Glossary


The use of some technical words and expressions is unavoidable in a book of this type. Sometimes scientists use them unnecessarily, just to show off, or hide behind them, but in some cases they really do encapsulate a meaning that can only otherwise be realized by using a lot of other words instead. There follows a list of those that are likely to be unfamiliar to a general reader, with brief explanations of their meaning and usage. Included in the list are some common words that have particular meanings in consciousness studies, and some terms used by other authors which are so useful that they are employed in this book, with grateful appreciation, and permission where it was possible to obtain it. Some specific molecular biology vocabulary is included below, but these terms are set in their anatomical context more thoroughly by Chapter Six.

amygdala: a fairly recently-evolved part of the brain which specializes in housing emotional agendas (see limbic system).

archetype: cognitive content in the psyche of a mythic nature which helps in the societal development of new-born humans and possibly some animal species (see Appendix Three).

ATP: adenosine 5'-triphosphate, a basic source of energy for cells.

attention: the cognitive mechanism that allows consciousness (awareness) to focus on one thing at a time.

awareness: often used to mean 'consciousness' in the sense of awakeness and alertness; in this book it is normally used only in 'self-awareness' and 'social awareness', to avoid confusion.

collective unconscious: an assembly of unconscious ideas, archetypes (qv) and other cognitive content that is available to all humans, whether housed in a deep layer of the brain, or externally.

conspecific: a member of your own species; a member of another species is a heterospecific.

DMPFC: the dorsomedial pre-frontal cortex.

entanglement: the state in which two or more particles can find themselves when they are 'connected' through the operation of quantum mechanics.

epigenetic: a factor is epigenetic if it alters the activity (expression) of genes without changing their structure.

eukaryotic: a self-replicating cell which has a nucleus enclosed by a membrane; as opposed to prokaryotic cells, q.v.

haptic: to do with touch; tactile.

hedonic: concerned with pleasure-seeking and related emotional or pre-cognitive and autonomic drives.

hippocampus: a fairly late-evolving structure associated with the cortex and which is crucial to memory formation.

intentionality: the capacity of an animal to recognize purpose and intention in another animal, not necessarily consciously; also known as 'Theory of Mind'.

interoceptive: applied to sensory input, and meaning received from inside the body, for instance information about the position of limbs; the opposite of exteroceptive.

limbic system: A group of interconnected structures of the brain including the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus that are located beneath the cortex, are common to all mammals, and are associated with emotions such as fear and pleasure, memory, motivation, and various autonomic functions.

LOFC: lateral orbito-frontal cortex

MFG: middle frontal gyrus

mid-brain: the thalamus, hypothalamus, and tectum (qv).

MPFC: medial pre-frontal cortex

NCC: the neural correlates of consciousness, i.e. the anatomical events in the brain that underly or cause consciousness.

ontogeny: ontogeny, as opposed to phylogeny, refers to the developmental history of an organism from fertilization onwards, as opposed to its genetic makeup.

pallium: the structure in many early types of animal which had functions that are now specifically associated with the cortex; the term is still used, confusingly, when calling it a cortex would really be more understandable.

parsimony: the principle that says the simplest satisfactory explanation should always be chosen as against a more complicated one.

phylogeny: the study of the 'family tree' of animal life forms.

procedural memory: long-term memory of learned skills, such as riding a bicycle. The other type of long-term memory is declarative memory, (qv).

prokaryotic: a self-replicating cell whose nucleus is not enclosed by a membrane, typically bacterial; as opposed to eukaryotic cells, q.v.

proprioceptive: the proprioceptive nerves carry information about the positions of parts of the body to the brain stem.

PSI: parapsychology, or the study of the paranormal, including telepathy, clairvoyance, pre-cognition and psycho-kinesis.

qubit: the equivalent in quantum mechanics of a conventional computer 'bit'

qualia: sensory perceptions in the brain – thus, colours are qualia when you see them.

quantum tunnelling: a process by which a particle can cross a classically insurmountable barrier by manifesting itself at a low-probability point of its wave function on the other side of the barrier.

STG: superior temporal gyrus.

subACC: the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex.

superposition: the state of two or more 'entangled' particles in which their characteristics are defined by a shared probabilistic wave function.

tectum: a general-purpose part of early brains which eventually developed into the cortex and other specialized regions of the brain.

thalamus: in higher mammals, at least, the thalamus acts mostly as a kind of telephone exchange connecting the cortex with more deep-seated and evolutionarily more ancient parts of the brain.

Theory of Mind: a grand way of describing intentionality, (qv).

TPJ: temporo-parietal Junction

vitalism: a system of belief that posits an activating principle comon to all life forms.

 

 
 
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