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Journey to the Centers of the Mind: Toward a Science of Consciousness [Hardcover]

Susan Greenfield

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Book Description

4 May 1995
How do our personalities and mental processes, our "states of consciousness", derive from a gray mass of tissue with the consistency of a soft-boiled egg? How can mere molecules constitute an idea or emotion? Some of the most important questions we can ask are about our own consciousness. Our personalities, our individuality, indeed our whole reason for living, lie in the brain and in the elusive phenomenon of consciousness it generates. Thinkers in many disciplines have long struggled with such questions, often in ways that have seemed incompatible, if not downright contradictory. Philosophers have meditated on the subjective experience of consciousness, with little attention to the physical realm, while scientists have sought to establish a causal relation between brain function and mind, often ignoring the qualitative aspects of experience. In Journey to the Centers of the Mind, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield offers an intriguing, unifying theory of consciousness that encompasses both phenomenological mental events and physical aspects of brain function. Using information gathered from clues in animal behavior, human brain damage, computer science, neurobiology, and philosophy, Greenfield offers a "concentric theory" of consciousness, and shows how certain events in the brain correspond to our qualitative experience of the world. Demonstrating the ways in which we can interpret the experience of consciousness in terms of interactions among neurons, she explores how much we can learn by continuing to find the links between our physical and mental inner worlds.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but hardly applicable outside of academia. 24 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
While it is unclear to me if this book is applicable to readers whom are not involved in academic research, the book is an interesting documentation of a cognitive researcher's thoughts about the clinical frontier of her research. As such, it provides an excellent, though rather autobiographic, insight into the mind of a brilliant researcher as well as the development of an increasingly important area of research.
By Steven H. Propp - Published on
Susan Adele Greenfield (born 1950) is a British scientist, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford, and member of the House of Lords. She has also written other books such as The Private Life of the Brain - Emotions, Consciousness, and the Secret of the Self.

She wrote in the Preface to this 1995 book, "There appears to be no obvious strategy for exploring the physical basis of consciousness while at the same time preserving its quintessential subjective phenomenology. What I have tried to do in this book, however, is to present a possible way forward... Even though I am a neuroscientist... [my] theory is not inspired by a purely scientific contemplation of the brain... Here I present a reverse strategy. The theory starts as just that, a theory, prompted by examining consciousness itself. From there we are then able to see how any or all of the possible features of consciousness can be accommodated in the brain." (Pg. ix-x)

She suggests, "It appears, then, that consciousness is not reducible to computation and that computation can occur without consciousness. Irrespective of whether or not some of the brain works some of the time like a computer, we need more for an explanation of the physical basis of consciousness. When we disparagingly refer to someone as a robot, it is exactly the apparent lack of emotion, indeed, of consciousness, to which we are referring. Hence, in a search for the physical basis of consciousness, we need to continue to seek special features of the real brain." (Pg. 56)

She observes that "The biologist Gerald Edelman [e.g., [Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind] asserts that animals such as the lobster are not conscious... On the face of it, however, the proposition that animals effectively just live for the moment and do not make use of past experience seems improbable." (Pg. 80) She adds, "It would appear... that animals can not only be conscious, but that they can think beyond the sensory snapshot of the immediate world about them." (Pg. 82)

She concludes, "The discussions in this book have been based on an assumption... that consciousness is generated when vast groups of neurons work together collectively under specific conditions... Consciousness has been expressed in terms of a single final parameter (the rate of turnover of neuronal gestalts) that can be applied to both real brain events and the phenomenology of awareness in health, disease, and respose to drugs." (Pg. 191)

This book will be of keen interest to students of cognitive neuroscience, or the philosophy of mind.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not very deep 22 Feb 2004
By A Customer - Published on
This is a book written for the public, in general, but it neither can reach this audience nor the scientific researchers, since it is based on theories that can't be proved in a scientifical way.
It's just a book that makes a journey to the world of the mind and tries to bring outside a theory about counsciousness.
I think it fails that purpose... Try to look at Antonio Damasio's books - he really can grasp a way to communicate about what consciousness is, and what's beeing done to study it.
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