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Berlin, H. (2013). The Brainstem Begs the Question: “Petitio Principii”. Neuropsychoanalysis, 15(1):25-29.

(2013). Neuropsychoanalysis, 15(1):25-29

The Brainstem Begs the Question: “Petitio Principii” Related Papers

Commentary by Heather Berlin

Mark Solms proposes that the upper brainstem is intrinsically conscious and that the cortex is intrinsically unconscious and is only permeated with consciousness from the brainstem. His theory relies heavily on studies of hydranencephalic children, who appear to have emotional reactions to outside stimuli despite the fact that they are missing a cerebral cortex. Solms uses this as his main evidence that consciousness is not a function of the cortex. However, I explain in this commentary, based on years of accumulated neuroscientific evidence, why Solms is making two unsupported assumptions: (1) that without cortex you have affective consciousness, and (2) that without brainstem you lose consciousness. It is important not to confuse “consciousness as such” (i.e., wakefulness) with the “content of consciousness” (i.e., awareness). There is excellent converging evidence for the cortical basis of the contents of consciousness.

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