THE NEUROLOGY OF SELF-AWARENESS
By V.S. Ramachandran
Five and a half years ago, Edge published a notable essay by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, entitled "MIRROR NEURONS and imitation learning as the driving force behind "the great leap forward". In the essay, he wrote:
"The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of monkeys, and their potential relevance to human brain evolution ? which I speculate on in this essay ? is the single most important "unreported" (or at least, unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: they will provide a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments."
And, one year ago, we published a related essay, "Mirror Neurons and the Brain in a Vat", which further developed this set of ideas.
Here, for the EDGE 10th Anniversary Essay, we are pleased to present a new work, "The Neurology of Self-Awareness", in which "Rama" explores the concept of the self, tying in the ideas of researchers such as Horace Barlow, Nick Humphrey, David Premack and Marvin Minsky (among others), who have suggested that consciousness may have evolved primarily in a social context. This includes Minsky's ideas on "a second parallel mechanism that has evolved in humans to create representations of earlier representations" and Humphrey's arguments "that our ability to introspect may have evolved specifically to construct meaningful models of other peoples minds in order to predict their behavior. "
"Have we solved the problem of self?", he asks in concluding the essay. "Obviously not ? we have barely scratched the surface. But hopefully we have paved the way for future models and empirical studies on the nature of self, a problem that philosophers have made essentially no headway in solving. (And not for want of effort ? they have been at it for three thousand years). Hence our grounds for optimism about the future of brain research ? especially for solving what is arguably Science's greatest riddle."
V.S. RAMACHANDRAN, a neuroscientist, is Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego; Author, A Brief Tour of
Human Consciousness, and coauthor, Phantoms in the Brain.
V.S. Ramachandran's Edge Bio Page
If what we tend to identify as ourselves is but our experience of moveing through the world,that seems simple enough.I have however had the experience of complete though temporal memory loss,my whole personal history wiped clean.In this state it could not be said that my sense of self was soley of my personal history.I did not know who I was,and I did not know who anyone else was.I was battered, bruised and disoriented,but I was alive,and that felt great,even in the condition I was in.A short time later I remembered one piece and it all came flooding back.I believe I had in that short time a sense of self,though no partiular identity,but self only knows itself as that which experiences.I had no personal history,only the experience of the moment,with no bagage.So,perhaps the Upanishads are correct when they say,"The Self In One Is The Self In All."--------or possiably not,what do you think?