Memory and Consciousness by Sagar Mehta 1C

In the realm of the mind there is nothing so convoluted and complex than memory. Our brain is just a conglomeration of billions of nerve cells that fire impulses of electricity and chemical signals and yet it has the capacity to memorize and retain an entire lifetime of memoirs, knowledge, and history. It is an incredible thing that has puzzled many in the past and continues to do so even today where we can monitor the brain using fMRI imaging technology. Even René Descartes who was very confident in the other areas of science and mathematics in which he proposed ideas which area are still used today was not sure of the location of the memories in our mind. He erroneously tied the immaterial mind to the physical pituitary gland. Current researchers however are getting closer and closer to the truth and have realized that the new imaging technology has determined that those who are in a persistent vegetative state do respond to verbal cues from researchers and the parts of their brain deemed “dead” at one point may not be.

V.S. Ramachandran’s lecture on consciousness also opened my eyes to how many creatures are actually aware of their surroundings and themselves. The ability of an elephant to recognize something is on its face or of an octopus to communicate using intricate patterns of coloration on its body show that the animals are aware, that they are conscious of their own environment. Mr. Ramachandran was keen to point this out as well, that the animal may not be conscious to us but it is so to its own environment, an idea I had not thought of in regards to animals. The following link http://www.grandin.com/references/animal.consciousness.html explains how that the increase in complexity of an animal the higher the tendency of it to be conscious and goes on to say that the typical frozen deer in the headlights is not because the deer is simply frightened but that the animal switches from an instinctive grazing to a conscious states which allows its brain to analyze the situation.

In response to the drugs that affect consciousness, I am certainly for the use of controlled drugs in order to restore someone back to sanity or calm someone who is very excited, aggressive, or depressed etc. The majority of problems I find occur when those very prescriptions are used as substitutes for effort and for time. There are certain points to Mr. Cruise’s argument in that children are often misdiagnosed and treated with medications they do not need. This ties back to the fact that we have become lazy as a society and that our lives are too fast paced for our families to be properly care for them. However if we continue to treat every child as if they have attention deficit disorder we will have bigger problems in the future.

Sagar Mehta 1C

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580394,00.html

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