This shows the outline of the head

A new theory in physics claims to solve the mystery of consciousness

To summarize: Consciousness cannot simply be reduced to neural activity, the researchers say. The dynamics of consciousness can be understood through newly developed conceptual and mathematical frameworks, a new study reports.

resource: Bar-Ilan University

How does 1.4 kilograms of brain tissue create thoughts, feelings, mental images and inner worlds?

The brain’s ability to create consciousness has puzzled some people for thousands of years. The mystery of consciousness is that each of us is subjective and likes to feel, feel and think about things.

When we are awake, we don’t “live in the dark” compared to being in a state of anesthesia or dreamless deep sleep – we experience the world and ourselves. But how the brain creates conscious experiences and which area of ​​the brain is responsible for this remains a mystery.

“It’s a rather mysterious problem because our conscious experience doesn’t seem to come from the brain, and it can’t actually come from any physical process,” said physicist Dr. Nir Lahav of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Strange as it may sound, conscious experiences in our brains cannot be discovered or reduced to some sort of neural activity.

“Think of it this way,” says University of Memphis philosopher Zakaria Neemeh, Ph.D., “that when I’m happy, my brain creates a unique and complex pattern of neural activity. This neural pattern is completely related to my conscious sense of well-being, But that’s not how I actually feel. It’s just a neural pattern that represents my happiness. That’s why a scientist looking at my brain and seeing this pattern should ask me how I feel, because the pattern isn’t the feeling itself, it’s just A manifestation of it.”

Therefore, we cannot attribute our conscious experience of perceiving, feeling and thinking to any brain activity. We can only find correlations with these experiences.

After more than 100 years of neuroscience, we have good evidence that the brain is responsible for creating our capacity for consciousness. How, then, can these conscious experiences be found anywhere in the brain (or body) and cannot be attributed to any neural complex activity?

This mystery is called the conundrum of consciousness. This is such a difficult question that only philosophers discussed it until a few decades ago, and even today, despite the tremendous progress we have made in understanding the neuroscientific underpinnings of consciousness, there is still not enough theory to explain what is awareness and how to solve this problem.

Dr. Lahav and Dr. Neemeh recently published a new physical theory in the journal Frontiers in Psychology It claims to solve the puzzle of consciousness in a purely physical way.

According to the authors, when we change our assumptions about consciousness and assume that it is a relativistic phenomenon, the mystery of consciousness naturally disappears. In the paper, the researchers developed a conceptual and mathematical framework to understand consciousness from a relativistic perspective.

According to Dr. Rahav, lead author of the paper, “consciousness should be studied using the same mathematical tools that physicists use for other known relativistic phenomena.”

To see how relativity solves the puzzle, consider another relativistic phenomenon, constant velocity. Let’s choose two observers, Alice and Bob, where Bob is on a train moving at constant speed and Alice is watching him from the platform. There is no absolute physical answer to the question of what is Bob’s speed.

The answer depends on the observer’s frame of reference.

From Bob’s frame of reference, he will measure that he is stationary while Alice is moving backwards with the rest of the world. But from Alice’s frame, Bob is moving and she is stationary.

Although they have opposite measurements, they are both correct, just from a different frame of reference.

Because, according to theory, consciousness is a relativistic phenomenon, and we find the same thing in the case of consciousness.

Alice and Bob are now in different cognitive frames of reference. Bob would measure his conscious experience, but Alice just had brain activity without any indication of actual conscious experience, while Alice would measure that she was conscious, while Bob just had neural activity without any clues of conscious experience.

As is the case with speed, although they have opposite measurements, they are both correct, but from different cognitive frames of reference.

As a result, we have no problem measuring different properties from different frames of reference due to the relativistic point of view.

We cannot find actual conscious experience when measuring brain activity because we are measuring from the wrong cognitive frame of reference.

According to the new theory, the brain does not create our conscious experience, at least not through computation. We experience consciously because of the process of physical measurement.

In short, different physical measurements in different reference frames exhibit different physical properties in those reference frames, even though these reference frames measure the same phenomenon.

For example, suppose Bob measures Alice’s brain in the lab when she is happy. Although they observed different properties, they were actually measuring the same phenomenon from different angles. Because of how they were measured, different properties were manifested in their cognitive frame of reference.

In order for Bob to observe brain activity in the lab, he needs to use measurements from his sense organs, such as his eyes. This sensory measure shows the substrates that cause brain activity — neurons.

After more than 100 years of neuroscience, we have good evidence that the brain is responsible for creating our capacity for consciousness.Image is in the public domain

Thus, in his cognitive framework, Alice has only neural activity representing her consciousness, but no indication of her actual conscious experience per se. But in order for Alice to measure her own neural activity as happiness, she used a different type of measurement. Instead of using her sense organs, she measures her neural representations directly through the interactions between one part of the brain and others. She measures her neural representations in relation to other neural representations.

This is a completely different measurement than what our sensory system does, and as such, this direct measurement exhibits different physical properties. We call this property conscious experience.

As a result, from her cognitive frame of reference, Alice measured her neural activity as a conscious experience.

see also

This shows a perinatal brain scan, highlighting areas associated with ASD

Using mathematical tools that describe relativistic phenomena in physics, the theory shows that if the dynamics of Bob’s neural activity can be changed to be similar to those of Alice’s, then both will be in the same cognitive frame of reference and will Have the exact same conscious experience as another.

Now, the authors hope to continue examining the precise minimum measurements any cognitive system needs to create consciousness.

The impact of this theory is enormous. It can be used to determine which animals were the first to be conscious during evolution, when a fetus or infant became conscious, which patients with disorders of consciousness were conscious, and which AI systems today are less (if any) conscious .

News about this consciousness and physics research

author: Elana Oberlander
resource: Bar-Ilan University
touch: Elana Oberlander – Bar-Ilan University
picture: Image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access.
“Relativistic Theory of Consciousness” by Nir Lahav et al. Frontiers in Psychology


Abstract

Relativity of Consciousness

In recent decades, the scientific study of consciousness has greatly increased our understanding of this elusive phenomenon. However, despite significant advances in our understanding of the functioning of consciousness, we still lack a fundamental theory of its phenomenological aspects.

There is an “interpretative gap” between our scientific knowledge of functional consciousness and its “subjective” phenomena, known as the “hard problem” of consciousness. The salient aspect of consciousness is the first-person answer to the question “what does it look like,” which has so far proven stubborn to guide scientific research.

Naturalist dualists argue that it consists of a primitive, private, non-reductive element of reality that is independent of the functional and physical aspects of consciousness. Illusionists, on the other hand, believe that this is just a cognitive illusion and that all that exists is ultimately a physical, non-phenomenal property.

We argue that both the dualistic and hallucinogenic positions are flawed because they default to consciousness as an absolute property that does not depend on the observer.

We develop a conceptual and mathematical argument for a relativistic theory of consciousness in which a system has or does not have phenomenal consciousness About some observers.

Phenomenal consciousness is neither private nor delusional, just relativistic. In a cognitive system’s frame of reference it is observable (first-person perspective), but not in other frames of reference (third-person perspective). Both cognitive frames of reference are correct, as is the case where one observer claims to be at rest and the other claims constant velocity.

Given that consciousness is a relativistic phenomenon, no observer position can be privileged because they all describe the same underlying reality. Based on relativistic phenomena in physics, we have developed a mathematical form of consciousness that bridges gaps in explanation and solves difficult problems.

Given that the first-person cognitive frame of reference also provides plausible observations of consciousness, we conclude that philosophers can make useful contributions to the science of consciousness by collaborating with neuroscientists to explore the neural underpinnings of phenomenal structures.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.