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Flashcards in Self awareness Deck (15):

Key features

Belief 1: The self is a unifier that brings it all together.
- integrator of all senses, memories etc.

Belief 2: the self is an agent.
- the thinker of our thoughts and the doer of our deeds.
- it is used to act on the world.

Belief 3: the self is unchanging and continuous.
- Throughout time - something of us remains constant - it makes the "me".
- but actually out 'self' does change over time - eg. changes in beliefs, abilities, desires, moods.


Belief 3 - two theories

String of pearls analogy:
- String - core (minimal self).
- pearls - changeable states: eg. playing instruments, speak languages, emotional states, preferences etc.

Rope analogy: more empirical evidence.
- not a single fibre runs through the entire rope.
- self - continuity of overlapping mental states/events.
- our self is not completely present at any time point.


Self awareness/sense of self can be easily disturbed

where are you?
- somatoparaphrenia.
- rubber hand illusion.
- whole body transfer illusions.
- out of body experiences.

when are you? where are you in time?
- cutaneous rabbit illusion.
- Libet experiment.


Somatoparaphrenia = denial of ownership of a limb or entire side of on'e body (predominantly left side)

- where are you?

Neurological patient with right temporo-parietal lesion misattributes their own limb as belonging to another person (Halligan et al, 95).
Additional brain sites: posterior insula; BG; thalamus and cortex connections.


Rubber hand illusion - Ehrson, Spence, Passingham (2004)

- where are you?

stroking hand at same time as the visible rubber hand is enough to trick brain into thinking it's part of one's own body.
example of how multisensory perception can influence how we perceive our own body.
shows powerful connection between what we see and what we feel:
- hints fundamental change going on in the brain - neuroplasticity.
- brain can temporarily change in response to experience.


Sense of self experiment - video ergo sum (Lenggenhager et al, 2007)

- where are you?

First person experience of body transfer in virtual reality.
Transfer to "virtual own body" via proprioceptive drift because visual system dominant over proprioceptive system when there is a multisensory conflict.


Patients with autoscopy and out-of-body experiences (Blanke et al, 04)

- where are you?

Early reports in folklore and spirituality etc.
Medical reports from patients with neurological and psychiatric conditions - eg. epilepsy, migraine, schiz, depression, dissociative disorders etc.
Healthy people: lifetime prevalence - 1-2 occurrences in approx 10% of population.
Rare case reports from people with regular OBE.
Blanke et al 2012: nature neuroscience reviews.
- by manipulating the way the brain integrates the senses, some people can be induced to feel they are floating above their body.
- stroking back while they watch a video of someone's back being similarly stroked.
- some people report feeling that they are floating above their body but it is face down and could watch own back being stroked.


Cultaneous rabbit illusion (Somatosensory saltation and illusion) - first described Gerald & Sherrick, 72

- When are you?

Sensory events at a certain time are influenced by a future event - "perceptual postdiction" (Eagleman & Sejnowski, 2000).
- how can a decision be made about where to locate a tap if the tap that "attracts" it has not yet occurred?
- conscious perception - after integrating sensory inputs that occur within certain time window (Dennett, 1991).


Where is the brain is the "Rabbit?" (Blankenburg et al, 2006)

- when are you?

Are sensory or attentional areas activated?
Behavioural results - did you feel stimulation at middle electrode or not? - veridical rabbit (93%); illusory rabbit (90%); control (13%).
Contrasting conditions:
- illusory rabbit & veridical rabbit vs control -> contralateral primary somatosensory cortex (SI, BA 1) in the region of the P2 more activated.
- activated during various somatosensory cognitive tasks - eg. crossmodal tasks and spatial and temporal integration across sensory info.
- top down modulation of early somatosensory integrative processes.


The "cultaneous rabbit" can hop out of the body (Miyazaki et al, 2010)

- when are you?

The cultaneous rabbit disappears when there is no stick between the fingers.
Expanded definition of a "body" - external tools/object can belong to an extended "body schema".


The original Libet experiment (Libet, Gleason, Wright & Pearl, 1983)

- when are you?

Task: flex wrist whenever you choose. - do not choose the movement, but you choose the time of the movement.
- don't decide in advance when to move, just decide when you "feel the urge" to move and act accordingly.
- DV = readiness potential, EMG, self-report (clock).
- clock completes a circle every 2.56 seconds.

Initial findings:
- awareness of urge - EMG onset delay = 293ms.
- awareness of movement onset - EMG onset delay = 86ms.
- Readiness potential - EMG onset delay = at least 700ms.

Implications of findings: brain activity related to movement (RP) is before the decision to move (W judgement). Seems to indicate that conscious decision does not cause the action.
- instead become conscious of decision after the process leading to action is underway for 300ms. voluntary decision does not equal conscious - unconscious voluntary decision at first.
- result replicated in several labs (Leu et al, 2004).
- resulted in several philosophical controversies.


Haggard & Eimer (1999) - problem with Libet et al (1983)

- when are you?

Methodical problem: RP unspecified arousal/alertness vs. non-specific pre-motor processes vs information specific to the movement? Alternative measure - lateralised readiness potential.
- LRP measure based on the choice between 2 movements (left vs right index finger) and therefore specifically linked to selecting a certain movement.
- Haggard (2001) - movement selection is a more informatively difficult problem.

LRP measures:
- response preparation of the left or right hand.
- correct or incorrect response selection and preparation of covert response tendencies.

Results - early vs late awareness - LRP differences:
- RP - no significant difference.
- LRP - -905ms vs. -713m (early vs late).


Discussion - Libet experiments

- when are you?

The "when" of our self awareness can be tricked.
Do we have free will?
Do the Libet findings and follow on studies mean we cannot account for our actions?
- on this founded our belief in witnesses, credit in history and all kinds of moral evidence - Hume (1739).
The VETO idea.


The debate leaves us with:

What is consciousness?
The mind-brain debate.
Is consciousness unique to humans? what about computers or animals?
How can it be measured in animals?
which have capabilities?
Methodological challenged based on philosophical belief systems.
If self-awareness can be easily manipulates - what is the evolutionary advantage?


Potential evolutionary relevance of self awareness?

Not accurate - in time, place or representing who we are - has evolutionary significance.
- it gives us a sense of agency (control), sense of ownership, and future mindedness.
Language and communication.
ToM - perspective taking.
Social interaction - cooperation; altruism; games; moral behaviour.