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Reality is Nothing But A Combination of Hallucinations People Accept, Researchers Find

Consciousness, as we know, means the state of being aware of, or perceiving, something or someone. But has it ever struck you as to why it is so? I mean, why do you perceive something the way you do? Why are you conscious and aware of your surroundings? That’s exactly what the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex intended to find out.

The director of the Sackler Centre, Anil Seth, proclaimed that they wanted to understand how your perception of everything shapes your experience of the world. They also aimed to find out and explain time, hearing, and vision_ everything related to perception.

For this, Seth and his team used a variety of tools and methods, like virtual reality (VR), computational science, and brain imaging, to identify the processes that compose the consciousness of the mind and the brain. VR experiments were carried out to understand hallucinations, and computational models were used to test an interesting theory put forward by Rene Descartes, a French philosopher.

Called the ‘beast-machine theory’, it states that animals are different from human beings in the sense that the former are just machines without any thoughts or feelings. And the Sackler Centre has managed to come up with an explanation of what perceptions actually are.

According to Seth, what you perceive is based on a combination of prediction and a set of electrical impulses. For example, when you see an object, your brain is programmed to first combine the sensory signals, process the object in terms of what it knows from past experiences, and then guess what the object actually is.

It’s just like a hallucination, said Seth. Only, this is a hallucination on which everyone collectively agrees and gives it the name of ‘reality’. Scary, right?

The work of finding out how the brain builds the concept of the self and its surroundings was no easy task. Seth, a neuroscientist himself, had to get to know a lot about philosophy, while professional philosophers on his team had to make themselves familiar with neuroscience during the process.

Seth was quick to recognize the fact that both culture and faith have an important role in the philosophy of consciousness. This recognition made him speak with members of religious groups like Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus, trying to understand how each group defines consciousness. For example, in Buddhism, consciousness is defined as ‘skandha’, or factors contributing to physical and mental existence, and it’s embodied in the human soul.

But Seth got frustrated with the lack of neuroscientific data regarding perception. This was because he saw the subject-matter of consciousness not only as an academic pursuit, but also as a very personal one. His fight with depression spanned many years, but his study of how emotional experience is constructed helped him understand his own mind, causing his depressive episodes to significantly reduce.

Seth hoped that his discovery would help unearth complex psychological disorders like delusions and schizophrenia, and would also be applied in the field of mental health.

Right now, Seth and his team still have a long way to go. They still have to answer important questions like why consciousness is such an important part of the universe. As Seth explained, their job requires them to satisfy insatiable needs to answer questions.

Reality is Nothing But A Combination of Hallucinations People Accept, Researchers Find Reality is Nothing But A Combination of Hallucinations People Accept, Researchers Find Reviewed by Tim on August 04, 2019 Rating: 5

1 comment

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