The Secrets of Consciousness, The limbic-cortex is organized as a drama in the brain.


images-14In order to comprehend the workings of human consciousness, we need to understand the function of consciousness itself, its Darwinian evolution, as well as its specific development in each of our brains.

Human consciousness is the vehicle of our evolutionary adaptation, for our thriving, surviving, and propagation. It has adapted to serve our actual lives. We are social beings and we live it out with family, friends and community. All people and tribes inhabit a culture with art, music, theater, morality, and language. We form intimate relationships, we propagate; raise our children; teach them the values and mores of our culture; and give them the tools for survival. The whole human story is encompassed and created by our consciousness.

Consciousness is biologically created by the limbic cortex as it maps experience. Unfortunately, biological psychiatry, neurology, and neuroscience in general have preempted a claim on what is biological. They have defined biology as the domain of physical brain structure; brain organization; brain anatomy; and functional brain centers; neurotransmitters; hormones; information learned from studying brain lesions; and activated patterns of neurons that can be seen in brain scans associated with certain localized functions. There is a great deal of knowledge to be appreciated from these approaches. Unfortunately, their orientation has mistaken the parts for the whole.

Science has ignored the most important biological function of the brain, the organization of activated mappings that create the play of consciousness in the limbic-cortex. These mappings of experience are established early in life and are the key to consciousness. Consciousness is organized as a play in the theater of the brain. The ‘play’ is a synthetic representational world that consists of a cast of characters who relate together by feeling, as well as plots, set designs, and landscape. Once established, the play operates as top-down cortical process which permits regular functioning in the world. Top-down is the cortical brain function that simplifies and makes possible our ability to perform the complexities of moment-to-moment living. It would be too unwieldy for the brain to analyze the whole host of information from the senses and body nerves anew and connect it with our motor abilities, along with our intention, every moment. You wouldn’t be able to lift a spoon to your mouth, never mind balance a strawberry on it, or encompass your intention, or have a cohered sense of “you.” Cortical top-down functioning establishes a way to do all of this, with as little an expenditure of time, effort, and attention as possible.

The ‘play’ is a unified field theory which includes dreams, myths, religion, and art—all elements of the same thing. It derives from and is consonant with our child rearing and culture. It encompasses the ineffable human mysteries—birth, death, and the disparity between our ordinary sense of self and our intimation of a deeper authenticity. It includes as well the dark side of our nature. And finally, it holds the key to the nature of beliefs in general. Human consciousness and human nature are one and the same. The creation of our inner play by the brain is the consummation of our Darwinian human evolution.

Humans are sentient beings, feeling beings. Because of our Descartian confusion, people assume that in a foundational way, we are thinking beings. However, this is not true. We are, in a foundational way, feeling beings. The development of the brain and its organization dispels this myth. Human consciousness is grounded in feeling. The formative first three years of life operate almost entirely in the realm of feeling. The amygdala and limbic system which map the survival interactions with the intrauterine and post birth maternal environment reach a high enough level of order at six weeks old to create the ‘feeling of a being’ with no representational form. I call this synthetic limbic-cortical creation – the “Authentic Being”.  The brain is too immature as yet to create representational images and symbolic form. This won’t take place until the child is approximately three years old. The limbic cortex is mapped, as experience is digested by one’s temperament. As the brain matures, the linkages of circuits of brain maps with circuits of brain maps expands exponentially until it reaches a high enough level of order to create symbolic form – representational consciousness with language and thinking. The foundational play is formed in the realm of feeling, and it develops in relation principally to child’s mother and father, their salient emotional environment. The mapping of our characterological play is how consciousness is organized and operates.

During these three years, consciousness is organized as a play with six formless personas who reflect the child’s pertinent experience – “The Authentic Being”, “The Loving Other”, “The Abuser”, “The Abused”, “The Protector” and “The Protected”. The actual experience of responsiveness, deprivation, and abuse is mapped in the limbic cortex as the foundational play of consciousness gets written. It is these mappings which write a unique and specific play in each of us. In the presence of significant deprivation and abuse, an activated play of sado-masochism gets written. The mechanism for connecting the limbic-cortical circuits are the neurotransmitters. They simply reflect a damaged play, but in no way are they causal. As adults, our character is the manifestation of our internal plays. A sado-masochistic play is an ongoing state of internal war which in the long run consumes serotonin. Psychiatric symptoms reflect the fault lines of our internal plays, created by the actual maternal and paternal emotional environment. Treatment involves relinquishing a problematic play and writing a new one based on responsiveness. When a problematic play is de-activated in psychotherapy. The neurotransmitters follow suit and then reflect the new play of authenticity and love. The ongoing internal war is de-activated and no longer operational, and psychiatric symptoms disappear all on their own. The corrupted pseudo science of Big Pharma and the APA have promoted that the source of psychiatric problems lies in the neurotransmitters. This has been addressed in “No, It’s not the Neurotransmitters”. In fact, neurotransmitters are but mechanistic messengers and play no causal role in the emotional states of consciousness.

Yes, as we continue to grow and mature, our plays are colored by future experience. But the essential play remains in force, unless significant trauma occurs which can rewrite the play. The sentience of the Authentic Being and the early play underlie all the rest of our representational consciousness. They invisibly orient our judgment and our thinking. Love, conscience, and our creativity flow from the invisible Authentic Being, which is our enduring sense of authenticity that underlies our ordinary sense of self. This is what makes us human. The key to consciousness is the play.

5 replies
  1. herb wiggins
    herb wiggins says:

    There is a problem here with defining consciousness as being from the limbic system. When, clinically, there is hypoxic cortical damage which results in the destruction of the cortices of brain, the rest of the brain may be quite intact. However, the person is still comatose. Without a functioning cortex there is NO high level processing of the brain going on. Further, we know, by structure/function basics of brain activity, that when cortex is severely damaged by trauma, stroke, dementias and other processes, that consciousness is specifically damaged and destroyed in those local areas subsuming each function. IN the case of right parietal stroke, the person may not even be AWARE of his left side. It does not exist for him, nor does the left visual field. The limbic system is NOT implicated in those higher functions, such as language, math, spatial orientation, recognition of faces, music, voices, and many other high level tasks.

    Damaging the deep structures of the brain, esp. the brain stem will result in consciousness being lost. But the brain stem does NOT do the high level processing. the brain’s 6 level cortical cell columns do that. That’s where the high level functions are going on. The limbic systems is rather “slaved” to the cortex, actually. It’s a subsystem without which the cortex can function, but neither can the limbic system work without cortex. Language and motor programs are NOT in the limbic system. Culture, music and the appreciation of those characteristics which make us human are in the cortex, not the limbic system. The fullest aspects of human onsciousness, therefore awareness and the higher functions are in the cortex of brain, not the limbic system. This neurological observation supported by endless amounts of clinical and neuropathological correlations needs to be pointed out.

  2. Robert Berezin
    Robert Berezin says:

    Yes, you have described the standard neurological assessments of consciousness. The new paradigm that I am describing is that consciousness is an overall organization of limbic-cortical circuits that write a coherent play of consciousness that replicates reality and operates as a cortical top down representation of reality. The full coherence of the recreation of people, feelings, reality and imagination are produced by activated mappings as a whole throughout the entire architecture of the limbic-cortex. Every component of cortex is utilized and is always grounded in the limbic.
    Obviously certain brain hubs contribute their localized functions. Obviously the limbic system does not do what the reticular activating system does, or the frontal cortex in a stand alone way. Language, feeling, thinking, music have their centers – Wernicke’s, Broca’s etc. But they do not operate in a stand alone fashion. They serve consciousness itself.
    I’m clear about the standard understanding that we have learned from neuropathology. But I am suggesting when there is damage to a particular cortical area, the resultant changes in consciousness come because the damaged area is no longer contributing to the overall ‘play’ of consciousness. For example, there are many neurological theories that explain confabulation. But in the last analysis, it is attributed to compensatory, prideful, covering over, a form of lying etc. But it is none of the above. The play of consciousness is organized as a story. Story telling is what we do. In an intact brain the story coheres, even though it is actually a synthetic albeit accurate rendering from an intact brain. With damage to the frontal lobes etc., the story telling continues but there is an agnosia about the deficit. And the story is spun out with no knowledge that it isn’t real. This is very different from a schizophrenic delusion. A schizophrenic delusion is not a problem of belief with agnosia, but a problem of a frightening and horrifying internal story, an internal horror movie. It bears no relation to reality testing, because we all believe our limbic cortical stories. The schizophrenic believes his story just like you believe yours, although many of your beliefs (or mine) ain’t necessarily so either.

  3. Matt Faw
    Matt Faw says:

    Hi Robert, I like where you’re going, and I completely agree that what we call consciousness is a play, a movie, a representation of what we think is happening in the world and ourselves.

    I have prepared a 6 minute video explainer talking our theory about consciousness as a brand new episodic memory. I hope you enjoy it.

    Matt Faw
    Consciousness 3D

    • Robert Berezin
      Robert Berezin says:

      I very happy for you to be back in touch. I absolutely loved your video. We are basically saying the same thing. I have a slightly flushed out take on the synthetic representation of self. It comes in two forms during maturation. What I call the ‘Authentic Being’ is the formless and non-representational feeling of the being which coalesces as an activated high end limbic-cortical circuit at about six weeks old. And a later representational ‘self’ which is also a synthetic brain production, grounded in the limbic and produced by more mature, higher end cortical mappings of experience that are anchored in the limbic. Both are synthetic illusions, and are only present when activated. I address dreams in a very similar way. I hope you’ll read the next two posts – “Ray Kurzweil’s presentation of hybrid thinking does not grasp the biological operations of the brain and consciousness. Sentience and the limbic-cortical play is what makes us human. And “A Unified Field Theory of Consciousness – A New Paradigm”. But the book is most important because the blogs are basically shorthand.
      Thank you so much for the video.


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