Name: adrianne
Username: alord@haverford.edu
Subject: Part II
Date: Wed Feb 9 11:28:53 EST 2000
Comments:
After reading chapters 7 & 8 of Damasio's book I felt as though it had shed some light on my idea of consiousness and the implications of "finding" consciousness. In the Neurology of consciousness, he discusses the reticular formation, its functions and some of the issues surrounding consciousness when this structure is interrupted. In my initial posting I commented that if science was able to find the location of consciousness then the discovery of subjectivity shouldn't be that far away but as I read Damasio's book I realized that even if you believe that consciousness is located (or arises) as a function of the RF and the cingulate there is still the problem of subjectivity as well "self" or "personhood". I understand the deductive reasoning Damasio uses and I feel as though thoughts such as these will lead toward a better understanding on how "self" is created.-- I look forward to this week's discussion on consciousness and the possible locations or interactions which surround this abstract concept. adrianne
Name: melissa
Username: mwachter@haverford.edu
Subject: consciousness
Date: Thu Feb 10 00:10:10 EST 2000
Comments:
Well I guess that I have become more accustomed to Damasio's writing style and general approach to consciousness. Am I correct that he uses the term 1st order map for the image of the object and the organism and then uses 2nd order map as what is composed when the relationship between an object and the organism (self) are integrated...I think that then on page 170 he says that this 2nd order map is equal to a feeling...we focused a lot on this concept of "feelings" during our first meeting--so is the second order map the neural basis for the "feeling"? Not to belabor the point, but I think it can be confusing...a "feeling" arises when the non-conscious proto-self is re-represented after being modified by the 1st order map of the object...yes?

I thought a good point he made that cleared up some possible confusion from last time was that the contents of the autobiographical self (and thus extended consciousness) can only be known when there is a fresh construction of the core self (i.e. you must have core consciousness to have extended consciousness)

When he writes about "images of knowing" he explains that one thing that they do is give us a sense of agency: " these images are mine and I can act on the object that causes these images"...this relates to a lot of the studies on non-human primates such as the "monkey in the mirror" test (did we talk about that last time...perhaps not.

I was fascinated to learn about anosognosia...a right hemisphere problem where people can't recognize illness in themselves and even don't remember it when they are told...how strange!


Name: Ann Mitchell
Username: amitchel@haverford.edu
Subject: more Damasio
Date: Thu Feb 10 02:06:33 EST 2000
Comments:
After trying to make sense of the relationship between the autobiographical self and the core self I was a little bit confused by Damasio’s idea that the core self is transient and the autobiographical self is what remains the same. Maybe this is just another case of vocabulary, but this concept seems counterintuitive to me, given the fact that your autobiographical self includes memories. I do not conceive of memories, or even working memory, as something that I would describe as “the part of the self that appears to remain the same.” What is meant by this statement? Does that mean this part does not continue to develop or change? Later on, he talks about how we are constantly “remodeling” our autobiographical self. So which is it? Further on, he talks about how some autobiographical memories “remain submerged for long periods of time and may always remain so....the memories of some autobiographical events may not be fully reconstructed, may be constructed in ways different from the original, or may never again see the light of consciousness.”p.227 Does this imply then that the part of ourselves that remains constant has an unconscious correlate that may never become conscious, yet nevertheless exists?

Furthermore, if I was going to conceive as the whole of what is my self as having one part the same and one part changing, I might think that it was those things which did not relate directly to my daily activities, such as past and future, memories, etc., but rather specific personality traits that remained the same over time as a result of biological organization, or biological disposition. I suppose Damasio had to attribute transient to core self and non-transient to autobiographical self for good reasons, but right now those reasons seem to be none other than to fit in with the rest of his theory. However, I do have to admit that I am much more comfortable with his theories after he presents real neurological data. When I speak of this, I am talking about the chapter entitled , “The Neurology of Consciousness “ not the numerous case studies he chooses as examples. The disorders are indeed fascinating, and the last chapter in particular sheds some light as to why he makes the claims he makes and some of his theory.


Name: feyza
Username: fsancar@brynmawr.edu
Subject: next three chapters
Date: Thu Feb 10 16:52:05 EST 2000
Comments:

I was, overall, disappointed by the section we read for this week. I found that instead of elucidating some of the abstract theoretical constructs he proposed in the first four chapters, Damasio actually added additional constructs (or should I say confounds). As an example, I found it a bit frustrating when he decided to introduce the concept of proto-self. His initial presentation of core consciousness was not clearly or easily related to the terminology of emotion, feeling, and conscious awareness of feeling (as we established in the first discussion session). I think it only complicated issues to attempt to associate the proto-self to the already ill-defined and abstract notion of core consciousness. Damasio seems to be adding layers upon layers of complexity without necessarily relating each subsequent layer to the one previous layer, and the ideally, to the foundations that he defines as crucial to consciousness. I found that the charts and diagrams (such as the ones on pgs 174, 175, 178, and 199) provided were extremely useful in clarifying some of these issues of ordering/hierarchy and interrelation of concepts. I only wish he used them more often, and earlier on in the presentation of a new concept.

Although I found it helpful that he tries to identify neurological components to each facet of conscious states, he did so without regard to the readers knowledge base. In chapter 6 especially, he keeps introducing anatomical brain structures that he thinks are "required to implement consciousness" without actually explaining why he would draw such a conclusion (i.e.-why he would implicate these structures in particular). He fails to refer to experimental evidence (if any) that may have led him to implicate those structures. If the reader is not going to be informed of the logical reasons for associating certain brain structures with certain functions or mechanisms (such as the proto-self), I do not see the point in mentioning them at all. This is valid even if the reader can infer, or make an educated guess as to why those structures may be responsible for the function (the less you leave to the readers assumption, the clearer the writing will be).

One thing that I found very interesting, and tended to agree with, is the idea that language is not a prerequisite to consciousness. As Damasio says, there must be something to translate (some feeling or some entity) before language can be of any use. In this case, language is, in part, a product of being conscious. Plus, to assume an opposite linear progression would be to say that any organism without the gift of language lacks consciousness (which is terribly erroneous).

Another point which was just briefly addressed was the relation of the somatosensory mapping system to consciousness. I am not sure what to infer about the mapping of body signals as it relates to consciousness from what was mentioned in the book. From what I understand the proto-self is the collection of these somatosensory neural maps/patterns. He divides these maps into 3 categories: visceral, musculoskeletal, and fine touch. He also mentions that we are not conscious of the proto-self (the entity which encompasses the three neural map categories) but that the proto-self is the biological precursor to core-consciousness. With this logic, it can be inferred that we cannot control the structures involved in somatosensing (since it only seems logical that we can't be in voluntary control of something we are not conscious of even at the simplest levels). I only think about this idea because it relates to biofeedback. Biofeedback involves the conscious effort to control certain smooth visceral muscles which, as identified here, we are not (cannot be?) in conscious control of. I think it would be interesting to explore the possibility of conscious control of "non-conscious" mechanisms (or this would even be possible under the stipulations made in Damasio's book).


Name: ruchi
Username: rrohatgi@bmc
Subject: more consciousness
Date: Fri Feb 11 00:09:43 EST 2000
Comments:
Damasio remarked that the biology of consciousness was basically discovering how the brain could construct neural patterns that map an object and an organism and their relationship. This seems somewhat understandable and what I gathered to be one of the underlying ideas in these next three chapters. However, the line between knowing and being aware is still a bit fuzzy, and although Damasio tries to provide insight into it, it is not clear in my opinion.

Damasio claims that the urge to stay alive is a property of both simple and complex organisms, but what makes humans different is that they know about this urge. This is of course attributed to consciousness. This leads to an interesting question- do animals have consciousness? I mean, not to the extent of humans. Maybe animals' consciousness in the sense of the term maybe more instinctual. Instincts are good examples of feelings that one is not fully aware of. This also ties into Damasio's discussion of the proto-self. The proto-self is described as neural patterns which map moment by moment (in the present always) the state of the physical structure or "internal millieu" of the organism. Also, what he says is that the proto-self has no perception and holds no knowledge-but this is not clear to me. The proto-self does hold knowledge-transient knowledge- but how much time is really a moment? I guess what Damasio is trying to say is that proto-self is not able to hold perspective since it is only based on the here and now.

I was a little bit confused on the "something-to be- known" aspect of consciousness and how it exerted effects on the proto-self (it made sense at first, but after re-reading it, i'm confused). So, a something-to-be-known (let's say an object of some sort) has a complex effect on the proto-self, but this is not consciousness. "Consciousness arises when the object, the organism, and their relationship can be relationship can be re-represented....??" What does re-represent refer to?

I thought it was interesting that memories are accompanied by our actual reactions to the object and not just the physical characterization of that object. In our storehouse of memory, all of our emotional reactions are recorded!


Name: Kim
Username: kimlbube@aol.com
Subject: New Section, more data
Date: Fri Feb 11 01:39:14 EST 2000
Comments:
It is definitely true that one has to have a VERY open mind to absorb all the new concepts that Damasio keeps introducing in the different sections of the book. Although I do not feel sufficiently satisfied that all the concepts and issues raised in the first section of the book were sufficiently covered, I definitely enjoyed and found more of the neurobiological evidence presented in the second half to be less abstract. As I discussed with Dr. Thapar at the end of the last seminar, I do find Damasio frustrating, and continue to do so, in the sense that he just has so many terms for everything. I think the arguments would be slightly less confusing, and more universally acceptable if the termonology remained more constand with already held scientific definitions. For example, the distinctinos between the different types of self, autobiographical and core,were hard to reconcile in my mind. On the whole, though, I suppose Damasio is less confusing, more comprehensible, but I am still up in the air and not convinced I fully absorbed the drive behind all his ideas. Kim
Name: David
Username: dmintzer@haverford.edu
Subject: demasio
Date: Fri Feb 11 03:01:06 EST 2000
Comments:
I guess the reason I am not very satisfied with demasio's explication of consciousness is the question which he chooses to address at the very beginning of his book. He describes to aspects of consciousness. The first is that of qualia-- sentient, experience. He chooses to dismiss this problem and instead focus on how the mind develops a sense of self. He might be able to talk about complex relations between organism and object, how the former is affected by the latter and how images might form from this interaction, but without addressing the issue of how we experience this sense of self, he might as well be describing a computer. maybe this problem of sentience should be left to the philosophers and not the psychologists, but i feel that demasio's limited view on consciousness is inadequate.

Regarding the specifics of this weeks reading, i'm not sure if i agree with demasios characterization of first order and second order neural processing. he seemed to say that first order processing involved the direct influence of the object on the proto-self. second order processing forms images (and thus knowledge) of these effects. This seems dangerously close to the homunculus which demasio rejects. the second order processing oversees the sensory input and forms an image of it. then what stops us from asking what oversees these images (a question demasio rightfully rejects)?. in other words, could an image be formed directly by the reaction of the neural network to sensory information? obviously this information is highly processed, but distinguishing a second order of processing seems unnecessary.

I do like demasio's distinction between the organism and the object. it takes some of the mystery away as to how the organism could develop a sense of self. since it senses its own being (through somatosensory information) exactly as it senses external stimuli, it seems plausable that if the brain is conscious of external stimuli, it would similiarly be conscious of itself. This suggests that the degree of external consciousness which an organism exhibits parallels the development of its self-concept and theory of mind.


Name: Rehema
Username: rtrimiew@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Reading
Date: Fri Feb 11 10:27:56 EST 2000
Comments:
I have been trying to determine hew certain evidence fits in to Damasio's picture of the mind. He mentions earlier in the book how when driving you may suddenly turn and see that the person in the other car is looking at you. You were not consciously aware of the person, but some part of your mind saw the other car, processed the information, and influenced your proto self? or you extended consciousness? to turn and see why the other person was looking at you. What is going on in occasions like this accorcding to Damasio? Is the core consciouness processing what is being seen around your periphery determining its importance and then notifying your protoself? I'm still not clear on what is going on when some part of your unconscious mind solves problems, sees the person in the nearby car looking at you, comes up with an answer to the question that you were thinking about earlier, or any of the other things it does that become available to your protoself or extended consciouness later.