Awareness and its many manifestations beyond the brain

The location of the mind – our centre of awareness and consciousness, the “self” – remains a mystery and as elusive as ever, despite advances in functional neuroimaging, says Douglas Heaven puts it in the New Scientist, on commenting the challenges posed by “a patient who is self-aware – despite lacking three regions of the brain thought to be essential for self-awareness”.

According to the models based on neuroimaging, “patients with no insula should be like zombies”, explains David Rudrauf, University of Iowa in Iowa City. But patient R, who lost brain tissue including the chunks of the three ‘self-awareness’ regions following a viral infection, is in no way a zombie:

But patient R displays a strong concept of selfhood. Rudrauf’s team confirmed this by checking whether he could recognise himself in photographs and by performing the tickle test – based on the observation that you can’t tickle yourself. They concluded that many aspects of R’s self-awareness remained unaffected. “Having interacted with him it was clear from the get go that there was no way that [the theories based on neuroimaging] could be true,” says Rudrauf.

Journal reference: PLoS ONE, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0038413

"Thinking about thinking, the brain, mind, and consciousness". Image: Sharon Brogan/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“Thinking about thinking, the brain, mind, and consciousness”. Image: Sharon Brogan/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I think the mind is not in our physical body at all but in the reality of the soul, and our brain is an instrument for the mind, not the cause of it.


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