuropsychology in the past too, but I much prefer the "physical" reality (thus physics) as a basis to work from (since it seems to be the most honest form of "reality", in which most of us (if not all) can actually relate to / understand).

    But yeah, its mostly subjective so hard to derive any physical meaning from this (though meaning seems to be almost as coherent as it is to be human).. o0)
  12. May 26, 2016 #11


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    Do you have a reference for claim?
  13. May 26, 2016 #12


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    Please be sure to post sources and posts suggesting use of illegal drugs will be deleted.
  14. May 27, 2016 #13
    We like the Beta Gamma and Lambda brain waves
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