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Medical schools ignore the nature of consciousness at great cost

Updated: Jan 13

Consciousness is not a popular topic for new exploration in my hospital. In my field of emergency medicine, we talk about consciousness only in the context of patients who “pass out,” have altered mentation, or need sedation. We need to change this, because behind these casual considerations of consciousness is an unexamined, ubiquitous, powerful, and unspoken philosophical assumption: Matter, including neurons and the brain, is primary, and consciousness is its product.

At first glance, the assumption of the primacy of matter may seem obvious. Doesn’t the brain create thoughts? Can’t we see a functional MRI scan of the brain light up when a person is conscious and thinking? We know that thinking, electrical activity in the brain, and the lighting of pixels on a display are correlated and concurrent, but the conclusion that the brain is the cause of thinking comes at the expense of ignoring evidence, including...

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