About this Research Topic
This new Research Topic is, in part, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the game-changing “neural correlates of consciousness” concept, first proposed as part of Crick and Koch’s 1990 “neurobiological theory of consciousness.” After thirty years of research and theory-building, scholars in the science of consciousness are perhaps not much closer to a widely-accepted theory of consciousness.
An electromagnetic (EM) field theory of consciousness attempts to explain the nature of consciousness and its relationship to matter in terms of fundamental EM fields and their dynamics. EM field theories view brain waves (delta, theta, etc.) and related EM fields as causally potent and functionally relevant to consciousness and the workings of the brain. EM field theories are a promising and growing subset of consciousness theories.
These theories originally emerged because they draw on considerable experimental evidence and provide potential solutions to traditional neuroscience’s well-known serious problems. For example, how does the unity of consciousness arise from the functioning of billions of neurons?
Arguably most physicalist theories of consciousness boil down to a kind of EM field theory of consciousness. This is the case because the atomic basis of the material comprising our brains, our bodies, and our biosphere is intrinsically electromagnetic. Other fundamental forces – gravity and the strong and weak nuclear forces – are not relevant to the dynamics of consciousness. In this manner, all of the physical dynamics that affect consciousness are ultimately EM field dynamics, so even when a theory doesn’t mention EM fields specifically, if it is a physical theory of consciousness then it will be based in some manner on EM fields.
The specific role of EM fields in the brain has been debated for many years, with some scholars maintaining the view that they are largely or entirely epiphenomenal – like the proverbial train whistle on a steam-powered locomotive – and other scholars viewing them as integral to the workings of consciousness. We are now at a point where experiments and data are being brought to bear to resolve this debate.
Our anchor article for this Research Topic is a 2019 Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article by Hunt and Schooler entitled “The Easy Part of the Hard Problem: A resonance Theory of Consciousness.” Hunt and Schooler’s General Resonance Theory of consciousness, described in this paper, which may be viewed as a type of electromagnetic theory of consciousness, posits that electromagnetic (EM) fields may be the primary seat of consciousness. As such, the dynamics of these fields become the measurable dynamics of consciousness.
This Research Topic aims at collecting scholars' articles about their own versions of an EM field theory of consciousness, or which respond to the anchor article, or which critique EM field theories of consciousness. For example, EM field theories face the combination problem of consciousness, as do many theories.
Submissions may also focus on various scholars’ proposals, such as “binding by resonance”, “communication through resonance”, “binding by synchrony”, “communication through coherence”, and related principles that necessarily implicate EM field phenomena in the dynamics of consciousness. Such submissions should relate the specific arguments back to EM field theories of consciousness. We also welcome submissions on specific functional roles of EM fields in the brain and consciousness, in humans and other species.
Keywords: Consciousness, Electromagnetic Field Theories, General Resonance Theory, Theories of Consciousness, Materialism
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.