Thursday, September 16, 2010


Recent  Research Papers on Non-Dualism, "self" and Consciousness

Here are either the summaries (as provided by the Authors) or extracts taken from six interesting  published research papers on the topics of Non-Dualism, I-consciousness and Consciousness:

[Comments of Dr. C. Legendy, Dept. of Psychology, Columbia University and author of "Circuits in the Brain", 2009,  ( and Peter F. Dziuban on this Blog Post are given at the end.]

1.  “The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence”, by Cosimo Urgesi, Salvatore M. Aglioti, Miran Skrap, and Franco Fabbro, Neuron 65, 309–319, February 11, 2010.

Authors’ SUMMARY:
“The predisposition of human beings toward spiritual feeling, thinking, and behaviors is measured by a supposedly stable personality trait called self-transcendence. Although a few neuroimaging studies suggest that neural activation of a large fronto-parieto-temporal network may underpin a variety of spiritual experiences, information on the causative link between such a network and spirituality is lacking. Combining pre- and post-neurosurgery personality assessment with advanced brain-lesion mapping techniques, we found that selective damage to left and right inferior posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase of self-transcendence. Therefore, modifications of neural activity in temporoparietal areas may induce unusually fast modulations of a stable personality trait related to transcendental self-referential awareness. These results hint at the active, crucial role of left and right parietal systems in determining self-transcendence and cast new light on the neurobiological bases of altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors in neurological and mental disorders.”

2.  “Understanding Consciousness -- A Collaborative Attempt to Elucidate Contemporary Theories”, by A. Pereira Jr., J. C.W. Edwards, D. Lehmann, C.  Nunn, A. Trehub and M.Velmans, Jour of Consciousness Studies, 17, No. 5–6, 2010, pp. 213–19.

Nature Network Groups hosted an invited workshop on ‘Theories of Consciousness’ during the second semester of 2009. There were presentations by each of 15 authors active in the field, followed by debate with other presenters and invitees.

It should be said straight away that there was little general agreement in the workshop about what constituted the main problems, or how to address them.  Explaining consciousness is particularly difficult, it soon became evident, because it involves so many different conceptual and scientific domains. For example, consciousness has both ‘subjective’ (first-person) and ‘objective’ (third-person) aspects. Relating the two aspects poses problems for scientific methodology.

At the quantum level of description, a well known hypothesis states that consciousness is based on coherent states generated in microtubules (Hameroff, 1998). Recently, a new proposal about brain mechanisms supporting conscious processes — the neuro-astroglial calcium wave — has appeared (Pereira and Furlan, 2009; Nunn, 2010).

An intensely debated issue was the identity of the conscious subject. Who is the entity that experiences conscious, cognitive and emotional contents? Is it correct to relate this entity with the psychological ‘Self’? Attempts to answer these intriguing questions include single-cell consciousness, the idea that each neuron is a conscious entity (Edwards, 2005). A possibility implicitly assumed by many neuroscientists is that the Self is a brain network function. For Trehub (2007; 2009) the ‘Core Self’, corresponding to the origin of retinoid space, is an unchanging neuronal entity that anchors an ever-changing ‘Self Model’ (Metzinger, 2003). In cognitive sciences, the default position is that the conscious subject is the living individual (Pereira/Ricke, 2009). Finally, a recent proposal is that the conscious entity is like a traveling ‘pilot’ embodied in the activity of dendritic networks (Hameroff, 2010).

3.  “Me, Myself and I”, By U. Herwig, Scientific American Mind, Jul-Aug 2010, p: 59-63.

Although people change throughout their lives, most hold a steady view of who they are. How does the brain maintain a sense of self?

Mrs. K. is depressed, and Mr. M. is manic—but they both hold highly distorted views of themselves. It is more than just sage advice to “know thyself,” as Heraclitus advocated in the fifth century B.C. A realistic self-image is a hallmark of a healthy mind.

Relationships, careers and happiness suffer when reality doesn’t match who we think we are.
Neuroscientists have long searched for the origins of self in the brain. “I” remains hard to pin down. For one thing, it is the product of a distributed array of brain structures. More confounding, the “I” is a moving target: many factors—from a person’s upbringing to major life events— continually shape the self. This shifting sense of self does not only derive from the narratives we construct to make sense of our lives. It is also biological: experiences generate new brain cells and neural pathways.  Subjectively, we perceive the “I” as an unchanging framework—a steady reference point for ordering our thoughts, emotions and experiences.

4.  “Can science explain the soul?” By Dr. Hameroff and Dr. D. Chopra, SF Gate, 09 Aug 2010 

Now some scientists are willing to venture into the once forbidden territory of the soul, attempting to extract a theory that will allow for its existence. Redefined by the new field of quantum biology, the soul could be the link that connects individuals to the universe, a dynamic connection that could explain how consciousness came about, and why the cosmos itself seems to mirror our own intelligence and creativity.
In 1989, Sir Roger Penrose,  the famed British physicist, mathematician and cosmologist proposed that consciousness involved a specific form of quantum computation in the brain.  The Penrose notion of superpositions as Planck scale separations is very much like the multiple worlds hypothesis. Except rather than branching off new universes, Penrose concluded such separations are unstable, and will undergo quantum state reduction due to an objective threshold inherent in Planck scale geometry (hence objective reduction, 'OR'). Moreover he proposed that the choices of such OR self-collapses are not random, but influenced by what he termed Platonic information embedded in Planck scale geometry. Such information includes mathematical truth, as well as aesthetic and ethical values. Further, each such event, he concluded, is a moment of conscious awareness. Thus Penrose connected consciousness to the most basic level of the universe.

 In the early 1990s Stuart Hameroff, medical doctor, anesthesiologist and microtubule researcher, suggested to Penrose that tubulin components might be his qubits, and microtubules his quantum computer. The two teamed up, with Hameroff showing how synaptic inputs could 'orchestrate' Penrose objective reductions in neuronal microtubules, hence 'orchestrated objective reduction' (Orch OR). They calculated the number of superpositioned tubulins required to reach OR threshold coinciding with physiological brain events such as gamma synchrony EEG, concluding that microtubules in hundreds of thousands of neurons would be required for 40 or more conscious moments, or frames per second. Gamma synchrony (30 to 90 cycles per second, hertz, or Hz) is the best measure of conscious awareness. Interestingly, ancient Buddhist texts also reported 40 or more conscious moments, or frames per second.

Penrose and Hameroff asserted that 'qualia', the components of conscious experience, are fundamental and irreducible components of reality, like electron spin, charge and mass — all derived from the omnipresent matrix of fundamental spacetime geometry at the Planck scale.

Recently two clinical studies used processed EEG brain monitors at the time of death in terminally ill or severely brain-damaged patients from whom support was withdrawn, allowing the patients to die peacefully. In both sets of patients, measurable EEG brain activity dwindled as blood pressure dropped and, eventually the heart stopped beating. But then, in each patient, there was an abrupt burst of brain activity lasting about a minute or more which correlated with gamma synchrony EEG, the most reliable marker of conscious awareness. Then, just as abruptly, the activity ceased.

5.  TSC TUCSON TABLOID, APRIL 13–17, 2010, TUCSON, ARIZONA, JCS Reporter: B. Faw,  Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17, No. 5–6, 2010, pp. 189–212.

Zoran Josipovic gave a fascinating concurrent talk on the ‘Influence of Non-dual Awareness on Anti-Correlated Networks in the Brain’. The extrinisic-oriented Thalamo-Cortical Switch and the intrinsic-oriented Default Mode Network (DMN) are called anti-correlation networks because they tend to be negatively correlated with each other, with switching back and forth between them. Josipovic is trying to discover whether such anti-correlation relationship is an inherent property of brain organization or whether it is subject to cognitive control and learning. If the latter, then the brains of long-term practitioners of focused attention ‘mindfulness’meditation should have strong anti-correlated external/internal brain networks, while practitioners of ‘non-dual awareness’ (open presence) mediation — with cessation of habitual fragmenting of the field of experience into inside vs. outside, self-directed vs. other-related processes — should show less anti-correlation.  Josipovic has found such decreased anti-correlation in non-dual meditators and increased anti-correlation among the focused attention meditators. The non-duality brain is not merely suppressing self-related processing; both self-related and other-related processing are active. This shows a trait effect for open-presence meditation and neural mechanisms for holistic experience.

Jeffery Martin followed with a rather ironic talk on ‘empirically testing purported claims of enlightenment using standard psychological methods and instruments’. For the past few years he has traveled around and given standard tests and surveys to people claiming some types of non-symbolic states. After the batch of tests he interviews folks for 3–5 hours, matching their language to their purported transformation. He has a 300+ database of non-duality awakenings’, with two fifths of them in the US — with 40% of those in California (‘very surprising!’). The ‘purported claim’ refers to people who claim states with ‘no self’ but use ‘I did’ statements as much as anyone; no one at work notices the difference; and they show the same bodily  conditions, anxiety, and racial and gender bias. They claim reduction in thought, but it is not true. They claim lack of agency with no doer, that things pass through with no ‘I’ to catch them, and that their eyes lock onto an attractive person but there is no follow through.

6.    A Holoinformational Model of Consciousness, Francisco Di Biase, Albert Schweitzer University, Switzerland; World Information Distributed University, Belgium; Quantum Biosystems 2009, 3, 207-220 207.

(Dr. F. Di Biase is a Neurosurgeon)

Author’s ABSTRACT:

The author proposes a quantum-informational holographic model of brain-consciousness-universe interactions based in the holonomic neural networks of Karl Pribram, in the holographic quantum theory developed by David Bohm, and in the non-locality property of the quantum field described by Hiroomi Umezawa. I consider this model an extension of the interactive dualism of Sir John Eccles, of an interconnection between brain and spirit by means of quantum microsites named dendrons and psychons. I propose a dynamic concept of consciousness seen as a holoinformational flux interconnecting the holonomic informational quantum brain dynamics, with the quantum informational holographic nature of the universe. This self-organizing flux is generated by the holographic mode of treatment of neuronal information and can be optimized through practices of deep meditation, prayer, and others states of higher consciousness that underlie the coherence of cerebral waves. In brain mapping studies performed during the occurrence of these harmonic states we can see the spectral array of brain waves highly synchronized and perfectly ordered like a unique harmonic wave, as if all frequencies of all neurons from all cerebral centers played the same symphony. This highly coherent brain state generates the non-local holographic informational cortical field of consciousness that interconnect the human brain and the holographic cosmos. The comprehension of this holonomic quantum informational nature of brain-consciousness-universe interconnectedness allows us to solve the old mind-matter cartesian hard problem, unifying science, philosophy, and spiritual traditions in a more transdisciplinary, holistic, integrated paradigm. In this new arrangement cosmovision, consciousness and transpersonal phenomena becomes part of Science and of the very holoinformational nature of the Holographic Conscious Multiverse.


1.  Dr. C. Legendy, Columbia University ( :

"One old argument for the existence of a soul, whose roots in Western thought go back least to Descartes, can be re-phrased in modern terms by making an observation regarding the nature of connectivity between neurons.  The neurons in our brain are not connected in a tree structure, as would be expected if a single neuron played a commanding role; instead, large pools of neurons appear to be at the same decision-making level.  Since the whole network acts together in a purposeful way, there seems to be a need for an independent outside agent to play the role of central commander.   
I recently wrote a book (Circuits in the Brain, Springer, 2009) where I touch on the subject.  Although my book does not comment on the existence or non-existence of a soul, it does outline a way to solve the problem of centralized command without postulating an outside agent.  The discussion is contained in the section I entitled "Firing games: goal-directed behavior without a leader."  
As it happens, it is enough to assume that the network of neurons is capable of a limited number of "operating modes" and that in the different modes separate sets of rules are followed by the neurons.  The modes and the rules, once implemented, can accomplish a feat which may at first glance appear impossible: coordinated goal-directed action in which many neurons participate and in which no neuron plays the role of a leader.  
What makes it possible is that all the interacting cells and localities share the same preprogrammed mode definitions. The shared rules are what lend the overall activity the appearance of coordination. 
The challenge is to invent a method whereby all localities involved in a task, in their own private ways, recognize the global situation as requiring the same mode and make certain that the processing is not disrupted by momentary differences among individual cells during the intervals of transition between modes.  The over-all network design must be robust enough to be free of "race conditions," situations well known in the theory of switching circuits where the overall outcome of a transition is sensitive to the order in which different places reach their transition thresholds.  
I refer to the leaderless multi-mode actions designed along such lines under the heading of  "firing games," to suggest the similarity to some team sports where a team can smoothly fight its way to winning a game without anybody issuing any orders.  (A large portion of my book is devoted to detailed description of certain specific "firing games" involved in the processing of visual images.) 
With greetings, 
Charles,  Sep 19, 2010"

2.  Peter F. Dziuban:

"I was interviewed by Jeffery Martin earlier this year...We did the "in person" interview first, then I took a lot of multiple choice psychological tests online a couple of weeks later.  I mentioned to Jeffery that the questions needed to be re-worked... all the choices for answers implied that I considered myself a separate self, a body.  There were no options to answer from the standpoint of Awareness.
Peter, 22 Sep 2010"

3.  Ramesam:

A poorly written and edited article by Carina Storrs on the research work of Zoran Josipovic was posted on 13 Aug 2009 at:

I commented at the above web site on 14 Aug 2009 that the definition given to Oneness in Advaita as unification of internal and external brain circuits was incorrect. Later in private e-mails to Zoran, it seemed to me that he relied more on meditation oriented non-dual (valid in Buddhist/Visishtadvaita) works rather than pure Advaita.
September 23, 2010 11:02 AM

4.  Also please see the latest research of Prof. O. Blanke: (Comment added on 18 Feb 2011).

"That feeling of being in, and owning, your own body is a fundamental human experience. But where does it originate and how does it come to be? By combining techniques from cognitive science with those of Virtual Reality (VR) and brain imaging, Dr. O. Blanke and his team are narrowing in on the first experimental, data-driven approach to understanding self-consciousness.. Blanke says. 'Our research approaches the self first of all as the way the body is represented in the brain and how this affects the conscious mind. And this concept of the bodily self most likely came before more developed notions of 'I' in the evolutionary development of man'."

5.  Ramesam: (Comment added on 19 May 2011).

Vegetative and minimally conscious states:  "A person in a vegetative state will open their eyes spontaneously and make reflexive movements, but has no cognitive function and likely does not feel pain. Recovery is possible, but the chances of improvement are greatly diminished after a year. Someone in a minimally conscious state, by contrast, has intentional, non-reflexive but inconsistent responses to stimuli. They might
speak a few words or track their image in a mirror, and they feel pain. In minimally conscious and healthy people the frontal cortex would then send a message back to the temporal cortex. The reason for this is uncertain; it may be to let the temporal cortex know what to expect in the future. But for people in a vegetative state, the communication was one-way: signals passed from the temporal to frontal area, but not back."\ 10517

6.  Ramesam:  Signal for Consciousness: Comment Added on 06 Dec 2011:

"Recent research supports the idea that consciousness is a conversation rather than a revelation, with no single brain structure leading the dialogue..Different regions (of the brain) must exchange information before consciousness can arise."

7. Video: Kitra Cahana: 
My father, locked in his body but soaring free: Added on 19 Oct 2014
Sourced from:  Click

Also please see: Consciousness in Coma in this Blog