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7-brain states and consciousness.docx

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University of Guelph
PSYC 1000
Benjamin Giguere

BRAIN STATES AND CONSCIOUSNESS Defining Consciousness  At the beginning psychology was the description and explanation of states of consciousness  Emerging school of behaviourism turned to direct observations of behaviour  After 1960, neuroscience advances related brain activity to sleeping, dreaming& mental states  Psychology was affirming the importance of cognition, or mental states  Consciousness our awareness of ourselves and our environment  This awareness allows us to assemble information from many sources as we reflect on our past and plan for the future  It allows us to focus our attention when we learn a complex concept or behaviour  Over time, we flit between various states of consciousness, including sleeping, walking, and altered states  Consciousness helps us act in our long-term interests (by considering consequences) rather than merely seeking short-term pleasure and avoiding pain The Biology of Consciousness Cognitive Neuroscience  Cognitive neuroscience the interdisciplinary study of the brain activity linked with our mental processes  Relates brain states to conscious experiences  Even in a motionless body, the researchers concluded, the brain and the mind may still be active  Many cognitive neuroscientists are exploring and mapping the conscious functions of the cortex  One view sees conscious experiences as produced by the synchronized activity across the brain  If a stimulus activates enough brain wide coordinated neural activity-with strong signals in one brain area triggering activity elsewhere-it crosses a threshold for consciousness  A weaker stimulus-perhaps a word flashed too briefly to consciously perceive- may trigger localized visual cortex activity quickly dies out  A stronger stimulus will engage other brain areas, such as those involved with language, attention, and memory  Such reverberating activity is a telltale sign of cons
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