Have you seen my conscious observer?

Recent findings in NeuroScience strongly imply that there is no central point of consciousness in the brain. This is because different parts of the brain deal with different actions in a disjoint manner, i.e.: While there is heavy processing of visual perception, there is no activity in the “introspective” area of the brain, and vice versa. This shows us that there is no central “observer” in the brain, but rather we experience different things due to brain activity in different regions.

What makes us experience activity in different regions of the brain differently, is the major question. Why does a firing on a neuron at some point feels like “red” to us, while in another area it feels like “happy” or “my grandmother”? Assuming our entire brain is organized similarly to the self organizing maps in the primary visual cortex, it makes us consider that maybe our entire brain is composed of “self organizing” regions. The story of the girl who was able to live a full life with only half of her brain comes to mind. So, our motor regions learn to control our body, our ears learn to understand different sounds, and perhaps our consciousness is also somewhat “self organizing”. This makes me tend to believe consciousness is derived from this neuronal activity.

This would mean each and every person perceives the world slightly differently (but not entirely differently, as it is based on similar inputs). Strong support for this notion can be found in stories of people who due to split brains lost control of half of their bodies – yet had it continue to function and perform tasks correctly, often with no regards to their will. Perhaps a second consciousness lies in the right hemisphere that simply cannot manifest itself as the logical, speech and writing side of the brain is stationed in the left hemisphere. Or maybe the consciousness is only in the left half of the brain, the logical side? Although somewhat counter-intuitive, it is hard to counter, mostly because we know our consciousness has no control over our reptile brain and emotional brain (see the triune-brain model). But is control really a prerequisite for consciousness? We can be conscious of our breathing even though we do not normally control it. Dolphins are said to be able to stop their heart when they wish to commit suicide.

What do you think? Where is your conscious observer hiding?

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4 comments so far

  1. Ariel on

    Very nicely written, very interesting. In my opinion what you wrote seems to support the idea that there isn’t a concious observer that is seperate from what is being observed. There is only a sequence of thoughts and feelings but there is no seperate observer “watching” these thoughts and feelings. The idea of a seperate observer is just another thought in this sequence.
    I am growing more and more in favor of this opinion, as by observing myself I see that I can seperate more and more layers from my basic conciousness, that I thought before were an inherent part of ‘me’.

  2. […] The brain is an adaptive machine. It has been shown that meditation (specifically one that focuses on sensations) can increase the size of brain regions associated with attention and perception. Likewise, it can be assumed that living your life with focus on different things could lead to increasing in various areas of the brain. This actually coincides well with the self organizing theories mentioned in a previous post about the conscious observer. […]

  3. Ran Halprin on

    The way I see it, the observer must either be a side effect of the neuronal activity, or be non-physical, which is of course a least favorable choice (not very scientific to assume the existence of things we cannot disprove).

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