About this Research Topic
The proposed topic takes a new approach to exploring the neuroscience of consciousness based on how alterations in normal consciousness result in functional brain changes that are not just transient but in many instances enduring. Natural and induced alterations in consciousness can affect long term cognitive and affective activities and are progressively being recognised as modifying the structure and function of the brain in the short and also long term (as evidenced eg by neuroimaging).
While numerous attempts to pinpoint ‘bottom up’ mechanisms of consciousness have been undermined by the so called hard problem (the gap between subjective experience and objective measurement), examining cerebral consequences of altering consciousness as a ‘top down’ approach has more achievable and pragmatically important goals. The ‘top down’ approach puts the focus on consciousness as what needs to be investigated, and the brain as the potential explanatory mechanism; a shift away from the tradition which sees the brain as enough explanation in and of itself, and which can relegate consciousness as an epiphenomenon. Beyond academic interest, and on the practical side, understanding this phenomenon potentially provides approaches to optimising brain functioning as a result of interventions altering conscious
This research topic builds on a range of subjects and authors selected as relevant from our previous (2010) book, ’New Horizons in the Neuroscience of Consciousness’, together with other new key contributors and areas. The Editors will enlist only authors who agree to focus on the title theme and include neuroscientific and /or cognitive psychological evidence. Authors will be asked to define the type of conscious activity considered (eg conscious/ subconscious, reflective) and encouraged keep one or more of the following suggested themes in mind:
Implications of neuroplasticity driven by altered conscious awareness for voluntary or therapeutic interventions aimed at optimising brain function; Consciousness as a key mechanism for providing plasticity resulting in flexible adaptable control of brain structure and function; Intention /willed mental activity changes the structure and function of the brain such that beyond the mind as the product of the brain, the brain is moulded by mental activity; Consciousness and neuroplasticity remodel negative behaviours and self directed neuroplasticity or cognitive self remodelling is viable beyond the disease states; The capacity to consciously direct and internally remodel imprinted behaviour patterns provides individual empowerment
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