Consciousness, New Thinking About

Matt Jones jonesmat at physiology.wisc.edu
Fri Jun 7 12:53:18 EST 2002


"DJ" <DJ at hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<newscache$r8abxg$j34$1 at maggie.netlink.com.au>...

> You have gone to great lengths to point out that seizure
> disorders can accentuate memory problems - which I agree with - and you seem
> to have adopted the conventional view that the reverse isn't even worthy of
> consideration - which I disagree with. 

I simply didn't mention it because I've never seen any  experimental
or clinical evidence for the idea that specific "thought patterns"
cause seizures. Do you know of any research supporting this idea?


> It's my impression
> that certain thought patterns can over time, make a person more susceptible
> to seizure disorders than others.  For example, if a child develops a habit
> of obsessively thinking and reflecting on past events (and thoughts), in
> time it could theoretically make the brain's juggling act of retrieving long
> term memories, short term memories and memories of "reflective" activity -
> in a meaningful way - more difficult than it needs to be.  Which could in
> turn lead to seizure activity, which could in turn worsen the ability to
> retrieve memories, which could in turn lead to seizure activity, and so on.


All this is possible. But do you actually know of any documented and
verifiable cases of people "thinking themselves into a seizure"?

Clearly, seizures are related to the state of neural activity. Visual
stimuli, such as flashbulbs or repetitive strobing (like the lines on
the highway flowing past a moving car) can trigger seizures in many
people.
But it isn't clear that internal "conscious" activity precipitates
seizures. I admit it's possible, but just haven't seen it described.
If it were true, then one could presumably induce a seizure in oneself
at will.

>Most people would probably say that consciousness
> doesn't require memory.  I disagree.

I certainly wouldn't say that (why do you think most people would, by
the way?). Memory is central to consciousness as the function that
maintains the unity of the "self" from one moment to the next. Without
this, we couldn't possibly know who we are, and thus wouldn't be able
to undergo introspection, self-awareness, or whatever consciousness
is.

Incidentally, hippocampal damage doesn't prevent memories of things
that happened a few minutes ago. This very short term memory buffer
probably resides in frontal cortex. So patients with hippocampal
damage don't have a problem remembering who they are, just what they
had for breakfast yesterday.



Cheers,

Matt




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