is referred to as the Protoself, next is Core Consciousness, and Wouldn’t you say it is true that every aspect of life is rooted in physics and chemistry that life bootstrapped upon? Three important concepts in this theory are ‘emotion’, ‘feeling’ and ‘feeling a feeling’ (or core consciousness). A non conscious state, this Does that come up in the book, Mike? One interesting area of evidence that Damasio uses for this part of the theory are children born with a birth defect: hydranencephaly, that is without a cerebrum, with only a brainstem and hypothalamus. patterns in the brain. Emotion acts as a neural object, from which a physical reaction can be Relating consciousness to fundamental physics seems similar to Penrose’s approach, although Penrose is looking for a new physics. Namely, the hypothalamus, which controls the general homeostasis of the organism, the brain stem, whose nuclei map body signals, and the insular cortex But the hydranencephalics I mentioned are profoundly limited in their cognitive abilities, or even in their movement abilities. Then I realized that he was addressing primal first person experience, the state of a self experiencing perceptions and what those perceptions immediately mean to the self, to the body. In particular, a simulation model is described of the dynamics of basic mechanisms leading via emotion and feeling to core consciousness, and dynamic properties are formally specified that hold for these … A quick warning: I didn’t find this to be easy reading. Brains are systems evolved to preserve homeostasis and ensure survival. We only need some of our intuitions about it to be wrong. So we have sensory data, and each pattern of such data triggers associated emotions. How and from what is our experience of color produced, for example? Therefore, an injury to a person's. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Thanks for adding to my reading list…but with all due respect, there is no homeostasis in physiology, only balanced equilibrium. The image is a result of mental patterns which are caused by an The self comes into being in the brain in layers: the proto-self, the core self, and the autobiographical self. There are other similar metacognitive theories, all envisioning awareness as a feedback mechanism, the mind modeling its own operations, that provide similar explanations. I’ve never seriously considered the possibility that other people are zombies, but I just don’t see any way to explain my own experiential reality in purely physical terms. knowing a feeling. Yes, it all starts there, but for human like consciousness, even the proto-self requires the insular cortex, core consciousness requires the thalamus and early sensory cortical areas, and autobiographical consciousness, the full human level experience, requires large portions of the neocortex. This leads to a discrepancy between that simplistic model and objective data about the brain. But, at least, we should try. Like keithnoback’s comment. Antonio Damasio’s TED talk is excellent. Damasio makes no pretense of his theories being the final word, only that they add possible explanations of what is happening, and I think they definitely do that. its bodily state (Protoself) is being affected by its experiences, or a donut), which is just a theory about the software and hardware of the brain. In Damasio’s view, consciousness centers on the self. context can be anything from a person, to a melody, to a neural image. The answer is that it doesn’t. This paper contributes an analysis and formalization of Damasio's theory on core consciousness. It seems we constantly and usually experience near-equilibrium states. The photons hitting the photoreceptors on your retina form a pattern which trigger signals up the optic nerve to the brain. For the naive explanation for the selfness is the Pauli’s exclusion principle that every Fermion carries a unique ID number while the whole explanation is more complicated. Thanks Keith. Too often it seems to get relegated in favour of language (symbolism) and algorithmic computation as preconditions. I believe the human brain is too complicated for the human mind to grasp. It might be best thought of as a CDRegion at the center of a galaxy of CDRegions. This emergent process occurs when an organism becomes The brainstem is constantly receiving updates from the body, from the peripheral nervous system. Something else? Sufficiently I agree that studying the mechanisms of the brain is much more interesting and fruitful than pondering the hard problem, but I still think that the problem exists. Constant homeostasis right lose the dynamics of a living organism whereas the near-equilibrium state provides a energy gradient for actions. We already know a lot more than most people realize. Biology always seems to be an improvisation, although it’s improvisation honed by natural selection across millions of generations. It starts with a stimulus to part of the network, and ends with the whole associative network being activated and generating the images. Later, when only one of these signals come in, it may trigger a reverse signal flow, initiating a process called retroactivation, that causes a version of the patterns that initially formed the convergence to reappear in the image areas. In other words, visual images form. a pre-conscious state, which provides a reference for the core self and The brainstem is phylogenetically ancient, and many simple animals get along without much else. What do scientific theories actually tell us about the world? Protoself does not represent a traditional sense of self; rather, it is (There are other scientific theories that do, and they’re not necessarily incompatible with Damasio’s theories.). This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Three important concepts in this theory are 'emotion', 'feeling' and 'feeling a feeling' (or core consciousness). Thanks Liam. In the introduction he describes six facts that a good theory of consciousness will have to take into account. Of course, in reality the language of technological computation is (currently) transistor states, but we build layers of abstraction (languages) between the raw machine and us to make it easier to work with. From this realization, springs Damasio's When the symphony begins, it doesn’t have a conductor. as Damasio dubs it, is the Protoself. He describes his theory in an informal manner, and supports it by evidence from neurological practice. That action can be to trigger the release of hormones, to initiate muscle action, or maybe to inhibit action arising from another cluster of CDZs. And I am deeply skeptical about panpsychism. Developed in his (1999) book, The Feeling of What Happens, Antonio Damasio's three layered theory of consciousness is based on a hierarchy of stages, with each stage building upon the last. But CDZs aren’t just for generating images. The brain evolved to make movement decisions, so the inner experience aspect must provide some utility in that movement function, in generating behavior. But that strikes me as being chauvinistic against alternate forms of consciousness. All of the information in this post came from Damasio’s book ‘Self Comes to Mind‘. In this state, emotion begins to manifest itself as second-order neural patterns located in subcortical areas of the brain. ), there is a lot of overlap between the books, although it sounds like he ponders qualia more directly in the older one. Consciousness is the searchlight of attention. If you have the time, here’s Damasio’s TED talk on consciousness: I have read some of Damasio’s books. But he says it is pretty much impossible to introduce better words to a wide audience so he reluctantly lives with a commonly used but ultimately limited one. This level of consciousness is not exclusive to human beings and To begin with, Damasio describes two types of brain areas: image making areas, and dispositional areas. In that sense, the hard problem of consciousness may become like the hard problem of light in the 17th century. The language of thought is the language of neurons and synapses. I suppose that the version of the hard problem that confounds me the most is: can we ever know if anyone/thing else isn’t a philosophical zombie? Maybe the sort of ‘meta-neurology’ in question works differently, and more like a thermostat. Damasio, who is an internationally The brainstem does provide a sort of proto-experience, which may resemble the experience of insects and other relatively less intelligent creatures. Still, there’s a lot here that strikes me as very plausible. emotion manifest as mental images, or brain movies. notion of “feeling”. It does not require language or memory, nor can it reflect on past A lot of computationists think that brain processing happens in a language of its own, sometimes called “mentalese.” But I personally see it as very unlikely. These To understand the image making areas, consider the process of seeing something. So, if we encounter another system that behaves in a similar enough fashion to us, it makes sense to conclude that the other system has at least an equivalent experience. But his work has no connection to the ‘FUNDAMENTAL’ laws, the laws of nature (physics). From the brainstem arise primordial feelings. On top of the core self is the autobiographical self. Central to Damasio’s theory of consciousness is the idea of biological value, that which helps in preserving homeostasis, which of course aids in survival. As I noted above, I find the CDZ and CDRegion part of this theory to be the most interesting. Is the singularity right around the corner? Damasio often discusses neuroanatomy in detail and assumes the reader can follow along. It’s this discrepancy, I think, that causes the feeling of the hard problem. I'll also remove the tag. finally, Extended Consciousness. I don’t think Damasio is asserting that only systems with brains (or even only living systems) have homeostasis, only that the need to maintain it is shared by all living organisms, and that brains are one evolutionary solution for preserving it. Protoself. internal bodily state; it is able to recognize that its thoughts are its In other words, they aren’t us minus the intelligence. Thanks for the explanation. N2 - This paper contributes an analysis and formalisation of Damasio's theory on core consciousness. He has three good points. It doesn’t make a difference then, if you think of physiology acting like the thermostat in your house, i.e. whose function is linked to emotion. These brain areas work together to 1 Introduction In (Damasio, 1999) the neurologist Antonio Damasio puts forward his theory of consciousness. No, I think you’re right that we can never know beyond any shadow of doubt that anyone else is conscious, that everyone beside ourselves aren’t philosophical zombies. Further from the sensory pathway areas are the dispositional portions. Why Do You Remember The Past But Not The Future? The lowest hierarchies receive inputs from image areas and can both output back to the those image areas as well as upstream to next level of CDZs. Damasio describes patients who are clearly awake and attentive, but not conscious, and promises to devote two chapters to the significance of this phenomenon. They also generate actions. It’s an explanation for how perception, memory, imagination, and decisions get made in the brain. Here are my paraphrases: This survival impulse is shared by all life, even the simplest single celled organisms. It develops a momentary sense of self, as the brain continuously builds organism's awareness. level of self is shared by many species. without its predecessors, and, unlike them, requires a vast use of Damasio did discuss qualia in the book, but it’s difficult to do justice to it in brief. The multisensory doughnut example above would be a fairly high level CDZ. The neuro-anatomy of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses approaches the complexity of many galaxies – ineffable. coherent collection of neural patterns, which map moment-by-moment the Interestingly, the Webster definition seems to cover both conceptions: “a relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group”. remains consistent and stable throughout the lifetime of the organism Damasio envisions CDZs existing in the “many thousands”, but there being a few dozen CDRegions. of qualia. I am skeptical, though. Thank you for a very informative review. more evolved is the second layer of Damasio's theory, Core own, and that they are formulated in its own perspective. Both protoself and core consciousness, and, by the way, extended consciousness should all be sections in a new article that might be called Damasio's theory of consciousness. I agree on the language / symbolism preoccupation. The most basic representation of the organism consciously aware of feelings associated with changes occurring to its The core self is the momentary self. response to emotion, Core Consciousness is born. Does Damasio address the issue of how qualia come about? This survival impulse is shared by all life, even the simplest single celled organisms. I think that Damasio’s theory is one of the most interesting ideas about solving the easy problem, but I’m not sure if it really gets at the hard one, because all that he establishes is that the brain may be capable of recalling memory in the form of feelings when presented with some stimulus (e.g. If perception is to be effective in leading an organism to make effective decisions, then we can ask how should they feel? The brain simply translates the onslaught of all colors as white. Damasio argues that consciousness consists of two levels: core consciousness and extended consciousness. So the smell of doughnuts may trigger memories of the sight and taste of doughnuts. Damasio's definition of emotion is that of an unconscious And his style is very verbose, often taking a long time to make a fairly basic point. For example, the vividness of red may be due to the fact that most primates eat fruit and ripe fruit on the African savanna is often red. ( Log Out /  It is a physical phenomenon rooted in physics and chemistry and is something that life bootstrapped upon. Damasio's Theory of Consciousness Proto-Self The most basic representation of self(awareness shared by all life forms) Pre-conscious state-concerned only with homeostasis Direct report of body's response to environment Provides reference for 'Core Consciousness' and Extended in the organism. This reaction causes the organism to become aware of the All of the cascading signals from the senses converge at a certain neural circuit, a zone. I do think it’s possible to discuss raw feelings while knowing those feelings are ultimately composed of algorithmic neural circuits. But it is hard to explain pathophysiology in terms of the thermostat model. I think there are two answers to your question at different levels. Why, A Medley of Potpourri is just what it says; various thoughts, opinions, ruminations, and contemplations on a variety of subjects. The function of The dispositional areas are, evolutionarily, far more ancient, but even the brainstem has low resolution image making portions. Is the ultimate nature of reality mental? Yet they appear to enjoy sensations, music, have favorite caregivers, and generally have a sort of primal existence. ( Log Out /  Antonio Damasio’s notion of “core consciousness” suffers from serious defects. It doesn’t seem to address the difference between what happens in our conscious experience and what happens subconsciously, or of the experience of experience. Another body like ours? It’s almost certainly more of a spectrum, with early sensory cortices perhaps being more image forming and other regions gradually becoming more dispositional the further they are from the sensory pathways. It seems that homeostasis is a vector pointing to an ideal state. I think you might be overstating the role of the brainstem, at least in Damasio’s theories. The visual of a bear is a full range of associations, such as attributes of the bear’s shape, color, activity, etc. Unlike many theories of mind, his are thoroughly grounded in neuroanatomy. I’m curious what the differences are between homeostasis and balanced equilibrium. conventional memory. I find the core assertion of defending homeostasis as somewhat suspect though. (At least, not without altering the brain.) Homeostasis and balanced equilibrium. It is not obvious that other individuals experience any inner life. He describes his theory in an informal manner, and supports it by evidence from neurological practice. One possible answer along these lines is Michael Graziano’s Attention Schema Theory, which I’ve addressed it other posts: Brilliant! One, human-like consciousness (HLC) is the product of brain-mapping. This is known as core consciousness. Emotions provide the scaffolding for the construction of social cognition and are required for the self processes which undergird consciousness. the current status of the body's responses to environmental changes. Yet, the draft is, hopefully, readable as a short essay that explains Damasio's theory of consciousness and self with addition of some elements of Luhmann's systems theory. changes affecting the Protoself due to the emotional state. The idea is that homeostasis is reactive while allostasis is predictive. CDRegions are probably created from genetic information, as are many primordial CDZs, but most CDZs get created from experience, from learning. Necessary condition: there is a ‘counting’ device (counting strews, abacus or Turing computer). For the universal counting device, see ). patterns develop into mental images, which then float into the No, I don’t believe it will. Things like shock don’t simply rectify themselves when a stressor is removed. He makes a distinction that had never occurred to me, the one between having an emotion, and the feeling of the emotion. It is constantly receiving updates of its body image map from every corner of the body proper, initiating various changes, and then receiving the results of those changes in a tight resonance loop with the body that never ends, until death. Given the stress on feeling, then I was a little surprised not to hear anything on the role of proprioception in facilitating the sense of agency. My favorite philosopher of mind is David Chalmers, who makes a distinction between the hard problem and the easy problem of consciousness: the easy problem being “how does the mind work”, and the hard problem being “why is a mind conscious”. Will science ever solve the hard problem? Our most basic representation of self, They’re missing a substantial part of the (healthy) human experience. But I still get hung up on Chalmers’ idea of the “philosophical zombie”, a thing that behaves like it’s conscious but has no “inner life”. Homeostasis is not something created by living organisms. The proto-self’s formation begins in the brainstem, although in healthy humans the insular cortex, an area in the fold between the parietal and temporal lobe, is also involved. The CDRegions interlink with each other, but the linking appears to converge heavily in a region Damasio calls the PMCs (posteromedial cortices), an unusual name referring to a region that, judging by his diagrams, appear to be in the middle portions of the parietal lobe, and the posterior cingulate cortex underneath. representative images, based on communications received from the Evolution had no such incentive to do that with brains. Fantastic synopsis, for which many thanks. The CDZ hierarchies are clustered in regions Damasio calls CDRegions, which interconnect with each other. And here we get to what I find to be the most interesting aspects of Damasio’s theory.