10 Unsolved Questions In Neuroscience

The mind still holds many mysteries today. Here, we uncover what we know about ten of them.

10. What is consciousness?

We’ve saved what is probably the hardest problem for the last. Consciousness is hard to define, but can be thought of as the difference between a digital photograph of a person (a bunch of pixels) and the memory of a person, which is recognized as something which has meaning and evokes a subjective experience.

The problem with such a definition of consciousness is that it is impossible to objectively quantify and measure. Instead, scientists have used what they call neural correlates of consciousness, which refers to the minimal brain activity that is required for conscious thought. Even though correlates like a region known as the claustrum have been found, they bring us no closer to explaining what consciousness is, a question that philosopher David Chalmers calls the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness.

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This article was first published in the print version of Asian Scientist Magazine, January 2016.

Photos: Shutterstock.
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Ying Ying completed her PhD in neurobiology at the University of Basel, where she studied the role of bone morphogenetic protein in structural plasticity of neurons.

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