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New awesome set of consciousness papers

From the Thomas Metzinger lab, in collaboration with Jennifer Windt and Ying-Tung Lin, comes this great collection of target papers, each with commentary and reply (heavy on philosophical approaches, but far from exclusively so!)

Look at the list of contributors — a grand set of specialists if ever I saw one. Especially the discussion/reply format is a welcome addition to the more topical Blackwell and the Oxford encyclopaedic ones.

The Web’s Largest Database of Consciousness Papers

Years ago philosopher David Chalmers put together a database of online papers on consciousness – it now contains about 7734 free online available papers neatly categorised:

It is truly Ali Baba’s cave, especially because they are topically organised.

Action Potentials 101

We say neurons send electrical messages to each other. Really, they send electrochemical signals. What this means is that chemicals in the body of the cell cause an electrical signal. When electrically charged, chemicals are known as ions. In this context, when thinking about neurons, important ions in the nervous system are sodium, potassium (positively charged), calcium (positively charged) and chloride (negatively charged).

When a neuron is at rest, it is not sending a signal. (more…)

Neurons 101

Neurons are brain and nerve cells that transmit electrical activity around the brain and to and from your body, sending messages and allowing you to think. There are several types:

  • Sensory neurons: these carry signals from the outer parts of your body (periphery) into the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord); these help you sense the world around you.
  • Motor neurons: also known as motoneurons, these also carry (more…)

Phantoms in the Temporal Lobe

In 1997, UC researchers Jeffery Saver and John Rabin claimed that the limbic system of the brain (an area within reach of the temporal lobes involved in emotion) plays an important role in religious experiences. In their journal article of the same year, they went on to identify a type of person prone to religious experiences that they consider to have a “temporal lobe personality”, which is for the most part something associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a complicated disorder caused by the misfiring of neurons that result in seizures. In epilepsy, (more…)

Exploring Spiritual Neuroscience

In 1902 William James, prominent psychologist, philosopher, and physician, first spoke of the study of transcendental spiritual experiences and altered states of consciousness through the use of mind altering substances saying: “No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.”

James didn’t know it, but he’d stumbled upon a field of research so incredibly controversial that its future remains uncertain today. That field, known as neurotheology, (more…)