Vitaliano and Rokovic had a very unusual paper. My initial reaction was to question why in the world we were reading this. First they claim that "biologists generally define consciousness as an 'ability to react to the environment.'" Not once in our discussions have we ever concluded that the abiliity to react to the environment is conciousness. In fact this we called being a zombie, which was entirely unconcious in our terms. Next they go on to discuss ULF brainwaves. I understand to some degree how magnetic fields are induced electrically and I do see their point in hypothesizing that these wave fields could be produced in the brain and contribute to conciousness. But, where is their experimental evidence? Perhaps I'm just naive in not having read their references, but in this type of paper they need to have some experimental support Especially since most readers are genuinely sceptical from the start. As soon as they mentioned healing phenomena and psychic energy I certainly became much more critical and longing for some kind of experimental support so that I could consider their hypothesis. In all, its an interesting topic but there was not nearly enough information to make any relevent comments.
Fortunately I read the paper by Hobson and Stickgold first. It was a well organized paper reviewing why they are using a home based sleep monitoring system. It also discussed the sleep states with special attention to REM sleep. And ended up with a conclusion about the wake state and REM sleep/ dreaming as they relate pharmacologically with aminergic and cholinergic dominance. I'm interested in how the cholinergic dominance produced in sleep relates to the cholinergic state in other forms of unconciousness....anesthesia/ trauma induced. Also, are we considering REM sleep as an unconcious state? Seems like an altered concious state with properties seen in other altered states (drug induced). I'm assuming this has to do with the shift to cholinergic dominance. In all this was a good paper to introduce the dream/wake realm of conciousness, but left me hungry for a more specifics and relations to other dream like states.
The other paper, by Hobson and Stickgold, belongs more in the former realm, i.e. it cites experimental evidence for its assertions. I liked that the authors did not make generalizatins from their work about consciousness in gerneral but kept it at the level they actually were investigating. I found particularly interesting the fact that different neurotransmitter systems are active during different phases of sleep and that there is a link bewteen the qualitative experience of each phase to the neurotransmitter system tha is active during it. By this I particualrly mean the phenomenon of dream amnesia which can be linked to cholinergic activity during REM phases.
The article by Vitaliano and Rakivic was a unique attempt to scientifically explain phenomena such as transpersonal interaction, time and space distortion, etc. I do not quite grasp the concept of gaseous ionic structures that supposedly yields these altered states of consciousness and what ultraradian rhythm is. It is also somewhat overwhelming to think that the flow of ions and the EMFs these currents can carry information from one person to another, even though sodium and potassium currents give way to the movement of information across a neuron. There were no concrete experimental data in this article, which left me wanting to know more about how these proposed biophysical events (EMF, gases, ion flow, etc.) actually work to create altered states of consciousness.
As for the Hobson and Stickfield article, I thought that it was a very well-written article that gave me a good view of what is involved in sleep and dreaming. I remember reading earlier in the course (Searle?) that sleep wasn't considered to be conscious. But i question that. I feel that sleep is simply an altered form of consciousness, the evidence for this being that we dream. Our dreams act to process our conscious lives therefore there must be a strong link between them. It seems to be a very gray area to me. I would be interested to find out on what level of consciousness we really are when we are sleeping and dreaming. And to what degree the neurotransmitters talked about in the article play a role in the shifting of the states of consciousness?
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