The Neuroscience of Consciousness
Course IV: Neuroscience and Consciousness
Course Outline: This course explains recent advances in research and technology shedding new light neuroscience and consciousness. This includes the factors that influence and perpetuate our perceptions of physical reality, as well as how we can learn to retrain our brains in order to balance the non-physical component of consciousness with its physical counterpart. If you have not yet taken Courses I-III, we recommend going back and doing so in order to fully understand the references we make to them throughout this course discussing the Neuroscience of Consciousness.
Can Neuroscience Explain Consciousness?
Can neuroscience explain consciousness? Well, there is a popular misconception regarding the relationship between neuroscience and consciousness. Namely, that one (neuroscience) has always been tasked with the study of the other (consciousness). However, historically speaking, neuroscience and consciousness have not been complimentary bedfellows.
The main reason for this can be summed up by French Mathematician Renee Descartes. As we discussed in Course III, Descartes had some very strong beliefs regarding the secondary nature of the mind, or thinking substance versus physical reality, or the extended substance. It is important to frame what Descartes meant when he used the word “mind.” In 1649, Descartes penned an influential theory that stated while the brain is responsible for controlling body function, the mind is something distinctly separate from the brain. According to Descartes, the mind is where the soul and thought reside, and the brain is where mechanical control of the physical body occurs.
To this day, many researchers and clinicians in the neuroscientific community hold fast to this theory…. if not in the religious connotation (i.e. “soul”) Descartes inferred, in the basic premise that the brain is solely a centralized mechanical processor of body function in a material 4-dimensional Universe. Nothing more, nothing less. As a result, Neuroscience and Consciousness have classically remained separate.
However, this belief is not Universal among all neuroscientists. For example, in 1981, Cal Tech Neuroscientist Roger Sperry gave perhaps the most unorthodox Nobel Prize acceptance speech in the history of the award. Sperry was too ill to attend the ceremony in person, so Professor David Ottoson, Member of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, read Sperry’s sentiments to the audience.
Although his recent research took up part of the speech, Sperry also chose to announce that, after spending a lifetime studying the human brain, he had become disillusioned with neuroscience’s distaste for researching consciousness. Based on his exhaustive body of research, Sperry came to the conclusion that “Instead of renouncing or ignoring consciousness, we should give full recognition to the primacy of inner conscious awareness as a casual reality.”
Therefore, although we can ask the question “can neuroscience explain consciousness,” maybe a better way to phrase this question would be as a declarative statement. Namely, “the neuroscience of consciousness is already reality.” Let’s take a look at how our Course III discussion about Physicist William Tiller’s 11 dimensional human bio-body suit research can help begin reconciling the longstanding chasm between neuroscience and consciousness.
The Difference Between the Mind and Brain
It is very important, right off the bat, to frame the similarity and difference between the mind and brain. According to Tiller’s research, the mind is a 10 dimensional structure, second only to the 11 dimensional spirit self in complexity and expansive capability.
Furthermore, the 10 dimensional mind, identified in Psychoenergetic Science as “mind-domain substances,” serves as the connectivity point between our 11 dimensional implicate order Universe (via the spirit self), and the three lower vibrational layers of our human bio-body suits…. right down to the dermal (i.e. particulate) layer we experience physical reality through.
In this context, and in our 11 dimensional Universe, the difference between the mind and brain is minute compared to what it was in Descartes’ (assumed) 4-dimensional Universe. This is because the mind and brain must work together in order to allow the spirit self unfettered access to all other layers and dimensions that comprise a human being. In fact, if the mind and brain are at odds with one another, a human being remains at-risk of blocking the spirit self and thus, Psychoenergetic Consciousness out of his or her life entirely. Let’s take a look at this process in a linear fashion, and referring back to Course II where we discussed the electromagnetic energy-frequency spectrum in relation to physical and non-physical consciousness:
Read From Left to Right: The Spirit Self (11 dimensional electromagnetic structure) influences the mind (10 dimensional electromagnetic structure), which then passes information to the brain (a combination of energy and chemical structures), which then disseminates that information to the physical layers of the human bio-body suit to act out in 4-dimensional physical consciousness. It is important to note that within this linear flow, and between the mind and brain, exists the “9-dimensional emotion domain substance layer.” In this flow chart and for simplification purposes, it is assumed the emotional domain substance layer is functioning synergistically with its 10-dimensional mental counterpart, which makes it an organic pass-through between the other electromagnetic (spirit self-mind) and electrochemical (brain-physical reality) processes.
Neuroscientific support for this linear flow comes from a Swiss team of neuroscientists representing the Blue Brain Project. Using a version of algebraic topography that accurately maps the properties of objects and spaces regardless of how they change shape, the Swiss team found that groups of neurons form various “cliques,” or synonymous groups.
The number of neurons in any one clique led to its size as a high-dimensional geometric object. The highest level the team formulated was indeed the 11th dimension. Neuroscientist and lead researcher Henry Markham of the EPFL Institute was so surprised by the findings he enthusiastically commented:
“We found a world we had never imagined. There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures up to 11 dimensions.”
Based on the limitations of its methodology, the Swiss research team made it a point to clarify its findings as verifiable in a mathematical context, and not a consciousness one. However, by applying these mathematical results to Tiller’s functional Psychoenergetic Consciousness research that physically demonstrates the incorporation of the 11th dimensional spirit self into the mental substance layer, thereby creating the process where mind influence brain, we can reconcile the theoretical and experimental neuroscientific reality that consciousness is an 11 dimensional, physical and non-physical experience.
So as you can see, balancing physical and non-physical consciousness requires a synthesis of the mind and brain. To help this reconciliation along, there have been significant advances that explain how our minds and brains become perceived as irreconcilably different in the first place…. as well as information to help facilitate and stimulate the mind-brain reconciliation process.
Brain Neuroplasticity and Synaptic Pruning
“Neuroplasticity” refers to how the human brain uses learned experience to structurally organize its neural pathways. Neural pathways dictate how our brains maintain homeostasis (or “normalcy”) in our everyday realities,
Every time we learn something new or reinforce something we already know that experience is added to a pre-existing bank of experiences serving as our “normalcy” for comparison with any new experience.
Even though neuroplasticity never ceases, early developmental stages of life are by far the most fertile. By the time we are three years old, our brains have approximately 15,000 synapses per neuron. This is about twice the average amount of synapses in an adult human brain after the process of “synaptic pruning” occurs.
Synaptic pruning refers to normalizing new experiences within the confines of stronger neural pathways (existing experiences), in order to conform our daily lives to our conscious expectations for them. Even though the human brain never stops learning and adapting throughout its lifetime, the synaptic pruning of our neural pathways creates a cognitive tunneling effect, where the means and ends of our everyday existences become self-fulfilling prophecies of both our formal and informal educative processes.
Simply stated, educative processes create expectations, and these expectations shape how we perceive our everyday realities. But in reality, our educative processes do more than just create expectations. Instead, they can actually create/perpetuate everyday reality itself. Neurobiologist Susan Barry beautifully drives home the reality of neuroplasticity and synaptic pruning in everyday life by recounting an experience she had when looking out her kitchen window one morning. What follows illustrates the fact what we see is governed to a large extent by what we expect to see….
“This idea came home to me one morning when I glanced out my kitchen window at the bird feeder outside. Small woodland birds, such as Nuthatches, Juncos and Chickadees, were the usual visitors to the feeder. But on this day, I happened to glance up from the kitchen sink and saw five enormous wild turkeys, one male and four females, looking in on me. The male was so tall he practically looked me in the eye. Despite their large size and distinctive appearance, it took me a full second to figure out what I was seeing. Had I glanced outside and seen the usual Juncos and Chickadees, I would have recognized and distinguished these birds, despite their small size, in much less time.
So why did it take so long to see the big wild turkeys? Because I didn’t expect to see them. What we see depends to a large extent upon what we anticipate seeing. The first area of our visual cortex to receive input from our eyes is called the primary visual cortex. It was once thought that neurons in this area respond almost exclusively to stimuli coming from the eyes. But we now know that the activity of these neurons is affected by “higher” brain centers, which are involved in prediction and planning. When the brain can predict what will be seen, it can prime the appropriate circuits in the primary visual cortex and other regions, allowing us to interpret visual stimuli more quickly.
So, when I looked out the kitchen window that morning, my brain may have readied the circuits in my visual cortex for what I expected to see —the usual small birds at the feeder. The image of turkeys threw my visual system into a momentary state of confusion. Some circuits had to be suppressed and others activated in order for me to make sense of the surprising view outside my kitchen window.”
In some ways, the human brain is like the film in a camera. If we take a picture of Dr. Barry’s large backyard birds, we expose the film to new information in the form of the large birds. In order for the image to be retained, the film must record the large birds by reacting to the light imprint it captured at the moment the picture was taken. Similarly, in order for new knowledge to be retained in our brain’s memory banks, changes in neural pathway structuring representing new knowledge must simultaneously occur along with the new experience we are taking in.
However, there are also significant differences between camera film and the human brain. The film and camera are objective devices. This means that the camera and its film will record whatever 4-dimensional construct it focuses on how it actually appears in a physical consciousness sense. Granted, whatever construct a photographer chooses to focus on is the result of his or her own synaptic pruning/educative processes, as is how whatever is being photographed will be perceived by anyone who sees the image at any point.
This is because unlike the camera film, our brains process the familiarity or foreignness of new experiences in relation to our perceptions of existing experiences. As a result, and especially concerning foreign experiences that challenge existing expectations, our neural pathways may not necessarily refashion themselves to the point we consciously perceive our everyday realities in a significantly different sense than before the new experience occurred. As we discussed above, the fluidity of neuroplasticity “hardens” as our pre-existing experiences become more prevalent to our everyday realities. Or, in sociological terms. as move from externalizing to internalizing the Universe.
Externalizing and Internalizing Reality
The effectiveness of pruning can best be understood in the differences between how a child and adult view the world. When a child is very young, say around 3 years of age, he or she is in the constant process of “externalizing” the Universe. This means the child begins feeding the brain sensory data that becomes experiential markers/memories. In this regard, the child still consciously perceives the Universe and thus, non-physical consciousness inside him or herself, and he or she intakes all available stimuli to help make sense out of said Universe and level of consciousness within these perceptual boundaries.
In-taking experiential cues leads to perceptual discrimination, which causes the child to begin recognizing what appears to the senses as distance effects. Or, in thoughts like “this person is different than I am because….”. By the time the child becomes an adult, he or she has shifted from externalizing to internalizing the Universe. Internalization means that a human being stops perceiving the non-physical Universe (and consciousness) inside of him or herself as reality, and instead only perceives the physical Universe outside of him or herself in that manner.
With each successive experience supporting the normalcy of the material world, that world becomes more perceptually “real” than the thoughts in our heads (i.e. non-physical consciousness) that create the material world in the first place. Physicist Amit Goswami agrees with this when he states:
“Each previously experienced, learned response reinforces the probability of the same response over again. The upshot is as follows: For a novel, unlearned stimulus, behavior of the brain-mind’s quantum system (or Neuroplastic networking) is like that of any other quantum system. As a stimulus is learned, however, the likelihood increases that, after the completion of a measurement (or experience), the quantum mechanical state of the dual system (or the new experience being compared to information in the pre-existing experiential data bank) will correspond to the prior memory state. In other words, learning, or prior experience, biases the brain-mind.”
Learning causes the adult’s (pruned) brain to maintain a homeostasis of daily life experience where he or she is still the center of his or her own Universe. However, and unlike the child, the adult stops existentially externalizing the meaning of his or her experience in relation to the Universe-at-large. Instead, the adult comes to internalize the physical Universe solely in terms of how it relates to his or her own expectations. The ironic thing to note here is the the child’s externalized brain, with so many more synaptic leads allowing for a clearer, stronger “spirit-self-mind-brain connection” is actually more well-equipped to understand non-physical consciousness than the adult’s internalized, pruned brain is. Yet, society values the internalized, pruned brain regardless. How exactly does learning contribute to internalized synaptic pruning, and how could it help preserve or restore externalized synaptic pruning instead? Let’s take a look….
There are multiple literacies that can be employed to educate human beings: “Functional Literacy and Critical Literacy.” Although these multiple literacies can be used in any formal or information educational setting, at this time functional literacy is much more prevalent than critical literacy.
Functional literacy instills someone with just enough knowledge to sign his or her name on a paycheck, or to hold a job that requires little critical thought other than memorization and rote mechanical application. In this context, functional literacy primarily teaches someone “what to think.”
Examples of functional literacy include memorization of dates, names, places or events, and the mechanical application of mathematical or scientific equations, formulae, etc. In a functional literacy learning environment, learner-initiated inquiries leading to discussion outside of rigidly structured curricular boundaries are rarely if ever tolerated. In this way, functional literacy represents the most basic form of physical consciousness.
In terms of neuroplasticity and synaptic pruning, functionally engaging a child whose synapses are still heavily in the development process prunes away all but the most basic cognitive level of conscious awareness. What is more, since our neural pathways gain strength, or prominence over our perceptions of reality based on maintaining expected experiential normalcy, educating a child within a functional curriculum results in an adult with a rigidly material, solely physical 4-dimensional consciousness.
“Critical Literacy” facilitates a level of neuroplasticity far greater than its functional counterpart. Critical literacy stresses that language, knowledge, and cultural/historical cues are based solely upon other people’s perceptions more so than any kind of actual, let alone absolute truth. Critical literacy synthesizes and contextualizes every internal and external factor influencing how a learner crafts his or her reality-based perception of themselves and the world-at-large. Beyond just telling learners what to think, critical literacy teaches learners how and why to think. In doing so, it facilitates an inclusive environment where learners actively understand why they think how (or as) they do while they are thinking.
Critical literacy treats memorizable data as supplementary tools good mainly for helping facilitate a higher understanding of knowledge, rather than as the extent of knowledge altogether. For example, a critically literate learner studies the people, dates and events in a history book primarily for their relation to why many other people, dates and events and knowledge that could have been chosen to occupy those pages have instead been left out.
In terms of neuroplasticity, educating a child based on a critical literacy curriculum conditions the brain’s neural pathways to view him or herself as part of a larger chain of conscious awareness both physically and non-physically speaking. It accomplishes this by stressing constant externalization; because of the student’s understanding that every new experience is not just compared to a bank of pre-existing’s ones, but also balanced against the self-aware realization that pre-existing experiences can cloud new ones. Let’s take this discussion out of the theoretical and into the practical for a moment by answering the question, “How often do we think about the actual cost for a new pair of socks?”
A functional curriculum teaches learners about the history of textile manufacturing, the science framing the technology of processing textiles from raw to finished form, the short-term economic impact of supporting a local business that sells new socks, or even how to sew unwanted sock holes shut. However, a critical curriculum combines and places all of these factors within a larger framework emphasizing the total footprint-impact (or “actual cost”) of wanting a new pair of socks. Or, as veteran educator Marion Brady surmised:
“We want a new pair of socks. Those available are knitted in Third World countries. Power to run a knitting machine is supplied by burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Global warming alters weather patterns. Altered weather patterns trigger environmental catastrophes. Environmental catastrophes destroy infrastructure. Money spent for infrastructure replacement isn’t available for health care. Declines in the quality of health care affect mortality rates.”
Of course, Brady’s critical sock argument requires a higher level of neural processing than the functional argument of: “My socks have holes in them, so I am going to go buy another pair with the money I made working last week.” It goes without saying that critical-level neural networking is much more difficult to facilitate when functional pruning has already occurred.
With the human brain, the more time spent functionally pruning synapses in childhood makes it that much more tenuous to attempt the expanded neural network reprogramming required to facilitate the balance of physical and non-physical consciousness later on in life. This does not mean it is impossible to refashion our neural programming to be able to experience non-physical consciousness after a lifetime of severe pruning, not at all. It just makes doing so more difficult than if a person is educated through a critical literacy curriculum to begin with.
No matter if one’s formal and/or informal educative process was more along the functional line than the critical one, we all have the ability to refashion our neural pathways…. and doing so can help re-establish an externalized worldview that includes a healthy physical and non-physical consciousness balance no matter our age, life circumstances or pre-existing experiences.
Upside Down Goggles Experiment
An example of a modern pair of upside down goggles, similar in function to what Slater’s test subjects used in his upside down goggles experiment
In the 1930’s, researcher Alan Slater conducted a series of biofeedback experiments using “upside down” goggles specifically constructed to distort perception so his test subjects saw everything in front of them in an upside down configuration.
At the beginning of his upside down googles experiment, Slater’s test subjects were incredibly disoriented. However, after 2-3 weeks their eyesight began to reconfigure, thus adapting to upside down views of reality!
At that point, Slater’s test subjects began to see upside down as “right side up.” When Slater had his test subjects permanently remove their glasses, it took another 2-3 weeks for their eyesight to return back to its pre-experimental status quo.
Although Slater was not able to prove these glasses initiated a “hard wired” internal process to occur regarding the brain’s dendrites, his upside down goggles experiment, when taken with more recent research about neuroplasticity, demonstrates that people of all backgrounds, ages, cultures and unique situations can indeed fashion and then refashion their own consciousness as they see fit to do so.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What happens when open-minded researchers get together with people who already have achieved the balance between physical and non-physical consciousness in their everyday lives? Well, you begin to compile the scientific data that proves what Roger Sperry said about neuroscience and consciousness is spot-on accurate.
The Neuroscience of Non-Physical Consciousness
To end this course, let’s discuss two potent examples of how neuroscience is now being employed to validate non-physical consciousness. In Course III we detailed an experiment that took place at Stanford Research Institute in 1973, when Ingo Swann remote viewed Jupiter with 100% data accuracy.
In 2001, Cognitive Neuroscience Researcher and Professor Michael A. Persinger independently verified Swann’s prowess by performing a monitoring session of Ingo Swann’s brainwave activity during a remote viewing session. Persinger recorded significantly and sustainably increased bipolar electroencephalographic (or electrical) activity over the occipital, temporal and frontal lobes of Swann’s brain during his remote viewing session.
Dr. Persinger and his research team concluded the existence of significant correlation between the stimuli (remote viewing) and Ingo Swann’s electroencephalographic, or electrical brainwave activity. Specifically, they found that the visual cortex areas of Ingo’s brain reacted to the “sights” he reported experiencing during his remote viewing sessions in the exact same electrochemical manner that your brain’s visual cortex area is reacting while you are reading these words on your screen right now.
In another case study, researchers from the University of Ottawa’s School of Psychology conducted tests on a woman who claimed to be able to manipulate her own out-of-body experiences (OBE’s) at will.They published their research in>The Frontiers of Human Neuroscience journal in February of 2014.
An OBE occurs when a human being consciously perceives a reality separate from the confines of her or his physical body. Their test subject achieved her altered state of consciousness at the height of physical exhaustion, and just before falling asleep. The test subject told researchers what she experienced, including what she felt and saw during her states of consciousness in very great detail.
Furthermore, she claimed to be able to activate this state of consciousness at will. The team of researchers asked her to enter her out-of-body state while imaging her brain’s activity, and performed an fMRI scan on her brain before, during and after her OBE’s. They then compared her waking brain activity to what she experienced during her OBE.
Lo and behold, the neurological pathways that were activated during her OBE’s are also involved in the mental representation of movements that took place during the episode. Specifically, the regions activated by her OBE’s include the supplementary motor area, the cerebellum, the supramarginal gyrus, the inferior temporal gyrus, the middle and superior orbitofrontal gyri. This means the Ottawa test subject’s OBE, while under the research team’s observation, was just as tangibly real as the observation team’s reality in observing the woman during her OBE.
The take-home message here is that neuroscience is already demonstrating that if we choose to cultivate a balance between physical and non-physical consciousness, we can stimulate our mind-brain connections to make our everyday reality virtually anything we want it to be
Balancing Multiple Consciousness
It is no secret that balancing multiple consciousness, or the physical and non-physical realms of our 11 dimensional Universe, takes work. For some people, and depending on level of functional cognitive conditioning and synaptic pruning that has occurred to this point in their lives, it will undoubtedly take more work than for others. However, it is indeed possible.
As we mentioned in Course III, people like Ingo Swann are not born “special.” Rather, they are just born like everyone else, and everyone who is born has the capability for balancing multiple consciousness. If we choose to undertake the process necessary for learning to access and balance physical and non-physical consciousness by cultivating our Psychoenergetic faculties, the options for projecting our own reality in a sustainable, successful way are virtually endless.
Of course, there will always be “potholes” in the form of cognitive blockages between the mind and brain on the road to developing Psychoenergetic Consciousness. Some of these potholes will be more readily visible than others. But this does not mean we cannot learn to avoid them, or at least minimize the structural damage they cause when we run them over smack-dab in the center of their deepest recesses.
In Course V, we thresh out the electrochemical (i.e. “hormonal”) processes that determine in large part how we view ourselves in relation to our 11 dimensional Universe…. as well as what options we have for learning to balance physical and non-physical consciousness in our everyday realities based on these processes….
If you have any questions about the Neuroscience of Consciousness and refashioning our neural pathways, please reach out to us directly….