Brain: there is no such thing as a conscious act, according to a new study - Futura

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Is every decision or action systematically unconscious? A new theory from Boston University suggests that decisions are made unconsciously and then become conscious about half a second later.
[IN VIDEO] Interview: can we digitize consciousness? Science often works by biomimicry, i.e. by drawing inspiration from living things. Digitizing human consciousness is therefore a logical step in the creation of an artificial intelligence that is supposed to simulate or surpass our abilities. Futura-Sciences met with Jean-Claude Heudin, director of the IIM (Institut de l'Internet et du multimédia) research laboratory, to understand the difficulties of such an undertaking.
Before tackling any subject about consciousness, we must start by defining it, even if the task is not so obvious. It is our personal experience of perception, thought, emotion and action according to the philosopher William James. From then on, several questions can emerge from this definition: What is the purpose of consciousness ? Why is it so difficult to control? If our actions are under our conscious control, why is it so difficult for most of us to diet (and resist other cravings)?
Researchers at Boston University have attempted to answer these questions by developing a new theory of consciousness. " In short, our theory is that consciousness developed as a memory system used by our unconscious brain to help us imagine the future flexibly and creatively, and to plan accordingly ", explains in a press release of the American University the Andrew Budson Professor of Neurology.
Previous work reports that consciousness does not flow linearly with time and that it often occurs in the wrong order (i.e., after, rather than before or with, perception, decision or action). Clearly, and according to the new theory, we do not perceive the world, make decisions or perform actions directly. " Instead, we do all these things unconsciously and then (about half a second later), we consciously remember doing them "Budson adds.
Moreover, the slow pace of the awareness previously could not explain the many decisions and actions that often occur in a fraction of a second when playing a sport or a musical instrument. We can also say to ourselves that we are going to take a spoonful of ice cream and, finally, the container is empty because our conscious mind did not control our action!
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Even our thoughts are more unconscious than conscious. Indeed, if the purpose of consciousness is to allow us to control our thoughts and actions, this control is often difficult to achieve. " This lack of control explains why we may have difficulty stopping a stream of thoughts from running through our heads when we try to fall asleep, and also why mindfulness is difficult ", argues the neurologist.
As the theoretical study published in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology The researchers point out that their hypotheses can be disproved. Furthermore, they acknowledge that their hypotheses have addressed only several small aspects of consciousness, and have ignored many of the parts of any complete theory of consciousness.
Budson and colleagues consider that a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer's diseaseIn addition, the work of the University of Toronto has been shown to be useful in understanding how the brain structures that support memory are structured and in opening up philosophical debates about free will and moral responsibility in the future. In the future, this work could help to better understand how brain structures promote memory, and even open up philosophical debates about free will and moral responsibility.
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by Claire Manière
the October 8, 2022
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