9: The Resting Brain, Attention and Consciousness

One thing we learned this week was the activity of a resting state brain. Even though it said the ‘resting’ brain, there are several active areas during the resting state. These active areas include medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, posterior parietal cortex, hippocampus and lateral temporal cortex. Together these areas are called the default mode network. So, this network is most active during rest. This ‘resting’ situation could happen e.g. when laying in bed and daydreaming, but what about if then suddenly someone shouts your name? This immediately catches our attention, even we were not “paying attention” to anything. At this moment, our brain shift from the resting state to an active state. 

About attention, we learned some of the concepts, disorders and principles such as the cocktail party effect, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), bottom-up & top-down attention, effects of attention to our behaviour, areas and networks involved in attention as well as different research methods of attention such as PET and fMRI.

As last, we also learned about consciousness. Only defining consciousness is already challenging: are we conscious when we are awake and unconscious when we are asleep? Is consciousness the state where we are able to understand and realize things? One way to help this problem of consciousness is by dividing it to the easy problems of consciousness and the hard problem of consciousness. The easy problems of consciousness mean the mechanisms how certain functions are performed, whereas the hard problem of consciousness means how to explain the relationship between physical brain processes and the experiences: why and how does some physical process generate a specific experience?

Alexandra & Alisa

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