How Does The Brain Turn Unconscious Information Into Conscious Thought?

Posted on July 28, 2017

Many of us have noticed that we seem to get our best ideas when we're in the shower, or that we can find the answer to a difficult question when we least think about it.

A large body of neuroscientific studies has pointed out that the brain does a lot of work in its spare time, the so-called idle state - wherein the brain does not appear to be thinking about anything at all - and that this is the time when it works at its hardest to find solutions to complex problems.

With time and advances in neuroscience, it has become more and more clear to researchers that Freud was right and the mind, as well as the brain, do work unconsciously. In fact, it would be safe to say that what is consciously known to us is just the tip of a much larger iceberg, deeply submerged in unconscious waters.

But the exact moment at which information becomes known to us - or when the "tip of the iceberg" pierces through the water, and the unconscious becomes conscious - has been somewhat of a mystery, from a neuroscientific point of view.

Dr. Shadlen and colleagues started out from an interesting hypothesis, one which they derived from previous research on the neurobiological processes involved in decision-making.

As the authors explain, research conducted in both monkeys and humans shows that many of our decisions take place at a point when the brain "feels" as though it has gathered enough information, or when a critical level of information has been accumulated. This process of making a decision once the brain has accumulated enough evidence bears the name of "bounded evidence accumulation."

The researchers wondered whether or not this threshold is also responsible for our "eureka!" moments.


Source material from Medical News Today

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