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Sleep and Consciousness

Thu, Sep 17, 2009

ConsciousnessQ&A

The Neural Bases of Consciousness 

  • The word consciousness refers to a state when a person is conscious or unconscious.   
  • The term is also used to indicate a sense of conscious experience, or awareness of something 
  • Consciousness involves short-term memory
  • Fully conscious humans have a sense of self, which requires relatively long-term memory

Consciousness varies in level:

  •  with coma and deep anesthesia on one extreme
  •  alert wakefulness on the other, and
  • sleep in between 

There are also altered states of consciousness:

  •  including hypnosis, including therapeutic and experimental hypnosis
  •  trances (sef-inflicted or natural)
  •  meditative states, including yoga, chi, raiki, and others

We will consider three components of consciousness:

  • awareness
  • attention 
  • sense of self 

 Sleep and Dreaming

  • The fact that species with higher metabolic rates typically spend more time in sleep supports the hypothesis that sleep is restorative
  • Support for this idea comes from the observation that species with higher metabolic rates typically spend more time in sleep
  • A less obvious explanation is the adaptive hypothesis. According to this view, the amount of sleep an animal engages in depends on the availability of food and on safety considerations
  • According to the activation-synthesis hypothesis, during  REM sleep  the forebrain integrates neural activity generated by the brain stem with information stored in memory 
  • In other words, the brain uses information from memory to impose meaning on nonsensical random input.

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