International Union of Medical and Applied Bioelectrography

EXPERIMENTALLY INVESTIGATE CONSCIOUSNES

AN ATTEMPT TO EXPERIMENTALLY INVESTIGATE CONSCIOUSNES WITH THE HELP OF OPTICAL AND TEMPERATURE SENSORS

M. Mukunda Rao

Sri Ramachandra Medical College & Research Institute

 

Abstract
With the help of optical sensors mounted on the temples of a subject which monitors the arterial blood volumetric changes to the left & right lobes of the brain and by recording the breathing activity with the help of temperature sensors in the two nostrils simultaneously, an attempt is made to investigate the states of the brain and breathing activity of a subject who goes into a state of 'CONSCIOUSNESS' voluntarily . From such investigations, it is reported that it is possible to investigate the conscious states of the brain in terms of the arterial blood volume changes as monitored by optical sensors.
TEXT
Modem medicine divides the brain states into three levels: waking, sleeping and dreaming. Besides these, there is also a state where the brain is still and there are no thoughts. It is a physiological state which one can reach and transcends space, time, name and form. This fourth state of the brain had been recognized by Indian seers several centuries ago. According to Jung and other modem psychologists, the human mind is divided into three levels of awareness: (a) conscious (b) subconscious and (c) unconscious. While the states of subconscious and unconscious, which have been identified with sleeping and dreaming, have been investigated extensively, the state of consciousness is still shrouded in mystery. Mainstream Western psychology has assumed that consciousness is a unction of mind originating in the physical brain. The comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry (Vol III, 1980, p.3318) defines consciousness as:
"Hypothetical sensory centre in the brain that is involved with a person's clarity of awareness about himself and his surroundings, including the ability to perceive and process ongoing events in light of past experiences, future options and current circumstances"
However many new findings in the behavioral sciences challenge the assumption that consciousness is a function of the mind linked to the brain and consciousness is increasingly being recognized as more fundamental than the mind. If that is so consciousness can be located in any part of the human body depending upon the perception/awareness of the person at that point of time.
It has been realized that the scientific approach to study consciousness experimentally is not going to be easy since it can take many forms and defies precise definition [1]. There are many forms of consciousness, such as those associated with seeing, thinking, emotion, pain and so on. Self-consciousness- that is, the self-referential aspect of consciousness-is probably a special case of consciousness. Christoff Koch and Fransis Crick [1] have chosen visual awareness in their experimental study of consciousness because they believe that humans are very visual animals and the visual awareness is especially vivid and rich in information. In the present investigation, the arterial blood volumetric changes to the left & right lobes of the brain as monitored by the optical sensors mounted on the temples of a subject and the differential nostril breathing as monitored by temperature sensors positioned inside the nostrils of a subject are taken as the tools for experimentally observing the state of consciousness. These experimental techniques have already been used successfully for monitoring brain events [2]. The temperature sensors inserted in the nostrils of a subject give an accurate variation of the differential breathing activity of the subject. The close link between breathing and brain  activity has also been established using these measurements [3].
These measurements reported here were carried out at Foundation for Self-Knowledge, an 'ashram' meaning a spiritual retreat in the outskirts of Chennai. The subject, Swami Shuddhananda, who is the head of Foundation, is an adept in self-knowledge hence meditation and trains spiritual aspirants in this campus Our instruments - (PPG sensors) and temperature sensors were mounted on the subject and the subject was asked to sit in a comfortable chair. The subject by virtue of long years of practice is capable of deep meditation (always with the Self, the state of consciousness and hence, was asked to be in total meditation-'to be' in the state of consciousness during the course of observations. Optical sensors were mounted on his temples and temperature sensors were fixed near his nostrils The first data set was taken when the subject had been in relaxed state before he started meditation. After a few minutes, when the subject is supposed to be free from thoughts the state of pure consciousness, a second set of readings were taken. Both sets of data were plotted in time and frequency domains.
From the above mentioned measurements, it is obvious that for a trained practitioner, a consciously conscious person, it is possible to stabilize or disturb his brain states at his will as demonstrated by the blood volume changes in the left and right temples of the subject monitored by the optical sensors. This could be the fourth state of the brain which is different from waking, sleeping and dreaming states of the brain. The waking, sleeping and dreaming states of the brain have been extensively studied and well understood, using EEG based investigations. This fourth state of the brain which is generally referred to as 'awareness' or 'consciousness' in the vedantic and yogic literature is hardly investigated scientifically let alone understood properly It is suggested that this fourth state of the brain can only be attained by anyone practicing conscious meditation which automatically influences the thought pattern and therefore the breathing. Experience in spiritual exercises like controlled breathing, chanting, meditation or by vision whatever that may mean, can lead to attaining this fourth state of the brain or consciousness. Christof Koch and Fransis Crick [1] have been trying to persuade people, and especially those scientists intimately involved with the brain, that now is the time to take the problem of consciousness seriously. The results reported here from monitoring blood volumetric changes in the brain are an indication that it might be possible to investigate consciousness through experimental means. If this is true, it opens up a small window for experimental investigation of consciousness/awareness. This window of opportunity, if properly exploited, might have far reaching implications for unraveling the mysteries of consciousness.
REFERENCES
1. Fransis Crick, 'The Astonishing Hypothesis"-The scientific search for the soul, -A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon & Schuster Inc, NY/USA, 1995.
2. M. Mukunda Rao, V. Blazek and H.J. Schmitt, "Real-time detection of brain events using optical sensors: Preliminary Results", Published in the Proceedings of the Sixth International Symposium CNVD '95 held at Linkoepeing, Sweden during June 16-18,1995.-VDI Fortschritt Berichte Reihe 20, Nr. 221,pp 111-118, VDI Verlag, Germany.
3. M. Mukunda Rao, V. Blazek and H.J. Schmitt, "Investigations on the influence of Breathing on Brain activity using Optical Sensors" .Presented at SPIE BiOS '97-International Symposium on Biomedical Optics, San Jose, 1997. Published in the Proceedings of Biological Fluids and Advanced Techniques in Analytical Cytology, Vol. 2982, pp. 53-64, Feb. 1997.


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