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On Being Human
  1. The Evolution of Consciousness
  2. Could consciousness all come down to the way things vibrate?
  3. Consciousness and Cultural Renewal: Charles Eisenstein in conversation with Orland Bishop
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The closing of the explanatory gap makes it possible for the mind to change the brain by self-directed neuroplasticity in agreement with the Buddhist belief on the mental power of meditation through bare attention. Finally, the concept of entanglement has been instrumental in reaching a definition of consciousness based on the innovative role of qualia. Kim et al. The significance of this research as an " extra ingredient " for bridging the explanatory gap between the novel qualia of consciousness and their molecular-genomic infrastructure became apparent in related research on the genome of the zebra finch described as follows by Warren, Clayton et al.

The Evolution of Consciousness

Like other songbirds, the zebra finch communicates through learned vocalizations, an ability otherwise documented only in humans and a few other animals. We show that song behavior engages gene regulatory networks in the zebra finch brain, altering the expression of long non-coding RNAs, microRNAs, transcription factors and their targets.

We also show evidence for rapid molecular evolution in the songbird lineage of genes that are regulated during song experience. These results indicate an active involvement of the genome in neural processes underlying vocal communication and identify potential genetic substrates for the evolution and regulation of this behavior. Clayton, one of the co-authors made the salient comment, "this is the first time a microRNA has been shown to respond to a particular thought process" Saey, We now propose eRNAs are an " extra ingredient " mediating between the novel qualia of activity or experience-dependent gene expression that underpins brain plasticity and consciousness Kempermann, ; Van Pragg et al.

Consciousness is a novelty-seeking modality that evolved as a sensitive detector or qualia to facilitate rapid and creative adaptation to environments manifesting constant change with natural variation and selection Rossi, , p.

Could consciousness all come down to the way things vibrate?

Molecular biologists believe that "Cells are masters of regulating genes in response to environmental cues. Culler et al.

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Central to the genetic programming of biological systems is the ability to process information within cellular networks and link this information to new cellular behaviors, in essence rewiring network topologies. RNA is a promising substrate for platforms to interface with cellular networks because of the versatile sensing and actuation functions that RNA can exhibit and the ease with which RNA structures can be designed. RNA-based sensing-actuation devices have been engineered that respond predominantly to externally [environmental] applied small-molecule and nucleic acid inputs and control gene expression through diverse mechanisms.

It appears that sensitive and fragile "RNA-based sensing-actuation devices" were the primordial molecular qualia signaling epigenetic information from the environment of early earth to the more stable DNA molecule. One possibility is that DNA may have been a mutation in RNA world that began to function as memory molecule which eventually made natural evolution possible from one generation to the next possible. We propose that this adaptive coordination between the sensing qualia , signaling, and catalytic self-replicating properties of RNA with A-U, G-C base pairings interacting with the more stable memory properties of DNA due to A-T, G-C base pairing was the original bridge over the explanatory gap between the molecular-genomic qualia and functions of life and consciousness.

Wang et al. It is still an open question whether some or all of these ncRNAs constitute functional networks regulating gene transcription programs. However, in the light of recent discoveries and given the diversity and flexibility of long ncRNAs. Together, the ncRNA sensor code appears to be a robust and critical strategy underlying a wide variety of gene regulatory programs.

Current research implies that the more fragile but versatile molecular RNA signaling software of RNA world became integrated with the more stable DNA memory hardware to initiate the evolution of life as we know it. It is interesting to note that when Gilbert first introduced the concept of "RNA world" in a bottoms-up approach to the evolution of life and mind, Rossi a, b began exploring such research from a top-down approach.

A comprehensive theory, of course, requires an integration of both approaches to fill in the qualia gaps that remain between them. In the following sections we review the incredibly wide range of qualia-dependent molecular-genomic processes that underpin the deep psychobiological rhythms of human consciousness and experience. Figure 3.

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Table 1. The contrast between the qualia experienced during the ultradian healing response , when people take appropriate breaks throughout the day, versus the ultradian stress response leading to behavioral, cognitive and emotional problems or psychosomatic symptoms when they do not take appropriate healing breaks throughout the day.

It appears as if the art and quality of life is determined by how well we negotiate the qualia-dependent molecular-genomic processes of these alternations between performance, stress and healing in the arts, humanities and sciences as well as the work and play of everyday life. Qualia of Consciousness during the 4-Stage Creative Cycle A cartoon of the qualia of consciousness as experienced during the 4-stage creative cycle in the arts, sciences and everyday life is illustrated in figure 4.

Figure 4. A profile of qualia of the 4-stage creative process: initiation, incubation, aha! Figure 5. The proteomics protein profile in middle curve depicts the energy landscape for protein folding within neurons of the brain Cheung et al. The functional concordance of co-expressed genes are illustrated by the genomics profile below it Levsky et al. The lower diagram illustrates how the qualia of human experienced are typically experienced as the BRAC within the circadian cycle of waking and sleeping. Table 2 outlines creative experiences that turn on qualia-dependent gene expression and brain plasticity, which we call, "the Novelty-Numinosum-Neurogenesis Effect," from two complementary perspectives: the bottoms-up approach of neuroscience Rossi, , , and the top-down approach of heightened states of purported spiritual experience that are called, "the numinosum" Otto, ; Jung, Table 2.

Three qualia associated with experience-dependent gene expression and brain plasticity by neuroscience research and the corresponding three qualia experienced during the heightened states of consciousness associated with purported spiritual experience. Recent research reveals many possibilities for exploring the molecular-genomic evolution of the qualia of the 4-stage creative cycle.

Ramakrishana , for example, presents an overview of the translation pathway of the eukaryote cell in 4 stages: initiation, elongation, release , and recycling that looks remarkably similar to the dynamics of 4-stage creative cycle. More recently, the name has begun to be used for riboswitch-like RNAs that respond to temperature. Riboswitches need to form molecular architectures with sufficient complexity to carry out two main functions: molecular recognition and conformational switching. Simple riboswitches each carry one aptamer that senses a single ligand and one expression platform that usually controls gene expression via a single mechanism.

Although simple riboswitches only respond to one ligand type, this restriction in signaling complexity can be overcome by stacking tandem riboswitches from different ligand-binding classes such that gene expression is responsive to more than one chemical signal. Indeed, a natural example of such two-input Boolean logic gate has been observed. Riboswitch Boolean logic gates could be the molecular-genomic basis of mind-body computation, creativity and thought that takes place in every cell of the brain and body.

Further research could now assess how the binding kinetics of simple and complex riboswitches Breaker, , p. Figure 6. A functional psychosocial genomic approach to creative psychotherapy modeled on the natural dynamics of qualia-dependent gene expression during REM dreaming. The unexpected role of the qualia in the molecular biology of sleep and dreaming was outlined as follows Rossi, Erickson-Klein, Rossi, , pp. The adaptive function of such simulations is to construct and explore novel behaviors for future survival.

A salient function of dreams is to utilize memories processed during the circadian cycle of waking, sleeping, and dreaming for the creation, selection and generalization of adaptive scenarios about the world. Ribeiro et al.

This theory proposes that the first phase of slow-wave SW sleep evolved from rest in early reptiles as a quiescent, "offline state" suitable for the consolidation of new memory and learning. Consistent with much current neuroscience research, these researchers believe that this cognitive role takes place through the reverberation of novel waking patterns of neuronal activity during SW-sleep. The second major phase of sleep, rapid-eye-movement REM dreaming, which is characterized by heightened cerebral activity, first evolved in early birds and mammals as a post SW-sleep state that was capable of facilitating memory consolidation by activating gene expression to make the proteins needed for generating the activity-dependent synaptic plasticity of neurons, that became the neural correlates of adaptive behavior.

Consciousness and Cultural Renewal: Charles Eisenstein in conversation with Orland Bishop

Mammals then evolved extended REM states of dreaming to prolong neuronal reverberation in novel ways that could promote memory reconstruction in a behaviorally adaptive manner rather than mere rote record of past events. In brief, sleep and dreaming became an inner stage for integrating past events with current novel experiences to simulate and creatively replay the present as a rehearsal for future adaptive behavior. Figure 7.

Significant life turning points that activate vivid, dramatic and unusual dreams associated with qualia-dependent gene expression and brain plasticity. These insights into the role of qualia during memory, learning, sleep and dreaming motivated us to construct a new model of evidence-based psychotherapy, which we call "The Creative Psychosocial Genomic Healing Experience.

Figure 8. We used DNA microarrays in a pilot study to explore the molecular-genomic underpinning of the qualia of experience associated with mind-body healing and problem solving Rossi et al. We hypothesized that a top-down creatively oriented experience could modulate qualia-dependent gene expression associated with memory and learning as well as wide range of brain plasticity and psychoneuroimmune effects such as the healing placebo.

We found that the qualia of the CPGHE are associated with 1 a molecular-genomic signature for the up-regulation heightened activity of genes characteristic of stem cell growth, 2 a reduction in cellular oxidative stress, and 3 a reduction in chronic inflammation as illustrated in figures 9 and Figure 9.

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The second has to do with the relative speeds of the operant neural processes. Neurochemical response times are limited by the time required for their transmission across the synaptic gap,. By comparison, the propagation of action potentials is much faster.

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  4. For example, an action potential can travel a full centimeter a couple of orders of magnitude larger than a synaptic gap in about 1. Magnetic signals are propagated with much greater speeds than those of action potentials moving through neurons. Contemporary physics requires that magnetic signals be propagated at a significant fraction of the velocity of light, so that the entire brain could be exposed to a neuromagnetic signal in vanishingly small amounts of time.

    It seems possible that neuromagnetic signals arise from structures which mediate our various sensory and cognitive modalities. These signals then recruit those functions primarily in the limbic system that adjust the changes in state. These temporal lobe signals, we speculate, then initiate signals to structures that mediate modalities that are enhanced or suppressed as the state changes.