50 years of consciousness research

13th Dec 2018

Brain and Neuroscience Advances HeaderConsciousness, while an extremely important part of the functioning of our brain, has been fairly neglected in research in the past.

This article by Anil Seth (2018) describes the views and findings of the past 50 years of consciousness research, published in the BNA’s journal ‘Brain and Neuroscience Advances’.

Seth divides the research into two timeframes: from the 1960s to the 1990s, where research on consciousness was seen as “off-limits” because of how difficult it is to define the concept, and the 1990s onwards, when researchers began searching for the physical basis of consciousness in the brain.

Despite this view in the first period, there were still some notable findings. For instance, in a well-known experiment people were given the task to press a button at any time they decided, with no external pressures. Recordings of brain activity, however, showed that activity increased in certain areas before the patient had made the conscious decision to press the button. This is called the ‘readiness potential’, and raises questions about free will and consciousness.

More recently, scientists began looking for areas involved in consciousness, for example by researching anaesthesia and sleep. The brainstem has been found to have a role in consciousness, but it is generally thought to only enable it and not necessarily produce it.

According to the article, the future of consciousness research looks promising, with potential discoveries in selfhood and of the areas producing consciousness.

To access the full article, click here

Seth, A.K., 2018. Consciousness: The last 50 years (and the next). Brain and neuroscience advances, 2

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