Research Round #1 - What does it mean to be conscious?

Hi everyone!  

This is my first research round on Butterfly Effect, and I’ll be discussing about my question: “what does it mean to be conscious?” I will be stating an overview of my topic, the levels of consciousness, different ways we loss of consciousness and what happens in our brains when that occurs.

The Overview: 

By the dictionary, this is what consciousness and unconsciousness mean: 

Consciousness is defined by the subjective awareness of one’s one existence, sensations, thoughts, surrounding, etc. (1) 

-->it is thought to be transitory (ex. When we sleep or have a large amount of substance intake) and fundamental to our nature (2) 

Unconsciousness, on the other hand, is defined by when one is without awareness, sensation or cognition  

-->it is known to be typically temporary (3) 

Both unconsciousness and unconsciousness are known to be umbrella terms to a larger topic of what they really are outside their small definition (2). There are evidently stages between these two levels to when we are aware of event going on. For example, was there ever a time when someone tried to wake you up in the middle of the night? Was there ever a time where you would be watching a movie, and you would fall asleep? There is this sensation that happens where you remembered the small snippets of what was occurring in the conscious world, but you weren't able to mentally piece all the events together. This arises a question to whether this stage would count as you being conscious or not.

The 3 main levels of consciousness of Sigmund Freud: 

There are many theories out there about consciousness. One of the most popular ones in the west is Sigmund Freud's theory. He believed that the conscious mind consists of everything inside our awareness. As a results, he divided our awareness into the three levels listed below.

The conscious level: the zone of which we are aware of our surroundings and ourselves (including thought, sensations, etc.) 

The preconscious level: consists of the stimuli, thoughts and other modes of awareness we could pay consciousness to if we desired (ex. past memories), comprises out of thoughts 

The unconscious level: consists of times that the outside of conscious awareness of which we are not aware (4). 

Image result for what is consciousness

How do we lose consciousness:

Losing consciousness is: 

-->a process of disconnection 

-->when this occurs, the way to how neurons communicate and send signals to one another becomes localized. This results in isolated areas of activity. In other words, there is a communication breakdown (9). 

Ways we lose consciousness: 

Here I will be giving a light overview of my next two research rounds in this cycle as well as some other ways we lose consciousness. My next two research rounds will be focusing on how sleep and head injuries relate to the consciousness. 

Sleeping/dreaming: -->characterized by rapid eye movements (5) 

-->influenced by circadian rhythms which, in all, regulate the timing and help determine when we are sleepy or alert 

-->there are stages of sleep between the alternating REM and NREM sleep cycles 

-->4 phases in the sleep cycle 

-->it is known there are disorders of sleep including... 

-------->narcolepsy: illness characterized by extreme sleep attacks, cataplexy, sleep paralysis or even hallucinations (total REM sleep)  

Image result for sleeping

Meditation: -->a practice of the mind where it is attempted to induce relaxation on the mind and body 

-->trains the mind to think a particular way 

-->holds a variety of techniques 

-->goal: achieve relaxation, build internal energy and develop compassion + patience 

-->reduces stress, enhances focus, contributes to the physical + mental health + well-being 

Hypnosis: -->trance-like state in which a person’s typical day experiences are heightened 

-->uses: pain management (ex. Some pregnant women use it to reduce their needs for pain medication during labor), addiction, weight loss, fears, etc. 

Psychoactive drugs: There are... 

Depressants which result in the body relaxing for pain relief, memory impairment, to lower blood pressure and heart rate 

-->ex. alcohol, barbiturates, opioids, etc. 

Stimulants which result in temporary improvements on the mental and physical functions 

-->used as prescription or recreational drugs 

-->ex. cocaine, caffeine, etc. (6) 

Head Injuries: -->injury to brain, skull or scalp 

-->can be “closed” or “opened” 

-->can be caused from vehicle accidents, falls, physical assaults and sport-related incidents 

-->ex. Concussions, skull fractures, and scalp wounds (7) 

There are so many ways we lose consciousness, but these are only few examples!

What happens in our brains? 

The brain is responsible for maintaining consciousness. To function properly, it needs certain amounts of oxygen and glucose. There are substances such as caffeine or painkillers that can affect brain chemistry by maintaining or decreasing your levels of consciousness.

The symptoms of decreased consciousness: 

-->seizures, fainting, falling, lightheaded, etc. 

Some types of decreased consciousness: 

-->confusion, disorientation, delirium, lethargy, stupor and coma 

Treatments for these symptoms of decreased consciousness can include: 

-->medications and exercise 

However, some do not have no cure (ex. Alzheimer) (8).

Image result for what is consciousness






(4) https://courses.lumenlearning....on-to-consciousness/  







As you can see consciousness is a quite a fascinating topic. Next week I'll be talking about how sleep and dreams relate to the consciousness as mentioned in my project plan! Stay tuned!


Please leave any suggestions or comments! They are all appreciated. Thank you very much for reading.


Original Post

Hi Alison,

Great research! Your topic is really intriguing and interesting to read. We do meditation in my martial arts class, and we're supposed to try not to think about anything, to relax our body and mind. The only thing we're allowed to be thinking about is our posture and breathing, but ultimately, after many years of practice, it should come naturally without thinking, which I suppose is losing consciousness in a way. One thing I'm curious about though is that, is it really possible be awake, meditating for example, and to have your mind completely blank, not thinking about a single thing? Or can we only achieve very close to that? Perhaps if you plan to do more research on meditation, you could look into that.

Here is a couple of websites that discuss the relationship between sleeping and dreaming and consciousness:


Good luck!

Add Reply