Leading theory of consciousness rocked by oddball study

A new study suggests that – in contrast to the commonly held theory in neuroscience that the brain is far more active during conscious processing than unconscious processing – some unconscious perceptions arouse multiple areas of the brain.

This corroborates the finding observed in psychoanalytic process that an enormous amount of psychic activity takes place unconsciously, that the mind is far busier and more active than most of us know at any given moment in time, a factor implicated in such phenomena as parallel process, projective identification, countertransference, clinically utilized reverie, etc.

Subjects were shown the word LEFT multiple times interspersed with the word LEFT masked in a manner so that it was not easily discernible. When the masked word was shown (and, the researchers determined, perceived but only subliminally), an EEG signal was evident “widely across the brain.” According to Brian Silverstein, one of U Michigan-Ann Arbor researchers, “Even though [the subjects] don’t know [what] the stimuli are, the brain is still able to recognise that there is something unexpected that occurs.”

The study suggests “evidence for complex, sustained, unconscious brain activity,” a finding that corroborates psychoanalytic data starting with that obtained by Freud himself.

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