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Transitions Between Consciousness and Unconsciousness

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889454310 Year: Pages: 219 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-431-0 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2018-11-16 17:17:57
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Over the last years, a large body of experimental data have been generated in the attempt to understand consciousness and its neural underpinnings. In this respect, particular interest has been paid to the attempt to distinguish between conscious experience and unconscious states which however may still be considered as mental states (e.g., in virtue of their representational nature). This is of course not without reason. A deep understanding of that which specifically characterizes conscious states, including neural correlates and cognitive functions, may crucially inform the ambition of understanding the relation between experience and the physical world. Nevertheless, the question has historically been challenged by the fact that consciousness is available in the first person only – not to other people, including scientists. Different methodological traditions and choices have led to quite different understandings of how conscious and unconscious states relate, and diverse empirical work has been inspired and guided by various cognitive and neurobiological theories of consciousness. The very diverse viewpoints include such different positions as the idea that unconscious states are associated with the very same functional characteristics as conscious states, and the idea that no informational state that is available for action can be completely unconscious. The Research Topic “Transitions between consciousness and unconsciousness” is therefore devoted to this particular question, how to understand the relation and transition between consciousness and unconsciousness. We hope that the reader will find the collected articles both informative and thought-provoking, and that this Research Topic will stimulate the scientific debate.

What can neuroscience learn from contemplative practices?

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889199716 Year: Pages: 166 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-971-6 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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A recent wave of brain research has advanced our understanding of the neural mechanisms of conscious states, contents and functions. A host of questions remain to be explored, as shown by lively debates between models of higher vs. lower-order aspects of consciousness, as well as global vs. local models. (Baars 2007; Block, 2009; Dennett and Cohen, 2011; Lau and Rosenthal, 2011). Over some twenty-five centuries the contemplative traditions have also developed explicit descriptions and taxonomies of the mind, to interpret experiences that are often reported in contemplative practices (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1967; Rinbochay & Naper, 1981). These traditional descriptions sometimes converge on current scientific debates, such as the question of conceptual vs. non-conceptual consciousness; reflexivity or “self-knowing” associated with consciousness; the sense of self and consciousness; and aspects of consciousness that are said to continue during sleep. These real or claimed aspects of consciousness have not been fully integrated into scientific models so far. This Research Topic in Consciousness Research aims to provide a forum for theoretical proposals, new empirical findings, integrative literature reviews, and methodological improvements inspired by meditation-based models. We include a broad array of topics, including but not limited to: replicable findings from a variety of systematic mental practices; changes in brain functioning and organization that can be attributed to such practices; their effects on adaptation and neural plasticity; measurable effects on perception, cognition, affect and self-referential processes. We include contributions that address the question of causal attribution. Many published studies are correlational in nature, because of the inherent difficulty of conducting longitudinal experiments based on a major lifestyle decision, such as the decision to commit to a mental practice over a period of years. We also feature clinical and case studies, integrative syntheses and significant opinion articles.

Beyond the simple contrastive analysis: Appropriate experimental approaches for unraveling the neural basis of conscious experience

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889195473 Year: Pages: 129 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-547-3 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Psychology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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Contrasting conditions with and without conscious experience has served consciousness research well. However, research based on this simple contrast has led to controversies about the neural basis of conscious experience. One key reason for these ongoing debates seems to be that the simple contrast between conditions with and without consciousness is not specific for unraveling the neural basis of conscious experience, but rather also leads to other processes that precede or follow it. Acknowledging this methodological problem implies that some of the previous research findings about the neural underpinnings of conscious experience are actually reflecting the prerequisites and consequences rather than the direct correlates of conscious perception. Thus, it is required to re-evaluate the previous results to find out which of them are telling us anything about the neural basis of consciousness. But first and foremost, to overcome this methodological problem we need new experimental paradigms that go beyond the simple contrastive analysis or find the ways how some older but well forgotten paradigms may foster a new look at this emerging problem. Accordingly, this research topic is looking for empirical and theoretical contributions that: 1) envision new and suitable experimental approaches to study consciousness that are free from the limitations of the simple contrastive analysis; 2) provide empirical data that help to separate the neural correlates of conscious experience from the prerequisites and consequences of it; 3) help to re-assess previous research findings about the neural correlates of conscious perception in the light of the methodological problems with the traditional contrastive analysis. We hope that the theoretical insights and experimental approaches collected within this Research Topic help us to gain a more refined understanding of the neural basis of conscious experience.

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