Contents

REFEREED PAPERS

John G. Taylor
From Matter to Mind   abstract
Johnjoe McFadden
Synchronous Firing and Its Influence on the Brain’s Electromagnetic Field:

Evidence for an Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness  abstract

COMMENTARY

Susan Pockett
Difficulties with the Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness  abstract

INTERVIEW

Christopher Frith and Shaun Gallagher
Models of the Pathological Mind   introduction

CONFERENCE REPORT

Peter Århem, Hans Liljenström and B.I.B. Lindahl
Evolution of Consciousness: Report of Agora Workshop in Sigtuna, Sweden, August 2001  full text

BOOK REVIEWS

Benny Shanon
Entheogens: Review of Thomas Roberts’ Psychoactive Sacramentals  full text
David W. Salt
James McClenon, Wondrous Healing: Shamanism, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion
John Thurmer
Helen Oppenheimer, Making Good: Creation, Tragedy and Hope


ABSTRACTS

J.G. Taylor

From Matter To Mind

Abstract: The relation between mind and matter is considered in terms of recent ideas from both phenomenology and brain science. Phenomenology is used to give clues to help bridge the brain–mind gap by providing constraints on any underlying neural architecture suggested from brain science. A tentative reduction of mind to matter is suggested and used to explain various features of phenomenological experience and of ownership of conscious experience. The crucial mechanism is the extended duration of the corollary discharge of attention movement, with its gating of activity for related content. Aspects of experience considered in terms of the model are the discontinuous nature of consciousness, immunity to error through misidentification, and the state of ‘pure’ consciousness as experienced through meditation. Corollary discharge of attention movement is proposed as the key idea bringing together basic features of meditation, consciousness and neuroscience, and helping to bridge the gap between mind and matter.

Correspondence: J.G. Taylor, Department of Mathematics, King’s College, Strand, London WC2R2LS, UK. Email: john.g.taylor@kcl.ac.uk


Johnjoe McFadden

Synchronous Firing and Its Influence on the Brain’s Electromagnetic Field Evidence for an Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness

Abstract: The human brain consists of approximately 100 billion electrically active neurones that generate an endogenous electromagnetic (em) field, whose role in neuronal computing has not been fully examined. The source, magnitude and likely influence of the brain’s endogenous em field are here considered. An estimate of the strength and magnitude of the brain’s em field is gained from theoretical considerations, brain scanning and microelectrode data. An estimate of the likely influence of the brain’s em field is gained from theoretical principles and considerations of the experimental effects of external em fields on neurone firing both in vitro and in vivo. Synchronous firing of distributed neurones phase-locks induced em field fluctuations to increase their magnitude and influence. Synchronous firing has previously been demonstrated to correlate with awareness and perception, indicating that perturbations to the brain’s em field also correlate with awareness. The brain’s em field represents an integrated electromagnetic field representation of distributed neuronal information and has dynamics that closely map to those expected for a correlate of consciousness. I propose that the brain’s em information field is the physical substrate of conscious awareness — the cemi field — and make a number of predictions that follow from this proposal. Experimental evidence pertinent to these predictions is examined and shown to be entirely consistent with the cemi field theory. This theory provides solutions to many of the intractable problems of consciousness — such as the binding problem — and provides new insights into the role of consciousness, the meaning of free will and the nature of qualia. It thus places consciousness within a secure physical framework and provides a route towards constructing an artificial consciousness.

Correspondence: Johnjoe McFadden, School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 5XH, UK. Email: j.mcfadden@surrey.ac.uk


Susan Pockett

Difficulties with the Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness

Abstract: The author’s version of the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness is stated briefly and then three difficulties with the theory are discussed. The first is a purely technical problem: how to measure accurately enough the spatial properties of the fields which are proposed to be conscious and then how to generate these artificially, so that the theory can be tested. The second difficulty might also be merely technical, or it might be substantive and fatal to the theory. This is that present measurements seem to show a non-constant relationship between brain-generated electromagnetic fields and sensation. The third difficulty involves the basic question of whether consciousness per se has any direct effect on the brain. As an afterword, the disproportionate contribution of synchronously firing neurons to conscious percepts is simply explained in terms of the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness.

Correspondence: Susan Pockett, Department of Physics, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. Email: s.pockett@auckland.ac.nz


Christopher Frith and Shaun Gallagher

Models of the Pathological Mind

Christopher Frith is a research professor at the Functional Imaging Laboratory of the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at University College, London. He explores, experimentally, using the techniques of functional brain imaging, the relationship between human consciousness and the brain. His research focuses on questions pertaining to perception, attention, control of action, free will, and awareness of our own mental states and those of others. As the following discussion makes clear, Frith investigates brain systems involved in the choice of one action over another and in the understanding of other people. Such investigations are aimed at understanding brain basis of autism and schizophrenia.

In his widely cited study of schizophrenia, The Cognitive Neuropsychology of Schizophrenia (1992), Frith argues that many of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions of control, auditory hallucinations, and thought insertion, involve problems of self-monitoring. Patients, in effect, lose track of their own intentions and mistakenly attribute agency for their own actions to someone else. Frith employs models of motor control, involving comparator mechanisms and efference copy, not only to explain delusions that involve movement, but also to develop a neurocognitive explanation of delusional cognition.
 One of the central aspects of motor control involves a forward model, a non- conscious pre-motor system operating prior to the actual execution of movement and its sensory feedback. This forward mechanism, Frith argues, generates a conscious sense of agency for action. This is consistent with research that correlates initial awareness of action with recordings of the lateralized readiness potential and with transcranial magnetic stimulation of the supplementary motor area. One’s initial awareness of a spontaneous voluntary action depends on this forward mechanism. Schizophrenics, however, have problems with this forward monitoring of movement. They have problems monitoring their own motor intentions at this level (Malenka et al., 1982; Frith and Done, 1988).

Following Feinberg (1978), Frith postulates a similar mechanism for cognition — specifically, for thought and inner speech. He pursues an explanation of thought insertion, for example, by developing the following line of reason.
 

Thinking, like all our actions, is normally accompanied by a sense of effort and deliberate choice as we move from one thought to the next. If we found ourselves thinking without any awareness of the sense of effort that reflects central monitoring, we might well experience these thoughts as alien and, thus, being inserted into our minds (Frith, 1992, p. 81).


The philosopher John Campbell has maintained that Frith’s model of schizophrenia as a disruption of basic self-monitoring processes provides the most parsimonious explanation of how self-ascriptions of thoughts are subject to errors of identification (Campbell, 1999). Frith, as we see in the following discussion, continues to explore a variety of related issues: concepts of free will, self- awareness, and theory of mind.

Correspondence: Christopher Frith, Wellcome Dept. of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG. Email: cfrith@fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk
Shaun Gallagher, Department of Philosophy, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY 14208, USA.
Email: Gallaghr@Canisius.edu


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