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

Sense-of-Self

Sense-of-self is the basis of consciousness

First we should distinguish "the self" and the "sense of self."

The Self

A person' s individuality as a person is represented in the neurons and synapses, thus forming the molecular signature, or "the self," of the person.

"You" are the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. (Crick; Astonishing Hypothesis, 3)

The self is the totality of what an organism is physically, biologically, psychologically, socially, and culturally. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 31)

Distinctive modifications of brain architecture, along with unique genetic makeup, constitute a biological basis for individuality. (Kandel; Principles of Neural Science, 1275)

Ongoing modification of synapses throughout life means that all behavior of an individual is produced by genetic and developmental mechanisms acting on the brain. (Kandel; Principles of Neural Science, 1277)

Construe the entire cerebral cortex as an all-encompassing web to accommodate any cognitive memory of any kind. (Fuster; Cortex and Mind, 142)

The Self is a compilation of personal memories. (Greenfield; Private Life of Brain, 28)

Synapses are ultimately the key to the brain's many functions, and thus to the self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 64)

Self is created and maintained by arrangements of synaptic connections. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 12)

The Self is the Entire Ensemble of Neurons and Synapses

Although the self is comprised of the nervous system’s entire ensemble of synapses whose efficacies are the legacy of genetic endowment together with life experiences (encrusted/ingrained/embedded/inscribed/imprinted/embossed) in synaptic patterns,  the sense of self arises from neural activity pattern in a portion of the network. A small and dynamically changing portion of the neural activity becomes conscious as the dynamic core. In all likelihood, most of the neural activity at any one time is nonconscious.  At any particular moment, the bulk of the synaptically-connected axons are likely to be active only at the quiescent level of a few spikes per second.

The Self begins Prenatally and Develops Further throughout Life

Signals from "self" systems begin even before birth and remain a central feature of primary consciousness. (Edelman; Wider than the Sky, 57)

Developmental psychologists postulate that consciousness emerges gradually during the second year of human life and culminates at about age 2 with the gaining of awareness of the self as an entity. (Hobson; Consciousness, 99)

The self is a neuronal network pattern of memory established by genetics together with the synaptic plasticity of embryonic and early childhood environmental experience, and continuing and ongoing life experience.

The traditional notion of self, which we link to the idea of identity, is the autobiographical self, and corresponds to a non-transient collection of unique facts and ways of being that characterize a person. (Damasio; Neurobiology for Consciousness, 113)

Autobiographical memory is a major facet of the self.

The orbitofrontal cortex is involved in autobiographical memory that is mostly emotional and personal significance. (Zald & Rauch; Orbitofrontal Cortex, 285)

Orientation

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?,

A fundamental characteristic of the self.is a person's sexual orientation, which is a characteristic of a person’s orientation.

 

              Self Diagram

 

The Sense-of-Self is continuously updated by ongoing Sensory Input.

 

Sense-of-Self a Basis for Consciousness

Consciousness at any instant is simply the integrated product of the information represented in the activated thalamocortical networks at that instant. That includes sense of self; awareness of body; and awareness of the world, be it real or fictive.  (Hobson; Consciousness, 141)   [Edelman's dynamic core]

Sense of self is a critical component in any notion of consciousness. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 89)

Core consciousness provides the organism with a sense of self about the here and now. (Damasio; Neurobiology for Consciousness, 112)

Humans have evolved a sense of self that is unparalleled in its complexity. (Zimmer; Neurobiology of self, 54)

Biological antecedents of the sense of self -- a single, bounded, living organism bent on maintaining stability to maintain its life. Survival, a boundary, regulation of internal states, maintain life within a narrow range of the internal states. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 136)

Pain is the perception of a sensory representation of local living tissue dysfunction. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 76)

Neural pattern that underlines core consciousness for an object -- the sense of self in the act of knowing a particular thing -- is thus a large-scale neural pattern involving activity in two interrelated sets of structures: the set whose cross regional activity generates (1) proto-self and second-order maps, and the set whose cross regional activity generates the representation of (2) the object. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 272)   [Edelman's 'remembered present']

Biological foundation for the sense of self can be found in those brain devices that represent, moment by moment, the continuity of the individual organism. (Damasio; Brain Creates Mind, 65)

The narrative, autobiographical self -- the one that characterizes in a fundamental sense who we are. (Tononi & Laureys; Neurology of Consciousness, 380)

Each individual brain has multiple representations of itself at different levels, extending from the basic subcortical homeostatic mechanisms through the representation of the body at a somatic, kinesthetic and motor level, up to the personal representation of a concept of our bodies and faces, and such long-term memory representations as autobiographical and episodic memories. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 314)

 

Sense-of-Self Functionality Distributed in the Brain

Sense of self is constructed by the left hemisphere interpreter on the basis of input from distributed networks. (Gazzaniga; Human, 308)

Sense of self arises out of distributed networks in both hemispheres. (Gazzaniga; Human, 308)

Both hemispheres have processing specializations that contribute to a sense of self. (Gazzaniga; Human, 308)

The expression of attention to self-representations may involve widely separated cortical columns corresponding to the bodily landscape and/or cortical columns corresponding to verbal-based memories of autobiographical events. (LaBerge; Attention, the Triangular Circuit, 314)

Recent work has shown that the posterior cingulate and the medial posterior parietal areas seemed to be involved in the generation of the baseline functional state of the human brain.  One interpretation of this baseline concept is that the brain regions are active as a reflection of a person's self-conscious state when the brain is not involved in any specific cognitive task. (Alkire; General Anasthesia, 127)

Medial prefrontal cortex may bind together all of the perceptions and memories that help to produce a sense of self, creating a unitary feeling of who we are. (Zimmer; Neurobiology of self, 51)

Right Somatosensory Cortices for Current Body State

Right somatosensory cortices are dominant with regard to integrated body mapping. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 117)

Right somatosensory cortices have been consistently associated with defects in emotion and feelings, such as anosognosia and neglect, whose basis is a defective idea of the current body state. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 117)

 

Formation of the Sense-of-Self a Lifelong Process

Our  basic cognitive capacities; the emotions we feel; the thoughts we have and the beliefs, desires and intentions we form; our ability to communicate with others, both nonverbally and verbally, and our ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling; can only emerge in the context of the close nurturing relationships that a child experiences with his caregivers.  (Greenspan; First Idea, 102)  [sense of self]   [autobiographical self]  [theory of mind]

Formation of the sense of self is a process in which an individual must come to terms with his own personal feelings, motivations, and desires, including powerful sexual ones. (Gardner - Frames of Mind, 251)

It is these lifelong experiences, representing unique events through space-time, that give rise to the feeling of the self and are the sources of individuality. (Buzsáki; Rhythms of the Brain, 292)

 

Handwritten Signature — Legal Manifestation of the Self

Your handwritten signature is the legal manifestation of your Self.  Your handwritten  signature is produced by central pattern generators CPGs formed over your prior life time of practice in a hierarchy of fixed action patterns FAPs of movement control whose patterns of synapses and their strengths are unique to your neuronal network.

The pattern of handwritten signature can change over time for those who write their signature frequently. I have noticed that the unique signature patterns of physicians are often unintelligible scribbles.

Involved in this hierarchy of FAPs are the basal ganglia, cerebellum, motor cortex, brainstem, spinal cord. The hierarchy of FAPs is activated by executive functions in the prefrontal cortex and premotor cortex.

 

Vocal Signature — Speech Accent and Idiom

A person' s speech accent and idiom constitute a portion of the vocal synaptic pattern of the Self.  We can usually recognize the voice of a friendSpeech accent and idiom are established as a synaptic representation through childhood experiences of learning language. People in Georgia can easily distinguish the speech accent of a person who grew up in Boston.

Feelings

Machinery of feelings is a contributor to the process of consciousness, namely to the creation of self. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 110)

The interaction of the neural network activity of a current mental image together with the neural network activity representing the self constitutes what Edelman calls the “remembered present” of consciousness.

The interaction of this current mental image neural network activity with the self neural network activity occurs in the dynamic core of the thalamocortical system.

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)

Each individual brain has multiple representations of itself at different levels, extending from the basic subcortical homeostatic mechanisms through the representation of the body at a somatic, kinesthetic and motor level, up to the personal representation of a concept of our bodies and faces, and such long-term memory representations as autobiographical and episodic memories. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 314)

Core consciousness is crucially dependent on a number of separable sources, some of which are physiologically based, and referred to by Damasio as proto-self. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 342)

Human brain holds billions of impressions, called memories.  At night, memory fragments are replayed and reassembled.  Each run-through etches them deeper into the neural structure until there comes a time when memories and a person who holds them are effectively one and the same. (Carter; Mapping the Mind, 158)

 

Self-awareness — Human Cognitive Process Can Monitor Itself

Humans have the ability to monitor and evaluate the self in a variety of mental settings based on prior experiences and the ability to project future outcomes. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 177)

Motor function affects the highest order of mental function:   self-awareness. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 177)

Self-awareness level of thinking is the ability of the human cognitive process to monitor itself and reflect not only immediate responses but on past and future potentials as well. Self-awareness requires mental rehearsal, imagery, thinking, decision-making, and voluntary actions. Neural basis for self-awareness includes cognitive action -- the human capacity for forming and manipulating imagined constructs. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 177)

Sense of self — uniquely individual pattern of synapses

Sense of self is represented by (1) each brain’s uniquely individual pattern of synapses, along with (2) the ever-ongoing neural activity of the autonomic nervous system monitoring the momentary state of the body.

· Hypothalamus and associated connections of the autonomic nervous system monitor and maintain the homeostasis of the body.

· Autonomic nervous system provides pain signals to alert for any damage to the organism.

· Amygdala and associated connections express fear alerts and responses for self-preservation protection of the body.

· VTM, nucleus accumbens and associated connections provide signals for anticipation of pleasure, including the desire for food and sex.

· Several neurotransmitters including oxytocin are involved in the experience of pleasure by the organism such as the enjoyment of sex and the enjoyment of food.

· Orientation in time, place, person, etc.. (What year?, What season?, Where am I?, Sexual orientation)

· A generalized neural sub-network in the parietal cortex represents the integrated sense of self.  This neural sub-network is not fixed but is continually changing as the organism experiences the environment. Declarative memory is continually updated with new memories forming and old memories fading.

· Consciousness is an emergence property of the (convolution/conflagration) of a momentary mental image with declarative memory and the sense of self.

· Consciousness is mediated primarily by the dynamic core sub-network of the thalamocortical system.

Proto-self is the nonconscious forerunner for the core self and the autobiographical self. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 22)

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)

Autonomic Nervous System, (Pinel; Anatomy of Human Brain, 12)

Continuity of Consciousness -- Steady Generation of Consciousness Pulses

Core consciousness is created in pulses, each pulse triggered by an object we interact with or that we recall. Each new object triggers the process of changing the proto-self. Proto-self modified by the first object becomes the inaugural proto-self for the new object. Continuity of consciousness is based on the steady generation of consciousness pulses, which correspond to the endless processing of myriad objects, whose interaction, actual or recalled, constantly modifies the proto-self. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 176)

The plasticity of synaptic connections permit unique patterns of strengths in the dendritic trees of hundreds of millions of neurons. The ingrained pattern of synaptic strengths has been molded and remolded, starting prenatally in the embryo and continuing throughout a person's lifetime. Consciousness is based upon the interaction of (1) thalamocortical activity representing a mental object (thought) together with (2) thalamocortical and other neural activity representing the self.  Edelman calls this convolution of a mental object with neural activity representing the self the ‘remembered present.’

Orientation

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)

Sense of self brings orientation -- sense of self introduces the notion that all the current activity represented in brain and mind pertain to a single organism whose auto-preservation needs are the basic cause of most events currently represented. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 208)

Spatial Orientation

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)

Synaptic representation of the self

Joseph LeDoux has emphasized the significance of the synaptic representations of the self in his book by the title. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 12)

Biological mechanisms by which the brain makes the self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 12)

Self is created and maintained by arrangements of synaptic connections. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 12)

Minimum self: immediate consciousness of one's self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 20)

Narrative self: coherent self-consciousness that extends with past and future stories that we tell about ourselves. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 20)

All animals have implicit selves, but only animals that have the capacity for conscious self-awareness have explicit selves. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 27)

Personality in a pet does not necessarily mean that the pet is conscious in the human sense. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 28)

Most brain systems are plastic and work outside of consciousness; they can be thought of as implicit memory systems. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 28)

Our life's experiences contribute to who we are; implicit and explicit memory storage constitute key mechanisms through which the self is formed and maintained. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 28)

The way we characteristically walk and talk, the way we think and feel, all reflect the workings of systems that function on the basis of past experience, but their operation takes place outside of awareness. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 28)

Self-preservation is a universal motive, independent of whether an organism is aware that it is working toward this goal. A cockroach can scamper away when a human foot approaches without being explicitly aware of danger. Bacteria can detect and move away from harmful molecules in its chemical world. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 29)

The self is not static; it is added to and subtracted from by genetic maturation, learning, forgetting, stress, aging, and disease. This is true of both the implicit and explicit aspects of self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 29)

Not all aspects of the self are learned; some are due to our genetic heritage. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 29)

Synapses are ultimately the key to the brain's many functions, and thus to the self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 64)

 

Right somatosensory cortices have been consistently associated with defects in emotion and feelings, such as anosognosia and neglect, whose basis is a defective idea of the current body state. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 117)

Perhaps the connectivity between the medial inferior frontal region and the precuneus represents the network through which personal identity and past personal experiences are interlinked, with the net interactions permitting us to move between self-awareness and disengagement, censorship and freedom, or consciousness and the unconscious. (Andreasen, Creating Brain, 74

 

The synaptic representation of the self is probably widely distributed in both the cortex and subcortical areas and likely includes: (1) a subset of thalamocortical system activity that is active at the moment, (2) synaptic representations in the basal ganglia parallel system that is active at the moment, and (3) synaptic representations in hypothalamus connections to mid-brain and brain stem neural modulator systems.  The strength patterns of these synaptic pathways will have been established over the course of a lifetime of experiences.  The individuality of a person’s self is thus represented in the patterns of synaptic strengths of thousands of synapses in dendritic trees of hundreds of millions of neurons.

Nonconscious neural activity mediates Sense of Self

Autonomic nervous system activity is usually proceeds nonconsciously, unless for example, the nerves are transmitting pain. Natural selection of evolution has rendered all creatures protective of their bodies. The propensity for self-preservation can be observed from amoebas on up. The nervous system is always alert to detect and respond to internal bodily anomalies and to external threats detected by the senses. The ongoing nervous system alert for danger forms the basis of the sense of self.

Autonomic nervous system oversees the body's vital functions through subconscious signals that originate in the anterior cingulate and are relayed to the hypothalamus and the spinal cord. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 171)

Short-term storage of state information about the orientation of the organism that is characteristic of the vestibulocerebellum. (Squire; Fundamental Neuroscience, 856)

Self-preservation a universal motive

Self-preservation is a universal motive, independent of whether an organism is aware that it is working toward this goal. A cockroach can scamper away when a human foot approaches without being explicitly aware of danger. Bacteria can detect and move away from harmful molecules in its chemical world. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 29)

Infant growth and sense of self

Our  basic cognitive capacities; the emotions we feel; the thoughts we have and the beliefs, desires and intentions we form; our ability to communicate with others, both nonverbally and verbally, and our ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling; can only emerge in the context of the close nurturing relationships that a child experiences with his caregivers.  [sense of self]   [autobiographical self]  [theory of mind]  (Greenspan; First Idea, 102)

Through sensitive interactions with caregivers, the infant's global physiologic states, become regulated and experienced more and more as both discrete physical and affective sensations (e.g., different types of pleasure or comforting). Global physical or physiologic states take on the qualities we call emotions. As the infant experiences and organizes these affective states into patterns, a mental or psychological level of experience (consciousness) unfolds. (Greenspan; First Idea, 291)

Sense of self changes throughout life

Our life's experiences contribute to who we are; implicit and explicit memory storage constitute key mechanisms through which the self is formed and maintained. The way we characteristically walk and talk, the way we think and feel, all reflect the workings of systems that function on the basis of past experience, but their operation takes place outside of awareness. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 28)

The self is not static; it is added to and subtracted from by genetic maturation, learning, forgetting, stress, aging, and disease. This is true of both the implicit and explicit aspects of self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 29)

The idea that one person could contain two or more very different personalities was popularized by Robert Louis Stevenson's book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Baddeley, et.al.; Memory, 156)

Selfhood -- not just the individuality that emerges from genetics or immunology, but the personal individuality that emerges from developmental and social interactions. (Edelman; Bright Air, 167)

Theory of Mind

Humans have an innate ability to understand that other humans have minds. First called Theory of Mind (TOM) by David Premack. (Gazzaniga; Human, 48-49)

 

Biological mechanisms by which the brain makes the self

The sense of self interacts with the current perceptual categorization (mental object, thought) via the dynamic core to produce core consciousness.

Sense of self is mediated both by nonconscious activity of the homeostatic system of the autonomic nervous system, and by a portion of the thalamocortical system activity in the synaptic network established by genetics and prior development and experience. The sense of self originates prenatally as the thalamocortical system begins functioning and the self-preservation and homeostatic functions of the hypothalamus begin functioning. The sense of self rapidly develops postnatally in infancy with the emotional attachment with the caregiver. The sense of self continues to develop throughout life with life experiences.

Perhaps the connectivity between the medial inferior frontal region and the precuneus represents the network through which personal identity and past personal experiences are interlinked, with the net interactions permitting us to move between self-awareness and disengagement, censorship and freedom, or consciousness and the unconscious. (Andreasen, Creating Brain, 74)

Brain areas that map the ongoing state of the organism include the cingulate cortex, two of the somatosensory cortices (insular and S2), the hypothalamus, and several nuclei in the brainstem tegmentum (the back part of the brain stem). (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 96)

 

Experts commentary on the self

Brain structures not required for the Proto-self : -- all the early sensory cortices; temporal cortices; most of the frontal cortices; hippocampal formation. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 157)

Biological antecedents of the sense of self; a single, bounded, living organism bent on maintaining stability to maintain its life. Survival, a boundary, regulation of internal states, maintain life within a narrow range of the internal states. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 136)

Constancy of the internal milieu is essential to maintain life, and is a blueprint and anchor for what eventually becomes a self in the mind. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 136)

Proto-self is a coherent collection of neural patterns that map, moment by moment, the state of the physical structure of the organism in its many dimensions. We are not conscious of the proto-self. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 154)

Brain structures required to implement the Proto-self:  (1) several brain-stem nuclei, (2) hypothalamus, (3) insular cortex. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 155)

Several brain stem nuclei regulate body states and map body signals. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 155)

Hypothalamus contributes to the current representation of the body by maintaining a current register of the state of the internal milieu. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 156)

 

(paraphrase of Baddeley;  Sense of Self, Working Memory, 314)

The brain has multiple representations of self at different levels, extending from the basic subcortical homeostatic mechanisms through the representation of the body at a somatic, kinesthetic and motor level, up to personal representation of a concept of our bodies and faces, and such long-­term memory representations as autobiographical and episodic memories. Each of these is regarded as a separable modular system that can be made accessible through the global workspace of consciousness (dynamic core), and within that workspace, allowed to interact with other modules. Such representations can be operated on by reasoning and by verbal manipulation, and hence used to plan future action. To take a trivial example, the decisions of whether to have that second helping of pudding is likely to be influenced by body state, ‘I'm full, but it was delicious!’; social factors, ‘would I look greedy? No, it would simply show how much I appreciate our hostess’s food!’; future planning, ‘I ought to eat less, but why start right now?’; and action, ‘yes, please!’ These multiple layers of representations of the self, each of which can be activated, maintained and manipulated, provide a possible basis for our capacity for reflexive (core) or higher-order (human-type) consciousness.

(end of paraphrase)

 

Disfunction of sense of self

Cognitive functions of orientation, memory, coherent speech, and stimulus-appropriate perception are replaced in delirium by disorientation, amnesia, confabulation, and hallucination. (Hobson; Consciousness, 95)

Anosognosia: the vehement denial of paralysis in some patients who have suffered a right hemisphere stroke. (Ramachandran; Illusions of Body Image, 29)

Sense of self can be dysfunctional in Schizophrenia

Schizophrenic patients' brains can generate voices subvocally via the phonological loop. Auditory hallucinations involve an auditory quasi-verbal experience, which clinically appears to be self-generated but is perceived by the patient as external. The hallucinations seem to be part of a more general category of delusions of control, which reflect a disorder of self-monitoring. (Baddeley; Working Memory, 330)

 

Excerpts from science experts

Self is created and maintained by arrangements of synaptic connections. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 12)

Synapses are ultimately the key to the brain's many functions, and thus to the self. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 64)

Self develops through shaping of synaptic connections in early life by genes and experience (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 66)

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; the Internal Milieu as a Precursor to the Self; the procession of the self from the simple core self to the elaborate autobiographical self. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 134-135)

Body regulation, survival, and mind are intimately interwoven. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 123)

LeDoux distinguishes several kinds of self

Minimum self:  immediate consciousness of one's self. Narrative self:  coherent self-consciousness that extends with past and future stories that we tell about ourselves. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 20)

Explicit aspects of the self that we're consciously aware of are referred to by the term "self-aware". Implicit aspect of the self are all aspects of self that are not immediately available to consciousness. All animals have implicit selves, but only animals that have the capacity for conscious self-awareness have explicit selves. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 27)

Mental and behavioral characteristics are functions of the brain, and synaptically connected circuits underlie brain functions. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 65)

Not all aspects of the self are learned; some are due to our genetic heritage. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 29)

Personality in a pet does not necessarily mean that the pet is conscious in the human sense. (LeDoux; Synaptic Self, 28)

Damasio distinguishes several kinds of self

Kinds of self -  (diagram) (Damasio - Feeling of What Happens, 199)

Proto-self is a coherent collection of neural patterns that map, moment by moment, the state of the physical structure of the organism in its many dimensions. We are not conscious of the proto-self. (Damasio - Feeling of What Happens, 154)

Transient core self  (Damasio - Feeling of What Happens, 171)

Autobiographical self, (Damasio - Feeling of What Happens, 172)

· Sense of self develops prenatally and over a period of years postnatally.

· Sense of self is supported by nonconscious activity of the homeostasis system: hypothalamus, autonomic nervous system, hormones.

· Sense of self develops in emotion and cognition, then interacts with caregiver in early postnatal years.

· Sense of self continues to develop through adolescence.

· Sense of self continues to develop refinements during adult years.

Kinds of self -  (diagram);  Autobiographical self, Core self, Proto-self (Damasio - Feeling of What Happens, 174)

Distinguishing Core self from Autobiographical self -  (diagram) (Damasio - Feeling of What Happens, 175)

Core consciousness provides an organism a sense of self about one moment. The scope of core consciousness is the here and now. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 16)

 

Recent research activity related to Sense of Self

 

Science 24 August 2007: Vol. 317. no. 5841, pp. 1096 - 1099

Video Ergo Sum: Manipulating Bodily Self-Consciousness

Bigna Lenggenhager,1 Tej Tadi,1 Thomas Metzinger,2,3 Olaf Blanke1,4

1 Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Station 15, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
2 Philosophical Seminar, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany.
3 Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
4 Department of Neurology, University Hospital, 1214 Geneva, Switzerland.

Humans normally experience the conscious self as localized within their bodily borders. This spatial unity may break down in certain neurological conditions such as out-of-body experiences, leading to a striking disturbance of bodily self-consciousness. On the basis of these clinical data, we designed an experiment that uses conflicting visual-somatosensory input in virtual reality to disrupt the spatial unity between the self and the body. We found that during multisensory conflict, participants felt as if a virtual body seen in front of them was their own body and mislocalized themselves toward the virtual body, to a position outside their bodily borders. Our results indicate that spatial unity and bodily self-consciousness can be studied experimentally and are based on multisensory and cognitive processing of bodily information.

 

 

 

Link to — Feelings

Link to — Emotion

Link to — Consciousness Subject Outline

Further discussion — Covington Theory of Consciousness