The terrain of the mind is far more complex and intriguing than we could ever imagine. As science is finding newer, more sophisticated ways to explore it, we are beginning to understand our brains like never before.
The puzzle of consciousness has annoyed scientists and philosophers since time immemorial. Meta-consciousness, previously considered to be a spiritual phenomenon, has now become scientists’ quest to understand consciousness better.
Let’s take a look at what it is and some of its seats in the brain:
Meta-consciousness is the consciousness of being aware. It is the state of mind in which our senses are expanded and we fully experience things – a state of complete awareness. Some may call it an experience of ‘unity’ – one in which the physical reality is dissolved and the person becomes one with the universe; whereas, others may just call it a heightened sense of attention.
Studying Lucid Dreamers’ Brains – A Great Way to Get at the Root of Meta-Consciousness
Moving on the scientific side of things, meta-consciousness can be best studied by exploring the brains of people having lucid dreams. Neuroscience has come a long way and helps scientists, literally, get inside other people’s brains. The latest neuroimaging techniques help to monitor brain activity of lucid dreamers, which gives great insights into meta-consciousness.
In a normal dreaming state, we are vaguely aware that we are dreaming (although some people may disagree). The thoughts, perceptions and emotions we have during this state cannot give us meta-insight. What can give us meta-insight is a state of lucid dreaming; a state in which a person knows he is in a dream and can deliberately control it without waking up (remember Inception?).
By comparing the activity in a normal dream state and a lucid dreaming state, the research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry was able to find some brain areas that showed greater activity in this meta-awareness state. The studies used Magnetic Resonance Tomography (MRT) and found some areas of the cerebral cortex showing increased activity. These areas included the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus. All of these areas are generally responsible for self-assessment and self-perception – in short, the parts we use to evaluate our own thoughts and feelings.
This research supports previous findings and gives credibility to claims of meta-conscious experience by some people.
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