Consciousness without a brain?

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arjand
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Consciousness without a brain?

Post by arjand » May 7th, 2020, 3:55 pm

Many people are convinced that consciousness originates in the brain and that human emotions, behaviors and thoughts correlate with brain states.

Daniel Dennett, the high-profile atheist and philosophy professor at Tufts University outside Boston, argues that consciousness, as we think of it, is an illusion: there just isn’t anything in addition to the spongy stuff of the brain, and that spongy stuff doesn’t actually give rise to something called consciousness. However hard it feels to accept, we should concede that consciousness is just the physical brain, doing what brains do.
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.10 ... 03633-1_11

There are many people without a brain that are conscious and capable of living a normal human life. This topic is intended to discuss the implications for theories of consciousness.

An example case is that of a French man who has just 10% brain tissue. At 44 years age, at a random hospital check, it was discovered that 90% of his brains were missing. The man is married, has two children and works as a civil servant.

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(2016) Meet The Man Who Lives Normally With Damage to 90% of His Brain

A French man who lives a relatively normal, healthy life - despite damaging 90 percent of his brain - is causing scientists to rethink what it is from a biological perspective that makes us conscious.

Despite decades of research, our understanding of consciousness - being aware of one's existence - is still pretty thin. Many scientists think that the physical source of consciousness is based in the brain, but then how can someone lose the majority of their neurons and still be aware of themselves and their surroundings?

First described in The Lancet in 2007, the case of the man who appears to be missing most of his brain has been puzzling scientists for almost 10 years.

Not only did his case study cause scientists to question what it takes to survive, it also challenges our understanding of consciousness.

In the past, researchers have suggested that consciousness might be linked to various specific brain regions - such as the claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons running between major brain regions, or the visual cortex.

But if those hypotheses were correct, then the French man shouldn't be conscious, with the majority of his brain damaged.

"Any theory of consciousness has to be able to explain why a person like that, who's missing 90 percent of his neurons, still exhibits normal behaviour," Axel Cleeremans, a cognitive psychologist from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium"


https://www.sciencealert.com/a-man-who- ... sciousness

(2007) Man with tiny brain shocks doctors (first publication)
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn ... s-doctors/

Some have argued, based on the fact that the publication of the case in The Lancet did not mention the percentage of brain tissue that was missing, that the brain is merely compressed.

(2018) So his brain’s just squished (rather than only 10% there): A Bonsai Brain
https://www.untrammeledmind.com/2018/02 ... ai-brains/

90% compression potential for a brain does not seem plausible. The research by pediatrics professor John Lorber, a specialist, indicates that brain weight is reduced to grams compared to the default 1.5 kg, which implies that brain tissue is actually missing. That it is actually the case, is evident from the notion that holding a light besides the head of the children will light up their skull.

Children with hydranencephaly are essentially missing every part of their brain except for the brain stem and cerebellum and a few other structures. Holding a light near such a child's head illuminates the skull like a jack-o'-lantern.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/arti ... ple-brain/

Professor John Lorber studied hundreds of cases including that of a student with an IQ of 126.

Remarkable story of maths genius who had almost no brain

The student was bright, having an IQ of 126. The doctor noticed that the student's head seemed a little larger than normal and he referred him to Dr Lorber for further examination. Dr Lorber examined the boy's head by Cat-scan to discover that the student had virtually no brain.

Dr Lorber systematically studied hydrocephalus and documented over 600 scans of people with this condition. He divided them into four groups: people with nearly normal brains; those with between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the cranium filled with fluid; those with 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the cranium filled with fluid; those with 95 per cent of the cranium filled with fluid. The latter group constituted less than 10 per cent of the study and half of these people were profoundly mentally disabled. However, the other half had IQs over 100.

"I can't say whether the mathematics student with an IQ of 126 had a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it is clear it is nowhere near the normal 1.5kg and much of the brain he does have is in the more primitive deep structures that are relatively spared in hydrochephalus".


https://www.irishtimes.com/news/remarka ... -1.1026845

Note: the case about a student with an IQ of 126 was apparently never published @Consul.

(1980) Professor Lorber: Is Your Brain Really Necessary?
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/210/4475/1232

There are many similar cases:

(1989) Boy Born Without Brain Proves Doctors Wrong
Doctors said he would never smile and would be lucky to live more than a few weeks, but a boy born without a brain is now 5 years old and laughs at Disney Channel programs, says his adoptive mother.
https://apnews.com/08099b98348a930469a232b9250f1509

(2018) Boy with 'no brain' stuns doctors as he learns to count and attends school in touching new documentary
Noah Wall was born with less than 2% of a brain - but he has amazed medics by growing into a happy, chatty little boy
https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/boy ... rs-9778554

Questions:

1) is it evident from the mentioned cases that consciousness does not originate in the brain?
2) is there a theory of consciousness that could explain the mentioned cases?
If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.

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arjand
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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by arjand » May 7th, 2020, 5:23 pm

The following philosophy blog on the topic provides a perspective on the cases by philosophy professor Gualtiero Piccinini.

Phenomenal Consciousness without Cerebral Cortex?
Contrary to what many doctors apparently assume, there is overwhelming evidence that hydranencephalic children, who lack a cerebral cortex, are creature conscious in a robust sense.
http://philosophyofbrains.com/2007/05/2 ... ortex.aspx
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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Terrapin Station » May 7th, 2020, 7:06 pm

arjand wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 3:55 pm
Daniel Dennett, the high-profile atheist and philosophy professor at Tufts University outside Boston, argues that consciousness, as we think of it, is an illusion: there just isn’t anything in addition to the spongy stuff of the brain, and that spongy stuff doesn’t actually give rise to something called consciousness. However hard it feels to accept, we should concede that consciousness is just the physical brain, doing what brains do.
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.10 ... 03633-1_11
"Consciousness is an illusion" is a completely incoherent idea.

What's supposed to be experiencing the illusion if not consciousness?

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Sy Borg » May 7th, 2020, 9:48 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 7:06 pm
arjand wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 3:55 pm
Daniel Dennett, the high-profile atheist and philosophy professor at Tufts University outside Boston, argues that consciousness, as we think of it, is an illusion: there just isn’t anything in addition to the spongy stuff of the brain, and that spongy stuff doesn’t actually give rise to something called consciousness. However hard it feels to accept, we should concede that consciousness is just the physical brain, doing what brains do.
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.10 ... 03633-1_11
"Consciousness is an illusion" is a completely incoherent idea.

What's supposed to be experiencing the illusion if not consciousness?
I'm not sure too many like, or take seriously, Dan Dennett's dismissal of consciousness as an illusion. My understanding is that he doesn't take it seriously himself, and is trolling in much the same way as Lawrence Krauss trolled the public with the title of his book, A Universe from Nothing (where he follows to say that the universe actually did come from something). I think DD is challenging people to think of reasons why consciousness is not an illusion.
Where I am up to after the endless unresolved consciousness debates I've had with Consul is that proto-consciousness is everywhere (which he disagrees with). For mine, if there is a reaction there is a sensation. That is, being is fundamental. "Being", when it comes to proto-consciousness refers to subjective impressions too small, fleeting and faint for us big-brained humans to imagine. It would be like trying to notice a firefly in front of the Sun.

With the evolution of brains, tiny reflexes aggregated and organised over time to create exponentially more unified, broader and more potent impressions. Thus, in this model, the subjective difference between the ostensibly conscious and ostensibly unconscious is exponential rather than infinite. I believe this is referred to as the "soft emergence" hypothesis of consciousness.

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 7th, 2020, 10:56 pm

arjand wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 3:55 pm
...
There are many people without a brain that are conscious and capable of living a normal human life. This topic is intended to discuss the implications for theories of consciousness.

An example case is that of a French man who has just 10% brain tissue. At 44 years age, at a random hospital check, it was discovered that 90% of his brains were missing. The man is married, has two children and works as a civil servant.
...
Questions:

1) is it evident from the mentioned cases that consciousness does not originate in the brain?
2) is there a theory of consciousness that could explain the mentioned cases?
In Michael Graziano's newest book, "RETHINKING CONSCIOUSNESS A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience", he traces the earliest evolution of attention and the nervous system from 6 million years ago through the present and into the future possibility of uploading minds into a computer system. He also presents again, even more clearly, the attention schema theory of consciousness. In the appendix, he outlines how to create a conscious robot. First you give it a model of an object, such as an apple, with all the data needed to describe the properties of the apple. Next you give it a model of the self, with information as to its structure, location, movement, etc. Finally, you give it a model of consciousness, which carries data relating the model of the self to the model of the apple. It's a great book.

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Steve3007 » May 8th, 2020, 5:06 am

arjand wrote:An example case is that of a French man who has just 10% brain tissue. At 44 years age, at a random hospital check, it was discovered that 90% of his brains were missing. The man is married, has two children and works as a civil servant.
This isn't an example of consciousness without a brain. It's an example of consciousness with most of the brain missing. A critical difference. It's a remarkable story, but what it shows is that, at least simply in terms of volume, we don't need much brain to function. But obviously we still need some. Since the volumes of the brains of most other animals are a tiny fraction of the volume of human brains, I guess that's not too surprising?

I suppose if I was being flippant I could also say something about the amount of brain required to be a civil servant.

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by arjand » May 8th, 2020, 7:20 am

Steve3007 wrote:
May 8th, 2020, 5:06 am
arjand wrote:An example case is that of a French man who has just 10% brain tissue. At 44 years age, at a random hospital check, it was discovered that 90% of his brains were missing. The man is married, has two children and works as a civil servant.
This isn't an example of consciousness without a brain. It's an example of consciousness with most of the brain missing. A critical difference. It's a remarkable story, but what it shows is that, at least simply in terms of volume, we don't need much brain to function. But obviously we still need some. Since the volumes of the brains of most other animals are a tiny fraction of the volume of human brains, I guess that's not too surprising?
When one considers a human to have "a brain", could that include 10% brain tissue in a context in which it was not intended?

What can be deducted from the case is at least that intactness of "a brain" is not what makes a brain "a brain". Further, it puts into question what exact originative role "a brain" has on human performance.
Steve3007 wrote:
May 8th, 2020, 5:06 am
I suppose if I was being flippant I could also say something about the amount of brain required to be a civil servant.
Don't forget a loving father and a husband ;)
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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Steve3007 » May 8th, 2020, 7:24 am

rjand wrote:When one considers a human to have "a brain", could that include 10% brain tissue in a context in which it was not intended?
Intended? By whom?

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Terrapin Station » May 8th, 2020, 8:41 am

Greta wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 9:48 pm
Where I am up to after the endless unresolved consciousness debates I've had with Consul is that proto-consciousness is everywhere (which he disagrees with).
I don't think there are any better reasons to believe that "proto-consciousness is everywhere" than there are to believe that "proto-music-making is everywhere" or "proto-computing is everywhere" or "proto-volcanic eruptions are everywhere" or any properties that any arbitrary thing has. In other words, we could just as well say that "proto" anything is everywhere, and make it an interpretive exercise to characterize any phenomenon in a way that has something in common with the "proto" property we want to claim.

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Faustus5 » May 8th, 2020, 10:22 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 7:06 pm

"Consciousness is an illusion" is a completely incoherent idea.
It is, especially when the author describing Dennett's position gets it completely wrong.

What Dennett means when he says consciousness is a user illusion is pretty much what would be meant by saying a file icon on your desktop's screen is an illusion. There isn't really a brown folder somehow in your computer. That icon is merely a representation of a startlingly complex series of processes and structures in your machine, which is the "real" folder.

The things we report happening in us when we describe a conscious experience are just our brain's way of representing incredibly complex processes happening in our nervous systems in much the same way.

That said, I really wish Dennett would stop using the term "illusion", because he just invites people to misunderstand him when he does so.

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by arjand » May 8th, 2020, 10:52 am

Steve3007 wrote:
May 8th, 2020, 7:24 am
rjand wrote:When one considers a human to have "a brain", could that include 10% brain tissue in a context in which it was not intended?
Intended? By whom?
As intended by the physiology of the human.

The relative normal functioning of the mentioned people indicates that something other than brains may be at play that enables them to perform as a human.
If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Consul » May 8th, 2020, 11:56 am

arjand wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 3:55 pm
An example case is that of a French man who has just 10% brain tissue. At 44 years age, at a random hospital check, it was discovered that 90% of his brains were missing. The man is married, has two children and works as a civil servant.
It's not okay that you present these numbers as facts, because there is no scientific corroboration. The original scientific report in The Lancet ("Brain of a White-Collar Worker") is silent on how incomplete the man's brain actually is.
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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Consul » May 8th, 2020, 12:03 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 7:06 pm
"Consciousness is an illusion" is a completely incoherent idea.
What's supposed to be experiencing the illusion if not consciousness?
If you're interested in illusionism, this is the book to read: Illusionism as a Theory of Consciousness

Here's Keith Frankish's central paper with same title: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b722/f ... 8453e7.pdf

Also see: Eliminativism about Consciousness
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Consul » May 8th, 2020, 12:04 pm

Consul wrote:
May 8th, 2020, 12:03 pm
Also see: Eliminativism about Consciousness
Sorry, wrong link! See instead: https://marksprevak.com/publications/el ... ciousness/
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Consciousness without a brain?

Post by Count Lucanor » May 8th, 2020, 12:10 pm

arjand wrote:
May 7th, 2020, 3:55 pm
There are many people without a brain that are conscious and capable of living a normal human life. This topic is intended to discuss the implications for theories of consciousness.
This is misleading. First, the very few examples don't show people without brains and living normal human lives. They show people with brains, more or less damaged, and not living normal human lives. In the last case, the kid born with 2% of a his brain, the article states: "...The procedure was so successful that, over time, Noah's brain has grown into the space once occupied by the fluid. However, the spina bifida has resulted in paralysis from the chest down, so the little boy uses a wheelchair."

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