Qualia and Phenomenal Consciousness Arise From the Information Structure of an Electromagnetic Field in the Brain

Author: Lawrence M Ward1, Ramón Guevara2,3
1 Department of Psychology and Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.
3 Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialization, Padova Neuroscience Center, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.
Conference/Journal: Front Hum Neurosci
Date published: 2022 Jul 4
Other: Volume ID: 16 , Pages: 874241 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.874241. , Word Count: 319

In this paper we address the following problems and provide realistic answers to them: (1) What could be the physical substrate for subjective, phenomenal, consciousness (P-consciousness)? Our answer: the electromagnetic (EM) field generated by the movement and changes of electrical charges in the brain. (2) Is this substrate generated in some particular part of the brains of conscious entities or does it comprise the entirety of the brain/body? Our answer: a part of the thalamus in mammals, and homologous parts of other brains generates the critical EM field. (3) From whence arise the qualia experienced in P-consciousness? Our answer, the relevant EM field is "structured" by emulating in the brain the information in EM fields arising from both external (the environment) and internal (the body) sources. (4) What differentiates the P-conscious EM field from other EM fields, e.g., the flux of photons scattered from object surfaces, the EM field of an electro-magnet, or the EM fields generated in the brain that do not enter P-consciousness, such as those generated in the retina or occipital cortex, or those generated in brain areas that guide behavior through visual information in persons exhibiting "blindsight"? Our answer: living systems express a boundary between themselves and the environment, requiring them to model (coarsely emulate) information from their environment in order to control through actions, to the extent possible, the vast sea of variety in which they are immersed. This model, expressed in an EM field, is P-consciousness. The model is the best possible representation of the moment-to-moment niche-relevant (action-relevant: affordance) information an organism can generate (a Gestalt). Information that is at a lower level than niche-relevant, such as the unanalyzed retinal vector-field, is not represented in P-consciousness because it is not niche-relevant. Living organisms have sensory and other systems that have evolved to supply such information, albeit in a coarse form.

Keywords: affordances; electromagnetic field; information structure; phenomenal consciousness; qualia; thalamus.

PMID: 35860400 PMCID: PMC9289677 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.874241