What is consciousness? This primal question has occupied humanity since we gained the language to ask it. In his new book "Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain," Antonio Damasio investigates how new discoveries in neuroscience can shed light on the evolution and emergence of the conscious self.
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Every morning we wake up and regain consciousness — that is a marvelous fact — but what exactly is it that we regain? Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio uses this simple question to give us a glimpse into how our brains create our sense of self.
Antonio Damasio’s research in neuroscience has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making. His work has had a major influence on current understanding of the neural systems, which underlie memory, language, consciousness.
“Neither anguish nor the elation that love or art can bring about are devalued by understanding some of the myriad biological processes that make them what they are… Our sense of wonder should increase before the intricate mechanisms that make such magic possible.”
Ginger Campbell, M.D., is an emergency physician whose long-standing interest in philosophy and science motivated her to begin podcasting in 2006. While her Brain Science Podcast focuses on neuroscience, her other show, Books and Ideas, often explores the intersection between science and religion. She is also the founder of sciencepodcasters.org, which is a site devoted to promoting science through podcasting.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Ginger Campbell recounts how she first got involved in science podcasting, and why she focuses on neuroscience as her topic. She discusses the impact of Jennifer Michael Hecht’s work on both her intellectual pursuits and her views about atheism and religion. She talks about the trends in neuroscience that may suggest the brain can be "trained" with products such as Brain Age on Nintendo’s DS Lite, or that one’s diet can increase one’s intelligence. She describes "neuroplasticity," and how new brain imaging technologies, such as advanced fMRIs, show that our daily actions can impact specific parts of the brain. She explores the implications of neuroscience for religious belief, and why she has at times resisted the idea of atheism. She shares her reactions to the "New Atheists." And she discusses the increasing attacks on neuroscience from Creationist activists because of what it implies about consciousness, free-will and the existence of the soul.