Discussion Forum Discussion Forum

Science and Meditation

The On/Off switch of Consciousness

Toggle
The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 2:16 AM
I share this anecdote as it may be interesting to postulate the ramifications of this neurological discovery (Albeit discovered a few years ago).

Here is the link to the 2 min video from National Geographic regarding electro stimulation of the Claustrum region of the brain. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IQfYuBkeTw

"Clinical evidence has suggested that the claustrum plays an important role in maintaining consciousness, potentially being usable as an "on-off switch". In 2014, a case was reported of one woman who became unresponsive when her claustrum was electrically stimulated, regaining responsiveness as soon as the stimulation stopped. The woman had no memory of the period during which she was unresponsive." -wikipedia

The acutal function of the claustrum is unclear at this time. One threory is that it integrates the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. (wikipedia again)

Discussion points:

 - Could my meditational experience of "cessation" be similar to electro-stimulation of the claustrum? 

If so, could Enlightenment be some sort of understanding of the Neuro-correlation of Consciousness?

And there-by an understanding of the biochemical algorithm that potentiates the cessation of consciousness?

Last fun question: 

-  If I get an elctro implant that stimulates the claustrum to switch off consciousness, does that qualify me as Enlightened? 




If the claustrum truly has a relationship with cessation/ fruition, maybe we should rethink the value of such an experience and by consequnce rethink the definition of enlightenment.

Warm regards in open, non-dogmatic inquisitive awareness,

- Thomas

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 3:41 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
To use a metaphor, I suspect you have to run disk doctor before you reboot.

But also, I think neuroscience is in its infancy, and while it can observe gross effects I rather suspect the mind arises from combinations of subtle effects. Many brain functions seem spread throughout the brain, or able to be be produced or helped by different parts of the brain. So I wouldn't pin your hopes on one gross interevention.

Just my 2c. It is a fascinating story though!

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 5:05 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Super interesting.

Thomas Jackson-Brown:

 - Could my meditational experience of "cessation" be similar to electro-stimulation of the claustrum? 

I am quite skeptical because we do notice that we have had a cessation, whereas the patient in the video seems not to notice that anything has happened at all. She just keeps reading. It looks like a very different phenomenon in both its lead-up and aftermath. It is possible that the claustrum is involved in the cessation process, but it is rather clear from the video that, even if it is the case, the patient is not undergoing cessation.

Either way, it is not something we can settle in a discussion on this forum. Measurements would have to be done in a lab. A meditator who can get cessations on command should volunteer to have an electrode inserted near his claustrum to measure the activity there and describe what he experiences when the claustrum is stimulated.

Thomas Jackson-Brown:

If so, could Enlightenment be some sort of understanding of the Neuro-correlation of Consciousness?


What do you mean by this question?

Thomas Jackson-Brown:

And there-by an understanding of the biochemical algorithm that potentiates the cessation of consciousness?


Nope. Clearly you don't need to understand biochemistry for enlightenment, since biochemistry was discovered after enlightenment.

Thomas Jackson-Brown:

-  If I get an elctro implant that stimulates the claustrum to switch off consciousness, does that qualify me as Enlightened? 


Obviously not. First of all I am sceptical that claustrum stimulation equates cessation, see above. Either way, enlightenment is not the (non-)experience of cessation. It is what happens as a consequence of it. Otherwise, everyone would be enlightened from losing consciousness after going to sleep each night --- except for those who retain lucidity during dreamless sleep, which would be less enlightened than everybody else.



Thomas Jackson-Brown:

If the claustrum truly has a relationship with cessation/ fruition, maybe we should rethink the value of such an experience and by consequnce rethink the definition of enlightenment.


Again, I am very doubtful about the connection. You seem to be mixing up loss of consciousness with cessation.

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 11:02 AM as a reply to neko.
Yes Neko thank you for pointing this out.

Indeed the patient does not notice anything happened. This would lead me to believe the phenomenon of claustrum stimulation and cessation are perhaps different. I too undoubtedly notice the lead up and aftermath of cessation/fruition.

When I mention that "perhaps enlightenment is some sort of understanding of the neuro-correlate of consciousness" I draw from this subjective experience now, that this physiology is simply aware of itself and that there is no "ghost in the machine" (self, soul or agent or entity responsible for free will). 

The neuro-correlate does not explicitly imply the brain but perhaps the nervous system in general. That having a nervous system (ie. Rupa/physiology) gives rise to the awareness of nerve-contact (Nama-mentality) or the consciousness of specific contact.

And that what we call continuity of life is the nanosecond by nanosecond nervous system stimulus causing awareness.

Understanding this on the deepest level, the system clears up the misunderstanding of identification with nervous system stimulus and identification with the awareness of the stimulus. The whole system is now free from a central intelligence agency (lol) and "merges" as it were with the free flow of information as the causal Web of the universe itself.

Seems to this one's body/mind experience to some degree now. 

It really interesting that directing attention to sensations in the center of the head also can bring on cessation. 

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 2:44 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
In a related note -- about brains forming reality:

A TED Talk

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 9:22 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Thomas Jackson-Brown:


-  If I get an elctro implant that stimulates the claustrum to switch off consciousness, does that qualify me as Enlightened? 


- Thomas

What would be the relevant difference between this electro implant and getting anesthesia?

Anesthesia certainly doesn't produce enlightenment. Neither does being knocked out by a punch. 

The difference between these events and a cessation is that a cessation happens when all the subminds lack any intention to produce an object of consciousness.  An analogy would be this:

Cessation = There's a tv on, but there is nothing on any of the channels, so there is nothing playing. 

Electro implant/anesthesia = There is stuff on the channels, but you unplug the TV 

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/18/17 10:59 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
 If I get an elctro implant that stimulates the claustrum to switch off consciousness, does that qualify me as Enlightened? 



Yes I agree with you and nice analogy with the TV.  In all honesty I posited that question knowing the answer is obvious.  Loss of consciousness and cessation/fruition are not the same experience.

I am interested (like Shinzen Young) in the neurological implications of enlightenment and if there are regions in the brain that can be measured (it is doubtful the claustrum is such a region). And I think it would be better for a scientific definition of enlightenment.

I am very interested in the scientific (neuro-pathology) of PCE's and fruitions and formless jhanas, etc...I know first hand they are real, now wouldnt it be cool if science could catch up?

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
7/19/17 12:20 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks for sharing that Ted talk Chris. Really interesting. 

Through practice it is possible to deconstruct the hallucination of self that the neuro-physiology fabricates.

Perhaps one definition of enlightenment could be that the hallucination is realized as being just a hallucination and consciousness is no longer limited by such fabrications of perception.

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
8/17/17 3:25 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Thomas Jackson-Brown:
Thanks for sharing that Ted talk Chris. Really interesting. 

Through practice it is possible to deconstruct the hallucination of self that the neuro-physiology fabricates.

Perhaps one definition of enlightenment could be that the hallucination is realized as being just a hallucination and consciousness is no longer limited by such fabrications of perception.

   The ted talk reminds me of professer ames experiments with optical illusions. The "ted" illusions were entertaining, but there was no real science here. I find it disturbing that these sorts of ideas are being presented in a pseudo-scientific context to gain credibility.

   The problem is that these explainers of the human mind are constrained by science, chained and manacled, and can believe only in "mechanisms," a word the ted guy used over and over. The buddha's simile about the man with an arrow in his chest applies: the mechanisms of where the arrow came from, who shot it and so forth are insignificant in the face of the pain and need for treatment.

   There are two deep insights that were spoken of, and they have nothing to do with the sort of contemporary scientistic "philosophy of mind" (as with john searle) which the ted guy portrays as current thinking.

    First, the world as we see it is a hallucination, a "conjuring trick" as the buddha would say. Common sense is a group illusion. This idea can be found in the vedas, at the dawn of history.

   Second, the self is a mental construct with no location or basis: "the one mind is rootless and foundationless."

   What "ted" treats sensationally and superficially, as though it were just discovered for the amusement of  his you tube youthful audience, is an example of herbert marcuse's "banalization" of truly important ideas. While pointing out what a herd animal you are he is minimizing the impact and managing the response to a low "wow." Nobody really cares about the implications, which are not explored; indeed, he leads off in the wrong direction, toward mechanism, instead of insight.

   Your observation that "through practice it is possible to deconstruct the hallucination of self" is indeed the dhamma. Experience bears it out. Fifty years ago gregory bateson was giving lectures to buddhists at the naropa institute and speaking of adelbert ames' illusions. Ames had set up a table on which a sliding ball was moved in such a way that the eye expected it to be in one place while it was actually in another. Ames would carefully explain the illusion while they were looking down on the table. Then the subject would look through an aperture, and putting his arm through a hole, would try to grab the ball. Bateson said he tried again and again to grab the ball and missed. Being scientists, he said, they persisted. After seventy some repetitions, he could regularly grab the ball, even though it still appeared to be elsewhere. Ames told him that after about 140 repetitions, a subject would begin to see the ball where it actually was, and the illusion would break down completely. Bateson told the story, and when the buddhists didn't seem to get it, he mentioned that ames always insisted on carefully explaining the illusion first. It might make a difference, he said. Buddhist meditation practices seeing through the ilusion of self, knowing that it is an illusion. Eventually, with enough repetitions, the illusion breaks down, disappears. The separate self disappears.

   The buddha, ames, and even ted are *not* studying the "brain," they are studying the *mind*. The underlying assumption in the ted talk, that the mind maps on the brain exactly, is an article of faith, a supposition with little evidentiary support. The search for mechanisms is quite beside the point, as interesting as it might seem to fact collectors.

   I'm going on about the ted guy here, but the whole tendency to try to support insight into Mind with "scientific" facts and theories seems wrong-footed to me. Backwards.

   Contemporary (I'm trying to avoid the word "modern" - which to ethicists refers to the period 1600-1800) ethics involves the idea that it is moral and ethical to "sacrifice" ones own well-being to perform a good act. To socrates and plato (and others), it was an expression of your own higher self to do the virtuous thing, it was a positive gain in well-being, not a sacrifice. We are constatly encouraged to take the flesh for granted as primary; and the individual flesh at that. We even "sacrifice" for wife and children. Not to mention for class and country. These views not coincidentally render us atomized and powerless, mere tools.

   It is possible to think of oursleves as minds, as souls, as spirit, and not as just bodies, with brains. Materialism is not progress, it is devolution. The very fact that the material world isseen ti be an hallucination demonstrates it.

   My reaction to the pseudo-scientific banalization of spirituality is to "ted", not thomas j-b, and to the tendency to absorb such entertainments uncritically. Your "defintion of enlightenment," as quoted, is fine; that is, I agree.

aloha, terry

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
8/18/17 5:17 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
i believe consiousness is there whether "we" are or not.  it precedes and transcends our manifested lives.

the brain is the organ which interfaces and allows interaction on this xD level of reality.  fiddling with switches does not delete or injure conciousness but could change the function of the brain.

like anesthesia, when one returns to incarnated functioning, there are  (usually) no recalled events during that "time away".

as to your question about 'being enlightened' after a switch off...maybe...why not?  but the test would be the same.  has anything fundamentally changed in how you interact with this reality?

RE: The On/Off switch of Consciousness
Answer
8/18/17 5:50 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Thomas Jackson-Brown: 
I know first hand they are real, now wouldnt it be cool if science could catch up?
It would be super cool, indeed.

Here is one research, where researchers have tried brain imaging of 'cessations'. 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3837242/ 
http://www.consciousnessexplorersclub.com/inscapes4/

It would be really interesting if someone could share more research articles on cessations and things like that.

Culadasa explains cessation in this way:

Culadasa
:
...A cessation event is where unconscious sub-minds remain tuned in and receptive to the contents of consciousness, while at the same time, none of them project any content into consciousness. Then, consciousness ceases—completely...

He has explained a bit more in detail in TMI. But yeah, he doesn't go to explain the neurophysiological correlation of cessation. A lot more study has to be done in this regard. 

Anyone has any idea where studies like these are going on and can someone list out neuroscientists who are involved in these studies? I am highly interested in this. Zoran Josipovic is one of them.