Saturday, June 09, 2007

Deja Vu

One of my blog pals, Dr. Deb Serani, wrote a post one time about the phenomenon of deja vu.* That's something I'm interested in because it is a side effect of ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), which I had a year and a half ago for severe depression. Today, I found an article saying that they've discovered where, exactly, in the brain, this phenomenon occurs.

Origin of Deja Vu Pinpointed
-Dave Mosher, LiveScience Staff Writer

The brain cranks out memories near its center, in a looped wishbone of tissue called the hippocampus. But a new study suggests only a small chunk of it, called the dentate gyrus, is responsible for “episodic” memories—information that allows us to tell similar places and situations apart.

The finding helps explain where déjà vu originates in the brain, and why it happens more frequently with increasing age and with brain-disease patients, said MIT neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa. The study is detailed today in the online version of the journal Science.

(Click on the article's title to read the rest of it.)

If that's not fascinating enough, then you might enjoy reading this:

Top 10 mysteries of the mind

10. Sweet Dreams (what are dreams?)

9. Slumber Sleuth (why do we need sleep?)

8. Phantom Feelings (experienced by amputees)

7. Mission Control (biological clock)

6. Memory Lane (how do we remember?)

5. Brain Teaser (what is laughter?)

4. Nature vs. Nurture (which has the most influence?)

3. Mortal Mystery (why do we age?)

2. Deep Freeze (cryonics - would it work?)

1. Consciousness (what is it?)

The mystery of consciousness, it seems, is finally coming to the attention of (some) physicists. In the blurb about consciousness on the preceding list, there's a link on this phrase, "... scientists have managed to develop a great list of questions... ." The link takes you to this fascinating article:

Why great minds can't grasp consciousness
By Ker Than, LiveScience Staff Writer
(08 August 2005)
At a physics meeting last October, Nobel laureate David Gross outlined 25 questions in science that he thought physics might help answer. Nestled among queries about black holes and the nature of dark matter and dark energy were questions that wandered beyond the traditional bounds of physics to venture into areas typically associated with the life sciences.
One of the Gross's questions involved human consciousness.

He wondered whether scientists would ever be able to measure the onset consciousness in infants and speculated that consciousness might be similar to what physicists call a "phase transition," an abrupt and sudden large-scale transformation resulting from several microscopic changes. The emergence of superconductivity in certain metals when cooled below a critical temperature is an example of a phase transition.

Gross isn't the only physicist with ideas about consciousness.

Beyond the mystics

Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.

Penrose also believes that quantum mechanics, the rules governing the physical world at the subatomic level, might play an important role in consciousness.

Ah! Now this is very interesting: ... quantum mechanics ... might play an important role in consciousness." This seems to be what "the Ancients," those long-ago mystics of the great Eastern philosophies, were talking about all along.

What if science finds that consciousness doesn't play just "an important role," but plays THE role? What if ... consciousness is the substance of the universe? What if ... it's really true what John Lennon famously wrote, paraphrasing Eastern philosophers, "I am he and you are me and we are all together." What if ... everything and everyone in the universe is connected, intertwined, like unto a ... network?

Oh wait, this seems familiar. I think I've blogged about this before. Haven't I?

*Deb, I couldn't find the post you did on that, even though I used the search feature on your blog. If you have the link, please let me know so I can update this.