Friday, August 23, 2019

Thoughts on Dehaene's Consciousness & the Brain: Nice overview of the higher functions of the brain, Describing measurement approaches & theories of consciousness

Consciousness and the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene is a great introduction for anyone interested in learning about key ideas in neuroscience. Consciousness is a fascinating natural phenomenon, although it is not yet completely understood. Dehaene provides a solid overview of the many disparate fields that probe this concept.

On a psychological level, Dehaene talks about specific phenomena, such as subliminal priming and the Wheatstone stereoscope related to binocular perception, and how they give clues into the conscious mind. He also underscores the importance of subliminal thinking for much of what we do. In terms of brain physiology, Dehaene describes the different areas of the brain and the importance of the prefrontal cortex and the large pyramidal neurons it has in maintaining conscious thought.

On a more basic chemical and physical level, Dehaene describes many of the techniques that scientists use to learn about the brain, such as EEG and fMRI. He touches upon some of the key underlying phenomena such as the P300 wave, thought to be a signal of consciousness. Dehaene also describes a number of grand, but speculative, theories of consciousness. For example, he discusses the workspace theory of the mind, as well as an “applause” concept that posits that conscious ideas are amplified and step above all the other things on one's mind.

Overall, I found this an excellent read for someone wanting to learn about the mind, and I would recommend it heartily.

Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts
Stanislas Dehaene: 9780670025435: Books