Wednesday, April 26, 2006



(via Futurismic) This is fascinating. "Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task, found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel... It is possible that research into how the brain switches self-awareness on and off will help neurologists gain a deeper understanding of autism, schizophrenia and other mental disorders where this functionality may be impaired."

I've been thinking about these sorts of issues since I read John Scalzi's The Ghost Brigades last week, which raises some interesting questions about the intersection between intelligence and consciousness. The fact that the brain seems to shut down the latter when the former is overtaxed is, well, just plain weird.

Compare that with this result from many years back, which suggested that your brain becomes more efficient as you become more familiar with a task. It'd be interesting to see the recent study extended to examine volunteers after they'd become experts at the identification test; maybe self-awareness would remain "switched on" once the task became easy.
Interesting. And I always knew there was something funny going on with that Tetris...

It always amazes me how little we understand about aspects of biology that affect all of us. Even things as commonplace as childbirth; when my wife was pregnant, we were stunned to discover that doctors have, for example, no idea what causes morning sickness, or conditions like preeclampsia, or any number of other extremely common parts of pregnancy and childbirth. If we can't figure out the underlying causes of that, I suspect the mysteries of consciousness are going to remain mysterious just a mite longer.
No idea what causes morning sickness? I thought it was widely believed to be an evolutionary adaptation that keeps the mother from eating natural toxins which, while harmless to her, might affect the fetus.
Interesting. I don't think I've come across that explanation before. I'll have to look into it.
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