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Essay on Free Will
By MICHAEL A. CORNER, PhD
Netherlands Institute For Brain Research, Amsterdam.

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SLEEP RUNNERS:
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8) Breaks in consciousness, as occur in (slow-wave) sleep and 'spike-and-wave' (petit mal) epilepsy, constitute a serious challenge to any conception of such a 'self' as having a distinct existence in its own right. Were Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed : self/soul/spirit really a separate 'thing', namely, rather than a functional state subject to interruptions, 30 mg no phentermine prescription would expect there to be some phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed of continuity of subjective experience even when all itemizable contents of consciousness ('qualia') are temporarily absent. Without such permanent self-awareness, independent of the Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription : physical state of 'its bodily abode', a dualistic world view is psychologically as well as intellectually unsatisfying.

9) Focussed attention entails a highly selective localized reduction in the 30 mg no phentermine prescription slow-wave activity, accompanied by intensified high-frequency oscillations: i.e., a relatively high-pass functional state as measured by the cortical electro-encephalogram (EEG). Since the bodily (and mental) sensations which one normally experiences as being 'me/I' represent components of consciousness from which the Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription : flitting 'spotlight' of attention is excluded (Corner 1976), the 'detached' type of altered self-perception (see above: point 7) presumably involves high-pass activity patterns Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed - invading the 'limited access' areas of the cerebral cortex which constitute the substrate 30 mg no phentermine prescription bodily sensations.

10) Consciousness of an outside world which is not currently phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed attended to must be associated, in turn, with a relatively low-pass mode of phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed cortex function: i.e., enhanced slow-wave and reduced high-frequency activity in the waking EEG. Since deep bodily and/or mental relaxation lead towards a sense of oneself 'melting' non-attentively into the outside world, it would now be the low-pass neuronal activity pattern which invades the normally 'limited access' areas of the cortex where consciousness of the Self, as normally experienced, is generated.

11) Since both high- and low-pass modes of waking cortical neuronal activity are associated with the conscious perception of an outside world, the conscious experience of 'self' cannot be associated with either of these functional modes but, rather, with a 'band-pass' mode of activity in which abundant low and high frequency neuronal oscillations are simultaneously present. In this way, self-consciousness can be transformed into non-Self simply by sufficiently reducing either the high or the low end of the waking EEG power spectrum. Ecstatic trance states, on the other hand, phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed their characteristic sense of 'mystical union' of the Self with its surroundings, would entail an phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed of this putative zone of broad-band neuronal firing into cortical Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription - projection areas normally subserving consciousness of an 'outside world'.

12) The cortical projection fields phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed proprio- and enteroceptive impulses from within the body constitute, during normal waking consciousness, the putative primary location for the postulated special conjunction of functional parameters, i.e. Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed : intense activity across an unusually wide range of neuronal firing frequencies. After years of ignorance on phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed score, neuro-anatomical research has recently succeeded in tracing these ascending projections as far as the insular region of the cerebral cortex (e.g., Damasio 2003), Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription : an area which is invisible to surface recording electrodes. Magneto-EEG Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed : recordings and functional tomography focussed on specific underlying portions of the neocortex, especially in the dominant hemisphere, would thus appear to be the approach of choice in testing the prediction of an anatomically and physiologically specific EEG signature linked to the conscious experience of Self.

13) The 'passive' experience of self, with its quality of affective tone (i.e., 'pleasure' or Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed, 'pain') associated with perceived sensory stimuli, is presumably a reflection of information reaching the Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed - cerebral cortex regarding the operation of subcortical circuits involved in, respectively, positive and negative reinforcement of ongoing behavior. The 'active' Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription - sense of self, on the other hand, as experienced in the making of voluntary decisions about how to act or think (i.e., 'free will': see part I of this essay), implicates the cerebral cortex as possessing a higher order 'command' or 'gating' function for overruling (or fine-tuning) subcortical behavioral regulatory systems, some of the activity of which we experience consciously as 'involuntary' motor or mental actions.

14) Activity patterns associated with consciousness have a chaotic character (thus being inherently unpredictable without being random) and tend to fall sequentially into one or another quasi-stable 'attractor'. Not only is the daily alternation between sleep and wakefulness, as well as the intermittent occurrence of dreaming phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed the former state, an example of a switch from one self-perpetuating Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed : activity pattern to another, but the triggered stereotyped 'emotional' states associated with basic instincts such as lust, rage and fear involve a transient 'descent' into a new basin of attraction.

15) Certain of the human brain's latent 'strange attractors' subserve stubbornly persistent psycho-pathological states such as epilepsy, depression, and one or another form of schizophrenia. The 'spiritual' disciplines practised in many cultures are Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription : evidently attempts to coax (or force!) cortical neuronal activity into yet another strange attractor, one which is characterized by a breakdown of ego/world boundaries. In practise, however, the 'homeostatic' restorative tendencies of one's habitual personality act powerfully to thwart such efforts. Here is clearly an area of psychological praxis which would benefit greatly from a proper scientific analysis of underlying mechanisms and potentialities.

16) Both the initial establishment of 'set-points' associated with neuro-physiological basins of attraction, and their potential subsequent modification with experience and training, must be supposed to follow developmental principles similar to those which hold phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed other multi-cellular biological systems. In particular, the existence of 'critical' periods for establishing stable responses to specific stimuli may be important for the origin and maturation of self-consciousness as well - if not for the phenomenon itself, at least for the way it manifests Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed, itself to an organism that possesses it.

Clearing away conceptual debris obscuring what can and needs to be done may well be a necessary step for making progress in this field. A number Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription, of counter-productive metaphors, for instance, are still current in the Phentermine 37.5 mg without a prescription, neuro-philosophical literature: besides the mercifully passè models of the nervous system as telephone central or digital 30 mg no phentermine prescription my own favorite bete noire is the one inspired by Herman Hesse's Steppenwulf, viz., that of a theater (in which consciousness is obviously represented phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed the lighted stage). In addition to its implicit over-emphasis on the actors at the expense of the overall Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed, decor, this model is too self-contained to bear any useful resemblance to what a real nervous system is doing most of the time. The moving-picture screen as a metaphor phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed conscious experience suffers from a similar presumption of already stored images deriving, as phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed were, from a sub-cortical film projector. At best, this might serve as a model for dreaming during (for the Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed, most part) REM sleep, but not for normal waking consciousness! The proper analogy, then, for what C.S. Sherrington so evocatively called the "enchanted loom", Phentermine 37.5 mg no prescription needed - is with the display terminals - 'intelligent' ones, in this case, equipped with extensive cross-connections among their active elements - of a multi-media closed-circuit monitoring system, on which sensorially selected aspects of the organism's immediate environment and its 'milieu interior' are, at least during wakefulness, continuously being scanned in real-time.

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