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PSYC 2510
Agnieszka Kopinska

CONSCIOUSNESS  Understanding consciousness has driven psychology since it’s birth  Wundt and the structuralists through introspection  Consciousness – the awareness of the immediate experience (awareness of internal and external stimuli)  William James (1904)  Wrote an essay – “Does consciousness exist?”  Consciousness is not a “thing” but a process  The function of consciousness is knowing  Stream of consciousness – constant change  No current coherent framework of consciousness Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (ITT) of Consciousness  Conscious states are highly differentiated  Conscious information is deeply integrated  Put together all the different things you’re conscious of into a “big idea”  Interaction in the brain create various states of consciousness  = extent to which brain is integrated  ITT explains why consciousness can occur without stimulation, as in REM sleep  Assumes that all beings can achieve some level of consciousness  Unanswered questions:  What’s the evolutionary advantage of developing consciousness?  Why are so many human processes unconscious? States of consciousness  Sleep and wakefulness  Altered states of consciousness  Hypnosis  Dissociation  Substance-induced  Meditation  We can measure states of consciousness with a EEG  BETA (high-frequency) waves – awake, normal alert consciousness  ALPHA waves – relaxed, calm, lucid, not thinking  THETA waves – deep relaxation and meditation, mental imagery  DELTA (low-frequency) waves – deep, dreamless sleep  Still unsure what relationship brainwaves and states of consciousness have  Attention is important (but not essential) in controlled states of consciousness  Some cognitive processes are automatic instead  e.g. mind wandering/day dreaming Biological Rhythms and Sleep  Biological rhythms – periodic fluctuations in physiological functioning  Monitored by internal/biological clocks  Influence changes in consciousness  Circadian rhythms  Repeat once a day (cycle over about 24 hours)  Continue even in the absence of external cues  Can be adjusted to match time zone  E.g. sleep regulation, hunger, hormonal secretions  Circadian rhythms are regulated by multiple internal clocks  Central executive is suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)  Sleeping enough is important to ensure optimal cognitive functioning  Jet-lag, shift work, and ignoring one’s own sleep pattern results in difficulty sleeping and less efficient functioning  Studied in laboratories overnight  cycle is repeated about 4 times  each cycle lasts about 90 minutes  REM sleep tends to get longer as the night progresses  Sleep patterns change over time  Infancy – twice as much REM sleep than adults  Adults – more time in stage 1 and less deep sleep time, especially for men  Elderly – sleep less (on average) and wake up more often  Sleep is a function of multiple neurotransmitters and brain areas working together  Ascending reticular activating system (ARAS)  Sleep and waking regulation  Medulla, thalamus, hypothalamus, limbic system  Sleep and waking  Pons and midbrain  REM sleep  Serotonin, GABA, and other neurotransmitters also affect sleep and wakefulness  Sleep restriction – not getting enough sleep (<5hr.s/night, for many nights)  Impairs cognitive functioning to some extent  Can result in accidents and mistakes, slower response times  Selective deprivation  Happens during sleep studies  Participants woken up whenever they enter REM sleep or slow- wave sleep  Show that body seeks to “catch up” on these missed stages during subsequent nights  Sleeping helps consolidate our memories so that learning can occur  Different stages of sleep may be involved in consolidation of different types of information Sleep Disorders  Insomnia – trouble falling sleep, staying asleep, or sleeping until desired wake-up time, for at least one month  Can be caused by anxiety, medical problems, substance abuse, etc.  Widespread problem – about 34-35% of adults report insomnia symptoms  Increases with age  50% more common with women than with men  Treatment - Benzodiazepines (sleeping pills)  GABA synapses  Effective short-term solution  Potential for dependence to develop  Interference with sleep cycle  Treatment – cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help frustration linked to insomnia  Identify/reduce cycle of negative thoughts that leads to anxiety  Abdominal breathing exercises  Vivid imagery  Progressive muscle relaxation  Narcolepsy – day time “sleep attacks”  Sleep apnea – breathing interruptions during sleep  Nightmares (REM sleep) – when most vivid dreaming happens  Night terrors (non-REM sleep) – not a dream per se, altered state of consciousness but eyes can be open; may be a physiological phenomenon; a state between sleep and alertness  Somnambulism – sleep walking; occurs about two hours into the sleep cycle Dreaming  Aristotle wrote about the nature of dreams in 350 B.C.E  There is still controversy surrounding the mechanisms of dreaming  Overall understanding: mental experiences, some strange content, mainly during REM sleep  some dream themes are more common than others
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