Friday, April 5, 2013

Monopoly of the Prefrontal Cortex

Ever since Joaquin Fuster, a neuroscientist brought in a ground work structure surrounding the current understanding of brain and cognition, the scientific outlook towards 'sentience' has evolved. The same cannot be said about our ability to internalize this understanding, as it appears to our experience as an illusion of sorts. This illusion is not the same as unreal for we do not experience the unreal as we do illusion. The definition of human sentience actually received importance only when a debate ensued as to whether plants had emotions at all. The consensus regarding the possibility of emotional plants and trees is still somewhat vague. An experiment was performed in this regard and it was observed tentatively that plants responded to music. A categorical claim however could not be achieved. What is also found equally difficult to achieve is to internalize and come to terms with the 'fact' that plants actually have life. Although it is taught to us in Science, we do not have an exact understanding of the quality of aliveness. Some path breaking discoveries in Neuroscience in the recent times point to 'experience' whether existential or automatic, as having its basis explained by the prefrontal cortex, located somewhere in the frontal lobes of our brain.

To what extent, the prefrontal cortex controls the nature of human experience is explained through the idea of cognitiion where thought, actions and value related transactions are arrived at in a stream. This stream is continuous and it is by no means easy to keep pace with the evolution of the prefrontal cortex in scientific terms, as measuring conscious experience in motion is more of a challenge than drawing inferences from an observation of a static body/organ. The understanding of the role of prefrontal cortex in experience focusses the automatic experience as a mere sensation but restricts existential experience by not allowing it a sentience. This leads not to a road block but a monopoly of perspective. If this subject of existential experience can be narrowed down to the nature of the prefrontal cortex than may be brain imaging systems can capture to some extent how an experience is absorbed by a given individual who appears for the scan. However, these systems would not capture emotional fractions and existential experiences in motion. The complexity that Science is after is achieved only in motion. But, it looks at motion as a stream.

Without diverting the stream at the time of observation, the quality of aliveness can be determined without the interference of predetermined behaviours. If a 'being' has to be truly alive then the old reactions might have to be extinguished to give rise to experience in the real sense of the word. This is what psychoanalysis and organic approaches to the transformation of the psyche and brain try to achieve. Unfortunately, time is not an investment, we are prepared to make and this could be more of an obstacle than money. The prefrontal cortex has to some extent captured the possibility of an explanation of human sentience and aliveness in general but has not changed the definition of quality of experience. This is achieved by evolution in the course of time. If time has to be bypassed, then the concept of evolution is defied and evolution cannot be bypassed. This is why scientific understanding evolves along with existential experience. Otherwise, Science would continue to struggle to explain even automatic experience with pristine clarity. 


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