Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Consciousness as an Emergent Property of Thalamocortical Activity



Consciousness includes implicit functions of orientation in time, space, and self-representation such as sexual orientation.  Orientation constantly provides implicit understanding of: Who am I?, Where am I?, What time of day is it?, What year is it?,

Sensory input and mental images provide orientation on gender, family relationships, social relationships, etc.

Mental faculty of orientation cannot properly be considered apart from memory.  Knowing who one is, what day it is, and where one is. (Hobson; Consciousness, 62)

Two parts to our orientation faculty: (1) an orienting response, which is our immediate reaction to an unexpected signal, (2) a sense of orientation, which is our ongoing assessment of place, person, and time. (Hobson; Dreaming as Delirium, 86)

Cognitive kind of orientation (which provides an organizing set of parameters for the rest of cognition) and the instinctive or reflexive orienting behavior that is our immediate response to a novel or surprising stimulus that suddenly seizes our attention. (Hobson; Consciousness, 62)

Distinction between older brain structures like the upper pontine brainstem, with its direct connections to the amygdala that mediates startle responses, and the newer midbrain-limbic circuits linking the mammillary bodies to the hippocampus, which underlie accurate orienting in space. (Hobson; Consciousness, 63)

Although we are largely unaware of it, our brains are full of implicit information about space. (Hobson; Consciousness, 64)

Normal waking conscious state; aware of where we are, the date and approximate time, who is present in our surroundings, goal or direction of our behavior. (Hobson; Consciousness, 135)


Orientation in space

Space, and events associated with places and spaces, are represented in the brain by a circuitry made of place cells, head direction cells, grid cells, and border cells. These cell types form a collective dynamic representation of our position as we move through the environment. How this representation is formed has remained a mystery. Is it acquired, or are we born with the ability to represent external space? Research studies of Spatial Orientation have investigated the early development of spatial activity in the hippocampal formation and the entorhinal cortex of rat pups when they first began to explore their environment. Rudiments of place cells, head direction cells, and grid cells already existed when the pups made their first movements out of the nest. A neural representation of external space at this early time points to strong innate components for perception of space. These findings provide experimental support for Kant's 200-year-old concept of space as an a priori faculty of the mind. (Science, 18 June 2010, p.1449)

Animal studies suggests that the posterior cingulate cortex and the adjacent precuneus is involved in orientation within and interpretation of the environment. (Raichle; NCC Cognitive Skill Learning, 669)


Orientation in time

What time of day is it?, What year is it?,

Orientation of self

family relationships, social relationships, etc.

Research Study — Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality


What gives the brain a natural means to generate the singular and stable reference we call self? The functionality in the brain representing the self is, biologically speaking, based on a collection of nonconscious neural patterns representing the body proper. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 134)

The parietal lobe appears to be most important for bodily awareness and awareness of space. (Revonsuo; Inner Presence, 312)

Orienting of Attention

Basal ganglia inputs are of particular importance because they tonically inhibit activity in the superior colliculus cells. It has long been known that the frontal eye fields and posterior parietal area exert strong influences on eye movements and must be considered together with the superior colliculus in accounting for orienting of attention. (Newman, Baars, Cho; Neural Global Workspace, 1138)


Sexual orientation

A fundamental characteristic of the a person's sexual orientation, which is established prenatally early in the development of the brain's neural network. Hormones in the fetus likely modulate the neurogenesis of neurons and establish the dominant connectivity patterns of the synapses. These prenatal synaptic connectivity patterns of sexual orientation are refined and enhanced during postnatal experiences, establishing a fascination with and attraction to body shapes and features of the opposite sex. Hormones of puberty impel the torrent of sexually-based emotions.

The brain’s prenatally-established neural pattern of sexual orientation is sometimes opposite from the body’s sexual phenotype, resulting in homosexuality. No pseudo-medical “treatments” can realign the brain’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

Recency effect

Recency effect is what allows us to orient ourselves in time and space. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)

Recency effect -- extending from seconds to years. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 104)

Probably of recalling an item = discrimination ratio = (t(i)-t(i-1))/t(i)

Ability to discriminate amongst our memories becomes less as the delay increases. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 106)

Episodic memory provides the means of achieving 'mental time travel', allowing us to move back into the past and recollect earlier experiences, and to formulate plans and expectations for the future. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)

Recency effect is what provides the reference on which our location in the present and projection into the future can be founded. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)

Without the recency mechanism, we would have great difficulty knowing where we are in time. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)

If we do not know where we are now, we have little chance of knowing where we will be in the future, and hence will be doomed to live in the permanent present. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)

Profoundly amnesic, unable to remember for more than a few seconds, locked in the present with little memory of the past and no capacity to anticipate the future. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)

Recency effect is one of the most stable and reliable phenomena within the study of human memory. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 115)



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