Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran answers the Edge Question 2017.
In 2017, for the 20th Anniversary of the Edge Annual Question, John Brockman asked to the Edge Community "What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?". Answers included contributions by the renowned psychologist Steven Pinker on "The Second Law of Thermodynamics", the Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins on "The Genetic Book of the Dead", and the composer Brian Enno on "Confirmation Bias", among others. Eduardo Salcedo-Albarán, our CEO, discussed about the relevance of the "Brainstem" as a link between our basic physiological and homeostatic functions, and our conscious through emotions: "our reason, although powerful, isn’t as constant as most social scientists assume".
"Today, neuro-biology provides increasing evidence of how our reason, although powerful, isn’t as constant as most social scientists assume. Now we know that inner brain areas related to homeostatic and basic physiological functions are more relevant and permanent for surviving and evolving, than external areas of the cortex related to cognitive faculties."
"Complex cognitive skills do enrich our mental life, but aren’t critical for regulating physiological functions that are basic for existing. In a sense, we can exist with a poorer mental life—for instance following a damage in our external cortex, but we can’t exist without the basic regulation of our heartbeat or the respiratory rhythm–for instance, following a damage in our Brainstem. "
"In fact, as Antonio Damasio has already explained, the Brainstem potentially houses the origin of consciousness—the complex mental representation of the “self” that we continuously experience in first person. Even slight damages in subareas of the Brainstem lead to comatose and vegetative states, and the permanent lack of consciousness."
"Since the Brainstem’s activity is related to basic physiological and homeostatic functions, its activity is permanent, allowing the continuum construct of the “self.” Although our external appearance changes during our lifetime, our internal organs and biological functions remain mostly unchanged; if our consciousness is therefore grounded on those constant biological functions, it will also remain mostly constant."
(....) See full answer on https://www.edge.org/response-detail/27235