A New Theory in Physics Claims to Solve the Mystery of Consciousness

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Summary: The researchers say that consciousness cannot be reduced to neural activity alone. A new study reports that the dynamics of consciousness can be understood with a newly developed conceptual and mathematical framework.

Source: Bar-Ilan University

How does 1.4 kg of brain tissue create thoughts, emotions, mental images and an inner world?

The brain’s ability to create consciousness has puzzled some for thousands of years. The mystery of consciousness lies in the fact that each of us has a subjectivity to feel, feel and think.

Unlike being in a deep sleep under anesthesia or without dreams, we don’t “live in the dark” while awake – we experience the world and ourselves. But how the brain creates conscious experience and which part of the brain is responsible for it remains a mystery.

Dr. “It’s a rather mysterious thing, as our conscious experience cannot originate in the brain and in fact from any physical process,” said physicist Nir Lahav of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Strange as it may sound, conscious experience in our brain cannot be found or reduced to some neural activity.

“Think of it this way,” says Dr. Zakaria Neemeh, a philosopher at the University of Memphis, said, “When I feel happiness, my brain will create a distinctive pattern of complex neural activity. This neural pattern will be perfectly linked to my conscious sense of happiness, but it’s not my true emotion. It’s just a neural model that represents my happiness. So a scientist who looks into my brain and sees this pattern should ask me how I feel, because the pattern is just a representation of the emotion, not the emotion itself.”

As a result, we cannot reduce the conscious experience of what we feel, feel, and think to any brain activity. Only with these experiences can we find correlations.

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

This mystery is known as the hard problem of consciousness. This is such a difficult problem that until a few decades ago only philosophers debated it, and even today, although we have made great progress in our understanding of the neuroscientific basis of consciousness, there is still no adequate theory to explain what consciousness is and how it works. To solve this difficult problem.

Dr. Lahav and Dr. Neemeh recently published a new physical theory in the journal Boundaries in Psychology claiming to have solved the difficult problem of consciousness in a purely physical way.

According to the authors, the mystery of consciousness is naturally unraveled when we change our assumption about consciousness and assume that it is a relative phenomenon. In the paper, the researchers developed a conceptual and mathematical framework for understanding consciousness from a relative perspective.

Dr. Lahav, the paper’s lead author, states that “consciousness should be explored with the same mathematical tools that physicists use for other known relativistic phenomena.”

To understand how relativity solves the difficult problem, think about a different relativistic phenomenon, constant velocity. Let’s choose two observers, Alice and Bob, with Bob on a train moving at constant speed and Alice watching him from the platform. There is no definite physical answer to the question of what is Bob’s speed.

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

It will measure that Bob is motionless from the frame of reference and Alice is moving backwards with the rest of the world. But it is Bob who moves from Alice’s frame, and he is static.

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

According to the theory, we find the same situation in the state of consciousness, since consciousness is a relative phenomenon.

Now Alice and Bob are in different cognitive frames of reference. Bob will measure that she has conscious experience, but Alice will measure that she has brain activity with no trace of actual conscious experience, while Alice will measure that she has consciousness and that she has neural activity with no clue of Bob’s conscious experience.

Just like in the case of speed, they are both correct, although they have opposing metrics, but are from different cognitive frames of reference.

In conclusion, due to the relative perspective, it is okay for us to measure different features from different frames of reference.

The reason we cannot find true conscious experience when measuring brain activity is that 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 calculations. The reason we have conscious experience is because of the physical measurement process.

In summary, different physical measurements in different frames of reference show different physical properties in these frames of reference, even though these frames measure the same phenomenon.

For example, let’s say Bob measures Alice’s brain while she’s feeling happiness in the lab. Although they observe different features, they actually measure the same phenomenon from different angles. Due to different types of measures, different types of features were manifested in cognitive frames of reference.

In order for Bob to observe brain activity in the lab, he needs to use measurements of sensory organs such as his eyes. This kind of sensory measurement reveals the substrate that causes brain activity, namely neurons.

This shows the outline of a head
After more than 100 years of neuroscience, we have very good evidence that the brain is responsible for the creation of our conscious abilities. image public domain

Consequently, in her cognitive framework, Alice has only neural activity representing her consciousness, but no sign of her true conscious experience itself. But Alice uses different kinds of metrics to measure her own neural activity and happiness. It does not use sense organs, but measures its neural representations directly through the interaction between one part of the brain and other parts. Measures neural representations in relation to other neural representations she.

This is a completely different measurement from what our sensory system does, and as a result, this type of direct measurement shows a different kind of physical property. We call this the ownership consciousness experience.

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

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Using mathematical tools to describe relativistic phenomena in physics, the theory is that if the dynamics of Bob’s neural activity could be altered, like the dynamics of Alice’s neural activity, then both would be in the same cognitive frame of reference and have exactly the same conscious experience as the other.

Now the authors want to continue examining the exact minimum measurements required of any cognitive system to create consciousness.

The implications of such a theory are enormous. It can be applied to determine which animal was the first animal to have consciousness in the evolutionary process, when a fetus or infant began to be conscious, which unconscious patients were conscious, and which AI systems are currently low grade (if any). any) consciousness.

About this consciousness and physics research news

Author: Elana Oberlander
Source: Bar-Ilan University
Communication: Elana Oberlander – Bar-Ilan University
Images: image public domain

Original research: Open Access.
A Relative Theory of ConsciousnessNir Lahav et al. Boundaries in Psychology


A Relative Theory of Consciousness

In recent years, the scientific study of consciousness has dramatically increased our understanding of this elusive phenomenon. Yet, despite critical advances in our understanding of the functional aspect of consciousness, we still lack a basic theory of its phenomenal aspect.

There is an “explanatory gap” between our scientific knowledge of functional consciousness and the “subjective”, phenomenal aspects of consciousness called the “hard problem”. The phenomenal aspect of consciousness is a first-person answer to the question of “what is it like” and has thus far proven stubborn in guiding scientific research.

Naturalist dualists claim that consciousness consists of a primitive, specific, non-reducing element of reality independent of its functional and physical aspects. Illusionists argue that this is just a cognitive illusion and that everything that exists is ultimately physical, non-extraordinary properties.

We argue that both the dualist and illusionist positions are flawed because they implicitly assume that consciousness is an absolute property that does not depend on the observer.

We develop a conceptual and mathematical argument for a relativistic theory of consciousness whether a system has phenomenal consciousness or not. according to some observers.

Extraordinary consciousness is neither private nor delusional, just relative. It will be observable in the reference frame of the cognitive system (first-person perspective) and not in another frame of reference (third-person perspective). Both of these cognitive frames of reference are correct, just as if one observer claims to be at rest while another claims that the observer has constant velocity.

Given that consciousness is a relative phenomenon, neither observer position can be privileged, since they both describe the same fundamental reality. Based on relativistic phenomena in physics, we have developed a mathematical formalization for consciousness that fills the explanatory gap and solves the difficult problem.

Given that the first-person cognitive frame of reference also offers legitimate observations on consciousness, we conclude by arguing that philosophers can contribute usefully to the science of consciousness by collaborating with neuroscientists to explore the neural basis of phenomenal structures.

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