Volume 5 No 3 (2007)
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Difficulties with the Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness: An Update
Susan Pocket
Two previously identified difficulties with the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness are discussed. The first difficulty is that, although spatiotemporal electromagnetic patterns co-varying with conscious experiences have been identified in rabbits and cats, no analogous patterns have yet been found in humans. Evidence is cited that this is very likely because the relevant patterns are inaccessible from the scalp. Recording from the surface of the human brain will be necessary. Such electrocorticography (ECoG) recordings are feasible in the context of localizing epileptogenic foci, but logistical difficulties have so far prevented their being done with a view to identifying spatial patterns covarying with conscious sensations. The second difficulty is that, although electromagnetic fields certainly can cause neural firing, the same mathematical calculations that show the need for ECoG reveal that the spatial patterns proposed as being conscious become unidentifiable such a short distance away from their source that they are ill suited to causing behavior by activating neurons in other areas of the brain. This difficulty is rendered unimportant by an accumulation of empirical evidence that consciousness is actually not causal for behavior. A number of philosophical objections to this evidence are dissected. The conclusion is arrived at that the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness is still very much alive and kicking.
electromagnetic field, consciousness, mind-brain theory
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