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Metaphysics & Psychology

Are the Left & Right Brain Independently Conscious?

Did you know that it was possible for the two hemispheres of our brains to be independently conscious – and even to have differing opinions? For one hemisphere to believe in God, and for the other to be an atheist? For one hemisphere to control your hand, whilst the other watches in surprise at this alien appendage moving of its own accord?

The Hemispheric Highway

To understand how this can be possible, we need to understand the structure of the brain. The corpus callosum is a wide, flat bundle of 200-300 million neural fibers connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This hemispheric highway allows them to communicate with one another and coordinate actions and decision-making. This information exchange is important because the two hemispheres are highly specialised and need to be able to share their findings. For example the right hemisphere is responsible for nonverbal and spatial tasks, image and facial recognition and emotion, whereas the left hemisphere excels at language and logic. In a beautiful example of biological symmetry, the right hemisphere is also in control of the sensory functions on left side of our body (our left hand and left visual field), whilst the left hemisphere is in control of our right side.

It has been speculated that Kim Peek (the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Rain Man’) made unusual neural connections due to the absence of his corpus callosum. Incredibly, he had developed independent language areas in both hemispheres and was therefore able to split his vision and allow each of his eyes to read pages of a book separately, at about 8-10 seconds per page!

Split Brain Surgery 

Where things get really interesting is when two hemispheres become artificially separated. Corpus callosotomy (or split-brain surgery) is a procedure in which the corpus callosum is severed, breaking the main connection between the two hemispheres. This surgery is normally only carried out as a last resort in patients suffering from severe epileptic seizures, which start in one hemisphere and spread across the whole brain. The purpose of this surgery is to prevent the spread of this electrical storm, and by all accounts it has been shown to be remarkably successful. Following the procedure patients typically report to feel no different and are by all accounts “normal”, including functioning normally in a range of neurological tests.

However, experiments carried out by Sperry and Gazzaniga (1967) in the sixties demonstrated that something very strange was going on. When split-brain subjects are presented with a picture of an object (e.g. an apple) to only their right hemisphere (via their left eye), they were unable to verbally describe the picture, because the speech and language centre is located in the left hemisphere. However if they are asked to reach under a screen with their left hand (controlled by their right hemisphere) to touch various objects, they were able to select the apple without any trouble at all. Furthermore, if they are asked what the object was that they were holding in their left hand, they still were not able to verbalise it.

Even more fascinating is the fact that these patients would attempt to create reasons for why their right hemispheres were making particular decisions outside of their conscious awareness. For example, if they were asked why they chose the apple, they would reason that it was because this was their favourite fruit, or that they had one for lunch that day.

The video below shows these experiments in practise, and it boggles my mind every time I watch it.

A rare side effect of this procedure is a neurological disorder called ‘Alien Hand Syndrome’ – in which one hand appears to be controlled by a separate consciousness with a will of its own. The alien hand will carry out actions without the person’s awareness and outside of their control, which can often lead to a battle between the two hands over what action to take. For example, in one case a patient would put a cigarette into her mouth with her right hand, but before she could light it her left hand would pull it out of her mouth and throw it away!

The evidence thus far leads me naturally to the question – are there two separate sets of conscious experience coexisting within one skull?Is the right hemisphere independently conscious and silently lurking, unable to communicate verbally but still very much aware? The clip below from a talk by neurologist VS Ramachandran explains the incredible case of one split brain patient where his right hemisphere believed in god, but his left hemisphere was an atheist.

Spooky Implications

It is quite spooky to consider that there must be some point during the callosotomy procedure (which incidentally, people can elect to stay awake for) when the individual branches into two separate sets of consciousness, both completely unaware of the others’ existence. Does either hemisphere notice a difference, or feel a sense of loss?

However, what really gives me goosebumps is in wondering – are our minds already split in some sense? Are we are already not the only “I” within our own our minds? After all, as Sam Harris notes in ‘Waking Up’, even in a healthy brain, our two individual hemispheres are only sharing an executive summary of their processes with each other via the corpus callosum, rather than a full information exchange. This points to the possibility that our two hemispheres are already functioning independently to some extent.

Take a moment to absorb how bizarre this possibility is. The point of view from which you are consciously reading these words may not be the only conscious point of view to be found in your brain. It is one thing to say that you are unaware of a vast amount of activity in your brain. It is quite another to say that some of this activity is aware of itself and is watching your every move.”

Sam Harris – Waking Up (Chapter 1 is available for free on his blog)

Experiments conducted by Miller and Gazzaniga in 2009 suggested that the two brain hemispheres do indeed have differing opinions when it comes to making moral judgements. Subjects were told a series of stories, each involving either intentional or accidental harm. In the first story, an individual intends to poison his boss but fails because he mistakes sugar for rat poison, and in the second an individual accidentally kills his boss by mistaking rat poison for sugar. Whilst most people would conclude that the intentional harm was more morally reprehensible, when the story was read aloud to a split brain patient (and thereby only directed to the left hemisphere) they concluded that both stories were morally equal. It appears that we require an interaction between the two hemispheres in order to come to a sound moral assessment.

But this makes me wonder, what is the process behind how these two ‘hemispheric opinions’ are combined to reach our final conclusions? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt really torn about what you should do; when logically you knew what the right course of action should be, but your ‘gut’ was telling you to do the opposite? On these occasions, are we simply the spectators of an ongoing hemispheric battle?

Recent Updates

A recent publication in Brain by Pinto et al (2017) indicates that researchers are also split on whether consciousness is truly divided in split brain patients. Pinto and his colleagues argue that it is in fact visual perception that is divided, rather than consciousness itself, a viewpoint that has been rejected by Gazzaniga et al. Dr. Michael Corballis has recently hypothesised that both sets of authors have been overlooking the role of subcortical connections, which remain intact when the main cortical connections are severed. He argues that these connections maintain an element of visual unity in split brain patients, and may explain the apparent integration of vision in some patients.

Corballis also notes that as drug treatments for epilepsy have become increasingly effective, fewer and fewer split brain surgeries have been taking place. Looking ahead to the future, it could be that many of the questions surrounding this mystery will never be answered.

The Ongoing Wow
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Metaphysics & Psychology

Can the Universe consciously imitate its own existence?

According to the new hypothesis, the Universe imitates its own existence in a “strange loop”. In an article published by scientists from the Institute for the Study of Quantum Gravity, it is argued that the basis of the hypothesis is the theory of panpsychism, according to which everything in nature is animated. 

The article was published in the journal Entropy and, as the authors of the work write, is designed to combine understanding of quantum mechanics with a non-materialist point of view. In other words, scientists want to understand how real we are and everything that surrounds us. Agree, this is at least an interesting question for modern science and our understanding of the Universe.

What is reality?

How real is reality? What if all that you are, all that you know, all the people in your life, as well as all events do not physically exist in reality, but are a very complex simulation? Like in the series of the animated series “Rick and Morty” when one of the characters got into a simulation and did not even notice it. Our regular readers know that the philosopher Nick Bostrom addressed this issue in the foundational article “Do we live in computer simulation?”, Which suggests that our entire existence may be the product of very complex computer models (simulations) controlled by advanced creatures whose the true nature we may never know.

I am not a supporter of this idea, but despite all the seeming madness of Bostrom’s assumption, we really don’t know what reality is. Modern science is not yet able to cognize the quantum world and understand, for example, why at the atomic level particles change their behavior when they are watched. At a time when physicists are working on building a mission that can figure out if a parallel universe or universes exists, Bostrom’s idea does not look extraordinary.

But the new theory takes a step forward – what if there are no advanced creatures, but everything in “reality” is self-imitation that generates itself from “pure thought?”

Frame from the series Rick and Morty. The moment Jerry found out that all this time he lived in a simulation

The Physical Universe is a “strange loop”, writes Quantum Gravity Research, a Los Angeles-based Institute for Theoretical Physics, founded by scientist and entrepreneur Clay Irwin. The work is based on the Bostrom modeling hypothesis, according to which all reality is an extremely detailed computer program – and they ask: instead of relying on advanced life forms to create the technology necessary to create everything in our world, is it not better to assume that the Universe itself is a “mental imitation of oneself”? Scientists associate this idea with quantum mechanics, considering the universe as one of many possible models of quantum gravity.

One important aspect that distinguishes this point of view from others similar to it is related to the fact that the initial hypothesis of Bostrom is materialistic and considers the Universe as physical. For Bostrom, we could just be part of an ancestral simulation created by posthumans. Even the process of evolution itself can simply be a mechanism by which future beings experience countless processes, purposefully moving people through levels of biological and technological growth. In this way, they generate the alleged information or history of our world. Ultimately, we will not notice the difference.

But where does physical reality come from that would spawn a simulation? Their hypothesis takes a non-materialistic approach, arguing that everything in the universe is information expressed in the form of thought. Thus, the Universe “self-realizes” into its own existence, relying on the underlying algorithms and the rule that researchers call the “principle of an effective language”. According to this proposal, the simulation of everything is only one “great thought”.

How could a simulation have arisen on its own?

Surprisingly, the answer is simple: she was always there, researchers say, explaining the concept of “timeless emergentism”. This idea says that there is no time at all. Instead, there is a comprehensive thought, which is our reality, offering a built-in semblance of a hierarchical order, full of “sub-thoughts” that extend down to the wormhole to basic mathematics and fundamental particles. The effective language rule also comes into force, which assumes that people themselves are such “emergent sub-thoughts” and experience and find meaning in the world through other sub-thoughts (called “code steps or actions”) in the most economical way (well, then) .

We do not know much, which means we must consider all hypotheses without exception

In correspondence with Big Think, physicist David Chester said:

Although many scholars advocate the truth of materialism, we believe that quantum mechanics can give a hint that our reality is a mental construct. Recent advances in quantum gravity, such as the vision of spacetime arising from a hologram, are also a hint that spacetime is not fundamental. In a sense, the mental construction of reality creates space-time to effectively understand itself, creating a network of subconscious entities that can interact and explore the totality of their capabilities.

Scientists associate their hypothesis with panpsychism, which considers everything that exists as thought or consciousness, the purpose of which is to generate meaning or information. If all this is difficult to understand, the authors offer another interesting idea that can connect your everyday experience with these philosophical considerations. Think of your dreams as your own personal simulations, the team suggests. Although they are fairly primitive (by the superintelligent standards of the future AI), dreams tend to provide better resolution than modern computer modeling and are a great example of the evolution of the human mind.

Of course, not everyone will like it, but the Universe can really have consciousness. 
At least we cannot rule it out.

Most notable is the ultra-high resolution accuracy of these mind-based simulations and the accuracy of the physics in them. They point to lucid dreaming – when the dreamer realizes that he is in a dream – as examples of very accurate simulations created by your mind that at times cannot be distinguished from any other reality. So how do you know, while you are reading this article, that you are not in a dream? It turns out that it is not so difficult to imagine that the extremely powerful computer that we can create in the near future will be able to reproduce a similar level of detail.

Of course, some of the ideas of Clay and his team in the academic community are called controversial. But the authors of the work believe that “we should think critically about consciousness and some aspects of philosophy that are inconvenient for some scientists.” We can not agree, because in science there are no or, should be no authorities. 

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Metaphysics & Psychology

The journalist predicted a cancer-free future and was healed

ABC11 American journalist Michael Perchick predicted on his Twitter account that his future would not be related to cancer. The reporter later reported healing, and the post scored 1.8 million likes.

A 28-year-old North Carolina channel correspondent said in January that he was diagnosed with cancer. However, the journalist did not somehow comment on the current state, but wrote about the future. 

“In four months, I will be the 28-year-old who defeated cancer. To the battle! ” – Perchik noted.

Many users supported his entry with comments with words of support. Some users remembered how they themselves fought with a similar diagnosis and they managed to prevail over a deadly disease. 

“I was diagnosed at the same age, two days after my 28th birthday. I’m 34 now. You will succeed, man. Kick your ass cancer,” Humphrey03Pat wrote .

In April, Perchik announced that he had completed the necessary course of chemotherapy. 

On June 5, he retweeted his January post and wrote:

“New information about my life: I was right.” 

This meant that the journalist was cured. In the comments, he met positive feedback from users. Some responded with a meme about dancing coffin carriers from Ghana, symbolizing a cancer funeral.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Death Angel Drummer talks about meeting with Satan during a coronavirus coma

Will Carroll, a member of the Philippine-American thrash metal band Death Angel, spoke about a meeting with Satan during a coronavirus coma. It is reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 47-year-old drummer is sure he has been to hell. He fell ill with COVID-19 after a European tour of the band and was in critical condition for two weeks at a California medical center. Carroll was connected to a ventilator and was in a coma.

According to a member of the group, in nightmares, he appeared to have Satan in a female guise, who reproached him for being lazy and turned him into a monster resembling Jabba from Star Wars. After that, the drummer decided to abandon the use of strong alcohol and marijuana.

“I will still listen to satanic metal, and I still love Deicide and similar bands. As for my personal life and what I experienced, I don’t think that Satan is so cool” Carroll said. 

He explained that he was close to death, but now he feels as if he was born again.

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