Is the brain necessary for consciousness?

Discussion in 'Parapsychology' started by Magical Realist, Jan 27, 2014.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Found this interesting blog post. It raises some intriguing albeit all too ignored questions:

    [color="99000"]"Not many people have heard of an article that appeared in a 1980 issue of Science, one of the most reputable Science Journals in the world, and which article was quite provocatively titled: “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?” (Science, Volume 210, December 12, 1980). Yes, provocative, because, as neurologist John Lorber explains, it is only because of this that he could get the attention he wanted. The final article appeared in 1983 in a German medical journal, and it all boiled down to an extremely strange phenomenon: There are people in this world who have virtually no brain, yet are healthy, have normal to high intelligence and normal social behavior. Lorber investigated 600 people who are affected by hydrocephalus, that is, having water on the brain, or rather only have water where there should be brain. Normally these people are, not surprisingly, complete imbeciles, hence with almost total absence of intelligence. Yet, amongst those 600 there were 30 whose IQ was equel to 100 or even more. Lorber cited the story of a student of mathematics at Cambridge who has a global IQ of 126, and his verbal IQ even reaching 143. Yet, this student’s cranium (skull) was/is for 95% filled with “water”, or more specifically “cerebrospinal fluid”. What is left of the brain is a layer, 1-2 millimeters thick on the inside of the cranium. In other words, the man has virtually no brain...

    Calculations resulted in brain tissue somewhere between 100 and 150 grams, whereas a normal brain weighs 1500 grams! Of course, this goes against anything that neuroscience tell us. And as no one knew and knows how to handle such a grand anomaly, it was and is completely ignored. At the end of his life (1994) Lorber complained that nobody had ever taken up these findings. Even, in a very recent book, issued in my home country, with as title “We are our brains”, authored by a highly respected neurobiologist, this issue of practically brainless, but nonetheless intelligent people is totally ignored. Just as if it does not exist. [But it does: at the beginning of this year, after I had delivered a lecture on NDE’s, a man came to me and said: “I am a retired neurologist, and one of my patients also appeared to have virtually no brain, yet he is highly intelligent, and happily married with four children”. I asked him whether he had an explanation. He said: “no, I cannot explain this”.]

    Now, that is one anomaly which makes us think! But another one is this:

    Ever heard of “Terminal Lucidity”? This a very rare phenomenon which happens with people who are either in a highly progressed condition of dementia (such as Alzheimer), or are suffering from mental diseases in a similar condition. It all boils down to an inexplicable lucidity during the last days or even hours before their death, although, in the case of total dementia, their brains are irreparably damaged. Al of a sudden they are completely normal again, have their full memory and cognitive qualities back, they can talk to their relatives and make arrangements with them for their funeral and division of their heritage, and so on. After that they die peacefully. The same applies with people who suffer from irreparable mental diseases. Two examples, as these were published in Journal of Near-Death Studies, Volume 28, No 2, Winter 2008, article “Michael Nahm, Ph.D.: Terminal Lucidity in People with Mental Disease and Other Mental Disability”.

    Example 1 (page 92): “A mad and very violent ex-lieutenant of the Royal Navy, who also suffered from severe memory loss to the extent he did not even remember his first name. On the day before his death, he became rational and asked for a clergyman. With him, the patient conversed attentively and expressed his hope that God would have mercy on his soul. An autopsy revealed that his cranium was filled with a straw-coloured water to a degree that it widened parts of the brain, whereas the brain matter itself and the origin of the nerves were uncommonly firm, the olfactory nerves displaying an almost fibrose appearance.”

    In other words, his brain was irreparably damaged. Yet, at the end of his life, he was completely lucid.

    Case 2 (page 95): “G.W. Surya (1921) recounted an account handed to him by a friend of his. This friend had a brother living in asylum for many years because of serious mental derangement. ‘One day, Surya’s friend received a telegram from the director of the asylum saying that his brother wanted to speak to him. He immediately visited his brother and was astonished to find him in a perfectly normal state. On leaving again, the director of the asylum decently informed the visitor that his brother’s mental clarity is an almost certain sign of his approaching death. Indeed, the patient died within a short time. Subsequently, an autopsy of the brain was performed, to which Surya’s friend was allowed to attend. It revealed that the brain was entirely suppurated [i.e. consisting of pus] and that this condition must have been present for a long time. Suraya asks: With what, then, did this brainsick person think intelligently during the last days of his life?’”

    Indeed: no brain, because what was left of that was a heap of pus, nothing else; yet, during his final hours, completely lucid....

    That we do no hear much of terminal lucidity may be because it is deliberatey ignored by doctors and/or nursing staff, as it is unexplainable.

    Now, echoing William James’s famous quote: “it takes one white raven to show that not all ravens are black”, we can with some confidence say that the above “anecdotes”, and given these factual reports (which cannot be denied ) as well as the fact that some virtually brainless people can be highly intelligent and social, will lead to an almost unavoidable conclusion, namely that consciousness is not a product of the brain. Consciousness will make use of the brain, or even won’t use a brain in case of its virtual absence, but will then express itself through other pathways.

    Parnia talks about an illusion. Yes, there is an illusion, i.e. that it is the brain that produces OBE’s and NDE’s. Rather, it seems far more likely that consciousness acts separately from the brain, and that NDE’s and OBE’s are manifestations of that separately acting consciousness.

    Oh, I forgot: Michael Nahm, together with the nestor of NDE-research Bruce Greyson, also published an article: Terminal Lucidity in Patients with Chronic Schizophrenia and Dementia: a Survey of the Literature, in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197, 12, 942-944, 2009.

    The above conclusions are not theirs, but mine... - of course, they must be far more prudent in this than I may be - but I think that quite logically there cannot be another conclusion, unless someone discovers that in the absence of a brain within the skull, brain matter is spread out all over the body, which seems unlikely to me..."---[/color]http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/1743-lucid-before-death-evidence-seperate-mind.html

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    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    I don't know about brains, but it's difficult to beat chickens when it comes to walking around for months without a head. Is there evidence of a human counterpart for Mike? Maybe such a person would be tucked away in the records of the Islamic world, since job security for this sort of thing has endured a little longer there. Surely the notorious inefficiency which seems required to increase the odds wasn't just a shortcoming of Europe's hired help.
     
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  5. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Sorry, but I cannot believe ONE word of this!
     
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  7. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

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    This is the sort of cover title that tricks me into buying the New Scientist.
    Even Nature stoops to sell copy occasionally.

    Even though Nature printed it, it is anecdotal and has little validity.
    Show me a proper scientific study, and I'll start to believe it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2014
  8. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    I opened this thread expecting to find discussion on:
    so I will stay on topic even if the OP strayed somewhat...

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    I believe that for a living person to experience consciousness he/she may need a brain but this does not mean that consciousness is an effect caused by the brain.
    One line of reasoning is a play on the numbers involved.
    Example: 8 billion people all experiencing a similar phenomena of consciousness even though they are deemed to be entirely autonomous and independent of each other by mainstream scientific thought.
    The chances of 8 billion or so doing this in such a uniform manner must be fairly remote I would think.
     
  9. Balerion Banned Banned

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    "Terminal Lucidity" is completely bogus. All the evidence for it--ALL of the evidence--is entirely anecdotal.

    My mother has dementia brought on by COPD. I can tell you that there are times when I say, "Wow, she's getting better," and I have family members who claim she sounds completely lucid, which simply isn't true. (This happened a lot early on, but my father, especially, goes into those occasional, "I think she's all better" moments) There are good days and bad days, and some topics that she can speak pretty well on, but she's only gotten worse, not better. But people may remember things differently, partly because memory is fallible, but also because it's probably easier to remember their loved one in a positive light. I mean, I hate that so many lasting memories of my mother will be of her in this state. It sucks.

    Put no stock into this phenomenon whatsoever.

    And yes, consciousness requires a brain.
     
  10. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    Consciousness is different from being able to remember things. Computers can remember perfectly but are not conscious. There is a distinction between hardware like memory and consciousness which is not exactly hardware but appears more fluid.

    The original article suggests, at least to me, that we only need a fraction of our brain to do what most consider being conscious. That means the other 95% of the brain has other capacities that may be below the threshold of consciousness and/or may be connected to future consciousness. I often make the distinction of the conscious mind being like a computer terminal and the unconscious mind a main frame computer. We only need terminal access to do conscious things, which prevents us from messing too much with the operating system of the main frame part of the brain.

    The observation that people with water, replacing brain matter, still able to do things considered impossible, suggests water plays a role in consciousness. It is doubtful you can replace that much water as easily as that much brain matter.

    Water has a natural built in binary switch, connected to a transition between two distinct hydrogen bonding states; van der Waals and covalent hydrogen bonding. The water can be used, theoretically, as fluid state memory, based on this binary. This suggests that the cerebral spinal fluid, that bathes the brain and pools in the center and down the spine, may play a role in consciousness, with consciousness projected into this water; fluid holographic projection matrix. This would explain the fluidity of consciousness. Consciousness si not a solid state thing like memory. In dementia, the memory may go, but if we ignore that (outsider who does not know better) consciousness is still there; different image in the matrix.

    Relative to information transfer in water, the hydrogen proton is the fastest thing in water, 1-2 orders of magnitude faster than any chemical or ionic information transport through water. If you need a lot of things to coordinate the fastest technique is via the water not chemical or ionic transport.
     
  11. Kittamaru Never cruel nor cowardly... Staff Member

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    ... hasn't it been proven that we only really utilize a small portion of our brains capacity in day to day activity?

    Wouldn't it, then, stand to reason that someone with a smaller physical brain would be just as capable as someone with a "normal" sized brain by simply utilizing more of their overall capacity?
     
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    "Example: trillions of creatures all experiencing a similar phenomena of walking on legs even though they are deemed to be entirely autonomous and independent of each other by mainstream scientific thought.
    The chances of trillions or so doing this in such a uniform manner must be fairly remote I would think.
    "

    I therefore think you should close this line of reasoning.

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  13. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    The analogy of the conscious mind being a like computer terminal, and the unconscious mind the main frame part of the brain, explains this. From a terminal, one can access the main frame computer, but the main frame is not physically part of the terminal. If I walk, most of the processing is done unconsciously. I only need to think a command line, and the unconscious does all the work. This unconscious processing is why it is hard to copy walking with robots. One has to reverse engineer what you don;t normally think about.

    Picture the conscious mind as a child, and the main frame as his mother. The child can make a nice lunch, simply by asking mom. The child may not be conscious of all the work and prep; All he knows is, I can ask mom; command lines, and the poof, lunch is there. If these command lines stopped working (mom is not listening) and he had to make lunch for himself, he may only get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

    An interesting experiment is to walk consciously. This means think of all the muscles it takes for each step; contracting and expanding. This will allow the terminal to do the data crunching. It will be too slow to appear natural looking. You need the main frame.

    I suppose in the sense the child can get the mom in motion means the child controls both him and his mom. But this connection can be broken if the mom decides to change her approach. This is why we can't just fall in love on command. Mom knows best.
     
  14. Kittamaru Never cruel nor cowardly... Staff Member

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    I meant more in the physical sense - we DO utilize the entire brain (evidence here - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/people-only-use-10-percent-of-brain/ ) but not concurrently. This would explain why people recovering from incredible trauma (like the one poor bastard that had a piece of rebar kick up off the road, pierce his skull at high speed, and turn his right hemisphere into soup) was able to re-learn how to walk, talk, etc and is, essentially, unhindered by missing half his entire brain.
     
  15. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Well, our everyday realism uncritically treats the various visual manifestations of houses and cats and trees as if they're literally "out there" in a mind-independent world rather than taking place within a process of perception / consciousness itself. The latter being a rival, indirect realism view that those objects are merely derived / "inferred" from microphysical events happening to a biological body -- stimulations of everything from retinal tissue to chemoreceptors in a nasal cavity. (Or at least one references a body being involved and stimulation of its specialized tissues when approaching indirect realism in the context of physicalism, though a presupposition which sort of [partially, anyway] shoots itself in the foot should the average "brain-doubter" choose it.)

    Sensory affairs thus create their own fabricated simulation of an external environment, which is what is instead cognized. The "brain" as well would then circularly be a content of conscious experience / the simulation itself: Both as an image representation which one encounters in relation to observing a surgically opened skull and as a memorized, linguistically-expressed concept. In this context, to proclaim the brain the "cause" of its own empirical evidence is similar to saying that a picture of a computer on the monitor screen is the cause of the "real" computer presenting the picture (but minus the latter having the extra third-party perspective of ourselves in turn observing / containing it; i.e., minus a higher level confirmation that indeed the picture of a computer is representing an "outer" computer that creates or enables it).

    So in the popular view of everyday realism or its implication that "perception and awareness are taking place without any mediating agencies and processes", there is little problem proclaiming the "brain" to be the cause of these experiences we have. For instance [duh], damage the brain and consciousness may cease or be interrupted. But if it is the cause (or a major part of it), then the explanation tumbles into indirect realism territory, in the course of explaining how the brain is the "cause". Uncertainties may thus arise and engender reckless skeptics who include the possibility of deception -- that experience is just supporting its own internal tale ("The Bible is true because it says so.") Where afterwards, due to the overtechnical squabbles, this quandary of philosophy (the circularity of the situation) is brutely set aside by some of those extremely frustrated by the developments, and social convention becomes the main item to appease by officially declaring a universal return to the ancient, everyday realism tradition and a ban on any fault-findings about it.

    So there, all ye "unjustified" encephalon doubters or encephalon nihilists or devil's advocates for them. Take into account the garlic and crosses and holy water and wooden stakes and sunshine and numerous Van Helsings that await along this "backyard iconoclast" footpath which you ponder venturing upon, and consider slinking back to the safety of your coffins.

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  16. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

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    It just got REAL up in here

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  17. BlackHoley Banned Banned

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    Note, Mike continued to live because of a series of strange events, one involved his neck clotting so that he never bled to death... another was that part of his brain stem remained, which is thought to be the ''seat of consciousness.''

    It's quite a sad story if you think about it. Chickens are highly intelligent social animals... though it could move, it would never have understood the pain of it's head being removed, or why it never saw anything again.
     
  18. Forceman May the force be with you Registered Senior Member

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    The one thing needed for stable consciousness is the brain, but if you take out the brain, then you can still be conscious because you have a lifeforce from the other neurons of the body as well as the nerves throughout the body producing electricity which means you are a wired body of charge (Faraday charge) hooked up to a source that surges you with energy part of the connection being your notochord. It's sort of what happened when Deus ex Machinima charged Neo the One with light and energy in the Matrix to destroy the Smith copies. You live a life of light fluxes and electrical impulses. Even your DNA gives you life and consciousness. As long as you are living you have consciousness and your brain doesn't dictate 100% of circadian rhythm, sleep, waking up, functioning, and the functions of life in your body which is why you can being a shell in yourself that is an alter-ego waiting to be taking out of your body and revealed to be your anti-self, your dark-self.
     
  19. fogpipe Registered Member

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    Careful there pard, dont want to get the materialists riled up, They'll beat you to death with repetition.
     
  20. river

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    The brain , like the Universe , is place for life to take hold

    The brain is necessary for consciousness , because the brain is physical
     
  21. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    From Kittamaru Post # 8
    The above might have been a statement by some knowledgeable neuro-scientist, but has been interpreted to imply that an ordinary person could be a genius if he learned to use some larger percentage like 40 to 100%.

    BTW: 10% seems to be a common amount when this statement is referred to & might be an over estimate.

    Consider the memory & intellectual capabilities of a college graduate who majored in mathematics & physics in addition to taking courses in history & other subjects. When he solves a problem using algebra, he is not using calculus, matrix theory, or a lot of other mathematical disciplines. He is also not using a vast amount of memory relating to life experiences, novels read, history courses, and movies watched.

    The person who made the statement might have been close to correct, but this does not imply that it is possible to use some much larger percentage in the same short time interval.
     
  22. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    I have more brains in my little finger than others have in their heads.
     
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  23. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

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    Well then I recommend that you never play hand ball, you might get a concussion!
     
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