February 16, 2006

• A. Consciousness:
• There is controversy among researchers about how to define consciousness. There’s not one single agreed upon definition.
• Researchers talk about 2 notions of consciousness:
• 1. A general level of awareness or arousal: general responsiveness of a signal- the difference between being awake and being asleep. Even when someone is in one of these stages, they tend to cycle and go through phases. They can be really sharp and go in another phase and be dull. When you’re in one of these phases it isn’t constant. Some people, while sleeping, respond to external signals and in another phase they will be in a deep sleep. It is constantly changing and altering.
• Circadian rhythms: (bio rhythms) - an individual goes through different phases of alertness while they’re asleep or awake.
• 2. The focus of attention or focus of processing: some things are going on externally or internally but you’re ignoring them and not processing it. They are conscious of one thing and not paying attention to another.
• B. How and when consciousness was studied: consciousness was only recently considered as a scientific endeavor. Psychology, in the 1st part of the 20th century, was on the behaviorist model. It has to be observed and measured.
• Studying consciousness and mental processes were out of bounds because you couldn’t measure it. It wasn’t directly observable.
• Around the 1950’s or 1960’s it started to change somewhat and cognitive processing emerged as a psychology pursuit. Mental processes were studied and some of them could be handled scientifically.
• Memory and problem solving could be studied.
• The idea of studying consciousness was still something they didn’t want to get into. It wasn’t studied until the late 70’s or early 80’s.
• C. Methodologies of Studying Consciousness:
• 1. Brain damaged subjects: they were studied to see what they can and can’t do. They stumbled into consciousness while studying these patients.
• Blind sight: describes a particular kind of brain disorder or brain damage. Some kind of damage is to the visual system that leaves the person unaware of the visual signals. This person will claim ot be blind and they can’t consciously see anything. Tests are set up to demonstrate that, on some kind of level, they are demonstrating their visual signals. They don’t know they are receiving and processing them. The visual system is made up of a number of different parts. The usual pathway for the visual system is the following: retina--? optic nerve -?thalamus--?primary visual cortex--? temporal or parietal lobe. Most of the messages or fibers of the optic nerve goes to the thalamus and some information breaks of from it and sends it to the older, evolutionary sub cortical structure to a particular part called the superior colliculi. To some creatures this is their main visual processing center. The kind of brain damage they suffer affects their primary visual cortex when it runs from the thalamus to the occipital lobe. It is not hard to damage your head there because this area is in the back or your head.
• D. Some tests can be set up to show that they are processing visual information. They include the following:
• 1. Perimetry Test: lights pop in different places and you have to spot where the light is. (On the machine where you have to rest your chin.) This tests the peripheral vision. If it is done with a blind sight patient, they have to point where the light is flashing. Their performance is well about chance. They can do visual discriminations and they can identify where shapes are. They can engage in reflexive behaviors. They react like a seeing person does. They mold their behaviors to react properly. The superior colliculi appears to guide reflexive behaviors in the blind sight person as well as any other creature. They don’t necessarily have to be aware of what they’re doing. It’s an automatic, reflexive response. They can d o a lot unconsciously.
• Some tests are complicated for them.
• 2. One test they fail is to identify or describe moving spectrums of light in the perimetric test. Their performance starts to drop back to chance. Their awareness may be necessary to do this type of task. One of the primary functions of the primary visual cortex is awareness.
• Prosopagnosia: involves another part of the visual system- the specific disorder this patient has is the inability to recognize faces of an individual. They can identify other forms and patterns but they can’t tell a stranger from a friend or family member by looking at their face. The brain damage is located at the temporal or what pathway. This is disrupted somehow. It is as much of an awareness problem as it is a visual problem. They are not aware of the difference. One task they can be given is to go through a deck or cards with strangers and family’s faces and see if they can tell the difference and sort it out by decks. One deck should be family and the other strangers, so they should have 2 decks. But a person with this disorder only will end up with one deck. This is conscious test of their recognition. They can also be tested to monitor their autonomic psychological indicators. This can test their pupils and heart rate. This is a test of recognition of faces because when you recognize some you pupils can dilate and heart rate can change. They are tested to see if they recognize faces autonomically. They can recognize them this way. They know them unconsciously but consciously.
• Two processes are going on- conscious and unconscious awareness. They are working together.
•  The area that is the most responsible for awareness is the higher levels of the brain.
• E. Methodologies to use on healthy subjects: studying consciousness in healthy patients has been done with the topic of selective attention: consciousness is in the 2nd sense- the focus of attention. Some signals you’re consciously aware of and some aren’t consciously processed. It is below your level of awareness.
• Cocktail party effect:  envision yourself at a cocktail parry and all kinds of conversations are going on buy you’re only focusing on one of the conversations. Other signals are dull. This tells you when attention is focused on a particular signal that you are processing this signal meaningfully- you understand what the person is saying. You get meaning out of the signal. What’s going on outside of your focus, you are aware of its sound but not its meaning. It’s not completely blocked out. Attention is located where meaningful processing is going on. The meaning of the other messages is lost.

February 21, 2006

• Automatic vs. Controlled Processes:
• Controlled processes: requires a great deal of cognitive effort or energy, typically when someone is engaged in this they are focusing their attention on the process. In order to do this, you have to concentrate.
• Automatic process: runs without attention or cognitive processes dedicated to it. You don’t have to think about it; it runs automatically without thinking. Some processes can start off controlled but it ends up being automatic.
• EX: driving a stick shift- you have to focus on it at first and think about. Then it becomes automatic over time.
• If you start to think about automatic processes. You mess them up. Consciousness starts to get in the way.
• It appears that consciousness is very important for the acquisition of complex skills. When you’re trying something you have to be aware of it to acquire it. Once the skill is acquired, it appears that consciousness gets in the way of running the automatic routine. It’s problematic for the execution of something.
• A number of studies have looked at the kinds of skills that do this switch over. As long as there is some reliable, predictable pattern in the skill it’s a candidate for automaticity. It stores the pattern in the brain. It becomes automatic even if it’s complex. The unconscious mind looks for patterns and when it finds them, it latches on.
• Some skills are always varying.
• EX: brain surgeon- always enough difference so it never becomes completely automatic.
• One of the most common methodologies is priming. Priming: the processing of a current stimulus is somehow facilitated or benefited by some past experience. If you have been primed to do it, you are prepared to do it.
• Lexical decision task: a subject is sitting in front of a computer screen. Words or non word letter combinations is flashing at the subject. The subject has to push a button that indicates word or non words. They have to do this as quickly as possible. We’re not looking at accuracy, instead at how long it takes them. (Their reaction time.) The reaction time can be affected significantly by what they saw at the previous trial.
• EX: hammer-----nurse
• Doctor -----nurse. There is a significant reaction time here. It is benefited from something that happened before the priming effect. When there is a meaningful association of words, you get a priming effect. Associated words are stored together in the head. The activation spreads to adjacent nodes.
• To test unconscious priming: the word doctor is presented before nurse and it is quickly flashed on the screen. The subject isn’t aware that it occurred.
• *--*--* Hammer ---- doctor -----nurse
• hammer- nurse
• Reaction is still the same as if doctor is flashed.
• It can also be tested by a stem completion task. The subject is given word stems such as but ---------
• Fill it in with whatever pops in their head.
• A priming or bias effect occurs prior to the stem completion. They were given words to study then they were given the task. They were influenced by what the studied. You can get unconscious priming from this also.
• If it is presented unconsciously there will still be a bias or priming effect.
• Some researchers demonstrated that they could still do this under anesthetics. They are given a stem completion task after they work up.  There is still a biasing effect. Prior experiences can be below our level of awareness but still can process it. Past experiences are still in the unconscious mind. Evolutionary psychologists say that people are designed to be attracted to something that is designed for production and survival.
• Tasks can be complicated enough that you start to lose the unconscious effects. It goes along with blind sight patients. When things start to be complex consciousness is needed.
• Exclusion test: stem completion test- fill in stem with the first thing that pops in your head, but if you saw it earlier on you have to write down something else. What words you saw earlier is excluded.
• If words are presented unconsciously, will the unconscious mind be attracted to it or will it be repelled from it? Answer: They can’t follow exclusion. You can’t make them be biased against the unconscious response.
• You can still get the priming effect even with ambiguous words such as palm. But you can restrict what words to use.
• Wrist- palm-hand-? priming
• Wrist- palm-coconut -?no priming
• Wrist has to be presented consciously to get the effect. If unconscious, wrist doesn’t get the context association with hand. If a situation is ambiguous one of the important roles of consciousness it to narrow down possible alternatives. The unconscious mind can do things, but they are relatively simple. When more ambiguous and complicated the consciousness needs to be involved.
• Consciousness- general level of awareness or arousal:
• If you take waking state as baseline state of awareness, deviations from this state is altered states of consciousness. It is altered or varied from baseline. Sleep is the most common altered state of consciousness.
• Sleep has been studies by looking at the brain waves during sleep.
• Measure electrical activity of the brain in a general sense. Electrodes are put in the front, back, and side of the brain. A statistical technique is used to get rid of the noise.
• Someone is brought in the lab and while they’re awake, electrodes are hooked up to them. They are calm in this state.
• Wile they’re relaxed, they give beta waves: short, high amplitude waves.
• As they start to relax but aren’t asleep yet, the day dream a little bit. They are starting to get relaxed enough to sleep.
• As they’re increasingly becoming relaxed, they give off alpha waves: short, low amplitude, but frequency (distance between peaks) declines somewhat. They are in a state preceding sleep. If they’re allowed to go to sleep, there are 5 distinct stages of sleep that are identified.
• The 1st 4 stages of sleep is referred to as non REM sleep (NREM). REM= rapid eye movements.
• Indicators: you don’t see eyes moving, they remain fixed. The body, during these stages, remains flaccid, mobile, and relaxed.
• Stages of NREM:
• Stage 1: characterized by theta waves. They superficially look like beta waves. There is a larger and slower pattern emerging under the waves. (short, choppy waves)
• Stage 2: characterized by theta waves but are interrupted by sleep spindles: bursts that occur in the midst of theta waves. This is a deeper stage and it is somewhat difficult to wake them up but it’s still possible. No one is sure what theses spindles men.
• Stage 3: characterized by the beginning of delta waves: big, slow pattern behing theta waves, but emerges clearer. The delta waves are referred to as deep sleep waves. It becomes much more difficult to arouse them.
• Stage 4: delta waves have a more regular and clear pattern. They are big, smooth, and slow waves. This indicates that a person is in the deepest stage of sleep and it is very difficult to wake them.
• It takes 15-20 minutes to move through each of the 4 stages. Something interesting happens at the night moves on, as you are first falling asleep, most of the time is spent in NREM stages. REM stages are rapid and as the night progresses, the relationship inverts. As you get closer to morning, NREM is rapid (contracts). REM is expanding.
• REM: 5th stage of sleep. The brain wave pattern shifts abruptly. It looks more like the alpha waves. It looks like the brain has awakened. Now we are in stage of rapid eye movement. The eyes are moving and the body shifts dramatically. The muscles become stiff and rigid. It is much less mobile than NREM. During this stage dreaming takes place. Animals have similar patterns to tell they’re dreaming. The inverse relationship increases the likelihood of waking up.
• Sleep deprivation: REM rebound- the body really seems to want REM sleep. When someone is deprived of sleep, and when they’re allowed to sleep, they speed through the stages abruptly and stay in the REM state longer. The body is biased for REM sleep. REM sleep is associated with mental function. If they’re deprived it affects their mental functioning.

February 23, 2006

• The idea of REM rebound seems to report one particular notion: restoration.
• REM is especially important for mental restoration. The brain rejuvenates during REM sleep.
• When subjects are deprived of REM sleep they perform poorly on mental tasks such as problem solving.
• Sleep disorders: A number of disorders can disrupt sleep.
• 1. Insomnia: there are different forms of this. Failure to get enough sleep at night can happened due to a person being unable to fall asleep when they go to bed or when someone falls asleep, wakes up and is unable to go back to sleep. This will affect functioning during the day. Sometimes a person can have physical problems but often times this isn’t it. It can also occur because of side effects of medicine. Very many medications can cause sleep disruption. Another potential cause is ruminating. This refers to thinking through things, problem solving and going through the day’s events. Humans have a tendency to think things through.
• 2. Apnea: common sleep disorder. It is anything that can interfere with breathing at night. The apneaic has difficulty in breathing while they are asleep. Another symptom is snoring. The person is fighting to breathe. The most common apneiac is an overweight male. The added weight around the neck and the windpipe is one of the causes of apnea. To cure it someone could need surgery to shave their tongue if their apnea is bad. Another way to treat it is to get a breathing apparatus to help keep the windpipe open. Losing weight is also helpful.
• 3. Narcolepsy: sudden onset sleep disorder when the individual uncontrollably falls asleep. There may be some malfunction in the hypothalamus. Various medications, such as stimulants, are used to treat this. The main stimulant is Ritalin.
• Lucid Dreaming: being able to control the content and action of dreams. This is very unusual. Their dreams are more life real life. Control is voluntary. There are some techniques people can engage in to learn this skill. It tells us that dreams aren’t entirely out of control or incoherent.
• Consciousness altering substances:
• 1. Stimulants: increase Central Nervous System activity and makes one alert. Examples: coffee and amphetamines.
• 2. Sedatives: tranquilizing effect. It slows down CNS activity. Example: alcohol.
• 3. Hallucinogens: alters or distorts sensory perception. It relieves a certain kind of perception that goes on in the brain.
• 4. Opiates: relaxing. Calming effect. It gives a numbing effect on the nerves which relieves pain.
• History of Consciousness altering substances:
• It goes far back. They have always been with us. The tendency of using these substances goes deep in history. There is something really different about the modern use of these substances compared to the historical use of them. The difference is ritual. Primitive societies, such as the hunters and gatherers, always used them in this context. Rituals regulated the use of these substances.
• EX: healing or initiation rituals. Experts would deliver them to individuals. The experts interpreted what occurred. It actually helped their community survive and it strengthened them. It brought their society together. In modern times, the ritual is gone.