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From Psyche to Consciousness

The plan is to measure, second by second, the oxygen levels inside the brain.

There will also be a portable EEG to measure whether the brain is functioning. As well, patients will be fitted with wireless headphones, through which random words and sounds which need to remain secret until the study is over will be transmitted via a tablet. Images will also be beamed upwards as people undergo CPR. No one ever does in cardiac arrest.


Ultimately the goal is to try to better understand how to bring back a whole person, not a husk of one, with an intact brain and mind, by developing a kind of gold standard brain oxygen level that doctors should target during cardiac arrest and CPR in order to optimize survival without brain damage. In other words, how does the mind relate to the brain? Throughout millennia people have tried bizarre ways to revive the dead.

In the early ages, around AD, people realized lifeless bodies are also cold bodies, as Parnia has described in his talks, so they covered the newly dead in warm ashes or burning animal feces, believing heat would restore life. Later came the flagellation method, the idea that the deceased could somehow be whipped into breathing again. In 16 th century Europe, rescuers used fireplace bellows to try to push air into the lungs of corpses.

Today, advances in resuscitation medicine mean we can reverse death in people who have been without a pulse for hours. Parnia attended cardiac arrests when he was in medical school 23 years ago.

BBC - Earth - The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics

By the time he arrived, they were essentially corpses. He remembers seeing him going into a flat-line state, and people frantically trying for an hour to resuscitate the man. Is he conscious? Is he able to see us, hear us? When did he lose it, if he did lose his consciousness? The book sold more than 13 million copies.

How to Expand Your Consciousness Using Archetypes

Studies have found that six to 23 per cent of cardiac-arrest survivors report lucid memories that fit with a near-death experience. Parnia dislikes the term. Numerous studies show a correlation between the activity of the mind and changes in the brain. Slide someone inside a functional MRI and ask him or her to think about something happy or sad. Synaptic changes in oxygen or glucose levels in particular parts of the brain light up. The moment the heart stops, the brain shuts down from a functional perspective, he said.

Which is completely a paradox, it should not happen.


If your mind is simply a by-product of your brain, if your brain has shut down, there should be no consciousness. Yet, paradoxically, what we started to see is that millions of people have now been resuscitated, and many of them have reported these very lucid, well-structured thought processes. Parnia once interviewed a three-year-old boy who survived a cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure.

Elaine Drysdale, a clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. Yet they report near-death experiences similar to older children and adults. But the brain has an amazing vasculature.

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Kopylova, Trans. Moscow: Progress Publishers. MacDonald, P. History of the concept of mind: Speculations about soul, mind, and spirit from Homer to Hume. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. Richards, R. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 3 , — PubMed Google Scholar. Rohde, E. Psyche: The cult of souls and the belief in immortality among the Greeks. Chicago: Ares Publishing. Rollins, W. Soul and psyche: The bible in psychological perspective. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress. Teo, T. After all, our brains evolved to help us solve down-to-earth problems of survival and reproduction; there is no particular reason to assume they should be capable of cracking every big philosophical puzzle we happen to throw at them.

O r maybe it is: in the last few years, several scientists and philosophers, Chalmers and Koch among them, have begun to look seriously again at a viewpoint so bizarre that it has been neglected for more than a century, except among followers of eastern spiritual traditions, or in the kookier corners of the new age. Besides, panpsychism might help unravel an enigma that has attached to the study of consciousness from the start: if humans have it, and apes have it, and dogs and pigs probably have it, and maybe birds, too — well, where does it stop?

Growing up as the child of German-born Catholics, Koch had a dachshund named Purzel. The problem is that there seems to be no logical reason to draw the line at dogs, or sparrows or mice or insects, or, for that matter, trees or rocks. Which is how Koch and Chalmers have both found themselves arguing, in the pages of the New York Review of Books, that an ordinary household thermostat or a photodiode, of the kind you might find in your smoke detector, might in principle be conscious.

The argument unfolds as follows: physicists have no problem accepting that certain fundamental aspects of reality — such as space, mass, or electrical charge — just do exist. Explanations have to stop somewhere. The panpsychist hunch is that consciousness could be like that, too — and that if it is, there is no particular reason to assume that it only occurs in certain kinds of matter. It is the argument that anything at all could be conscious, providing that the information it contains is sufficiently interconnected and organised.

But in principle the same might apply to the internet, or a smartphone, or a thermostat. The ethical implications are unsettling: might we owe the same care to conscious machines that we bestow on animals? Koch, for his part, tries to avoid stepping on insects as he walks.

How do you explain consciousness? - David Chalmers

Sure enough, when people fall into a deep sleep, or receive an injection of anaesthetic, as they slip into unconsciousness, the device demonstrates that their brain integration declines, too. Gather enough of this kind of evidence, Koch argues and in theory you could take any device, measure the complexity of the information contained in it, then deduce whether or not it was conscious.

But even if one were willing to accept the perplexing claim that a smartphone could be conscious, could you ever know that it was true? Surely only the smartphone itself could ever know that?

Koch shrugged. Personally, I have no experience of black holes. But the theory [that predicts black holes] seems always to be true, so I tend to accept it. It would be satisfying for multiple reasons if a theory like this were eventually to vanquish the Hard Problem. The universe is throbbing with it. Last June, several of the most prominent combatants in the consciousness debates — including Chalmers, Churchland and Dennett — boarded a tall-masted yacht for a trip among the ice floes of Greenland. This conference-at-sea was funded by a Russian internet entrepreneur, Dmitry Volkov, the founder of the Moscow Centre for Consciousness Studies.

About 30 academics and graduate students, plus crew, spent a week gliding through dark waters, past looming snow-topped mountains and glaciers, in a bracing chill conducive to focused thought, giving the problem of consciousness another shot. In the mornings, they visited islands to go hiking, or examine the ruins of ancient stone huts; in the afternoons, they held conference sessions on the boat.

For Chalmers, the setting only sharpened the urgency of the mystery: how could you feel the Arctic wind on your face, take in the visual sweep of vivid greys and whites and greens, and still claim conscious experience was unreal, or that it was simply the result of ordinary physical stuff, behaving ordinarily? The question was rhetorical. Dennett and Churchland were not converted; indeed, Chalmers has no particular confidence that a consensus will emerge in the next century. It would be poetic — albeit deeply frustrating — were it ultimately to prove that the one thing the human mind is incapable of comprehending is itself.

An answer must be out there somewhere. And finding it matters: indeed, one could argue that nothing else could ever matter more — since anything at all that matters, in life, only does so as a consequence of its impact on conscious brains. Follow the Long Read on Twitter: gdnlongread.