Consciousness and Learning (PSYC101)

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Consciousness and Learning (PSYC101)

Fri May 24, 2019 4:53 am

Definition of Consciousness

Consciousness is the awareness of one’s surrounding’s and of what is in one’s mind at a given moment. It is our experience of a moment as we move through it. But consciousness also involves the capacity to take in and process information briefly sending it to specialized areas for further use of storage.

Consciousness includes the feelings, thoughts, and aroused states of which we are aware. Altered states of consciousness occur when sleep, are hypnotized, or take any psychoactive drugs.

Two Dimensions of Consciousness
Consciousness has two aspects: the degree to which we are awake and the degree to which we are aware.

1. Wakefulness refers to alertness, or the extent to which a person is awake or asleep.
2. Awareness refers to the monitoring of information from the environment and from one’s own thoughts.
3. Usually wakefulness and awareness go hand in hand, but they do not always work together. A person can be awake but not very aware, as is true in vegetative states or extreme drunkenness. For example, coma is one extreme of consciousness and is characterized by very low wakefulness and awareness. It is a state of consciousness in which the eyes are closed and the person is unresponsive and unarousable.

Levels of Awareness

High-Level Consciousness
Lower-Level Consciousness
Altered States of Consciousness
Subconscious Awareness
No Awareness

Involves controlled processing, in which individuals actively focus their efforts on attaining a goal; the most alert state or consciousness
Includes automatic processing that requires little attention.
Can be produced by drugs, trauma, fatigue, hypnosis, and sensory deprivation
Can occur when people are awake, as well as when they are sleeping and dreaming
Freud’s belief that some unconscious thoughts are laden with anxiety and other negative emotions for consciousness to admit them Having unconscious thoughts, being knocked out by a blow or anesthetized.

Doing math or science problem
Typing a keyboard
Sleeping and dreaming
Sleeping and dreaming

1. Meditation is a form of mental training that can be used to calm the mind, stabilize concentration, or enhance awareness of the present moment. Evidence from brain imaging studies suggests that meditation has effects on mood, concentration, and learning.

• Sleep is important for three major restorative processes: neural growth, memory consolidation, and the formation of enzymes that protect against cellular damage.
• When teenagers and adults get at least 8 hours of sleep, the benefits include restored body tissues, body growth, immunity to disease, an alert mind, processing of memories, and enhance mood.
• The circadian rhythm of sleep is a natural rhythm of sleep and waking programmed by a group of brain cells in the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus.
• A typical night of sleep involves cycling through two states of sleep: Non-REM sleep which is very active, also occurs only during stage 1 sleep when most dreaming occurs.
• The most common sleep problems in insomnia or the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep. It is the most common sleep disorder.
• Other sleep disorders include sleep apnea, in which a person stops breathing while asleep, and a rarer condition called narcolepsy, in which a person falls asleep during alert times of the day.

3.1 Content of Dreams
a. Manifest Content. According to Freud, the surface content of a dream, containing dream symbols that disguise the dream’s true meaning.
b. Latent Content. According to Freud, this refers to the dream’s hidden content; it unconscious and true meaning.

Theories of Dreaming
a. Cognitive Theory of dreaming proposes that we can understand dreaming by applying the same cognitive concepts we use in studying the waking mind. The theory rests on the idea that dreams are essentially subconscious cognitive processing.
b. Activation-Synthesis Theory proposes that dreaming occurs when the cerebral cortex synthesizes neural signals generated from the activity in the lower brain and that dream results from the brain’s attempts to find logic in random brain activity that occurs during sleep.

Hypnosis is a state of mind that occurs naturally and established by compliance with instructions. It is characterized by focused attention, suggestibility, absorption, lack of voluntary control over behavior, and suspension of critical faculties of mind. People may be more easily hypnotized if they are relaxed, but they can be hypnotized without relaxation.

Psychoactive drugs
Psychoactive drugs act on the nervous system to alter consciousness, modify perceptions and alter mood. In order to understand the effects of psychoactive drugs, it is important to establish the scientific meaning of three specific drug terms: tolerance, substance abuse, and substance dependence.
6.1 Tolerance has to do with the amount of a drug required to produce its effect. After repeated use, it is usually the case that more and more of it is needed to achieve the same effect.
6.2 Substance dependence occurs when someone is either physically or phychologically reliant on a drug’s effect. Typically, dependence is evident when the person stops using the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may include as vomiting, shaking, sweating, physical pain, hallucinations, or headache.
6.3 Substance abuse or overindulgence in an addictive substance, especially alcohol or drugs.

Types of Psychoactive Drugs
1. Barbiturate and Sedatives
1.1 Barbiturates, commonly, known as “ downers”, are a category of depressants that are typically prescribed to reduce or induce sleep. Well-known barbiturate drugs include Nembutal and Seconal.
1.2 Sedatives or tranquilizers are also prescribed to reduce anxiety. They include a class of drugs call the benzodiazepines. Including Valium and Xanax.
Both types of depressants have effects similar to alcohol. In small dosages, they slow the nervous system, promoting relaxation. In high dosages though, they severely impair motor functioning, memory and judgment. Like alcohol, these drugs influence the functioning of the neurotransmitter GABA. When these drugs are taken in combination with alcohol they are potentially lethal because they can cause suppression of those brain areas that control breathing and heart rate, which can lead to unconsciousness, coma, or death.

2. Opiate (Narcotics): Morphine, Codeine, Opium, and Heroin
The opiates, or narcotics, are drugs that are used to treat pain by mimicking pain-inhibiting neurotransmitters in the body such as endorphins. In Addition to blocking pain, they produce a feeling of pleasure that is almost like floating. The opiates are extremely addictive, causing dependence within a few weeks. When you take opiates, your brain recognizes an abundance of pain inhibitors in the body and decreases its own production of endorphins. So when the effect of the opiate wears off, you feel your earlier pain and the absence of pleasure, and will want another, large dose.
3. Stimulants
The stimulants include drugs that interfere with the brain functioning by speeding normal brain activity.
3.1 Caffeine is a psychoactive drug because of its effects on the brain. It is perhaps the frequently used psychoactive drug in the world. Caffeine is and active ingredient in coffee, tea, sodas, some energy drinks, chocolate, migraine headache medications, and some diet pills. It stimulates the brain by blocking neurotransmitters (adenosine) that slow down our nervous system and cause sleep. In small doses, caffeine gives us a boost, keeping us more alert and helping us focus. It helps problem solving and decreases reaction time. However, in large doses, caffeine can “wire” causing insomnia, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, nervousness, and irritability.
3.2 Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco and the source of a smoker’s craving for cigarette, is a powerful stimulant. Tobacco use has been linked to lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Nicotine affects several neurotransmitters. It influences acetylcholine and glutamate such that in low doses, nicotine improves attention and memory. Nicotine also elevates dopamine levels, leading to feelings of pleasure and reward. In high doses, nicotine causes vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, dizziness.
3.3 Cocaine and its derivative, crack, are powerful and dangerous stimulant drugs. Snorted, smoked, or injected, cocaine is quickly absorbed into the body and thus reaches the brain rapidly. Crack is powdered cocaine mixed with water and other additives that is then boiled until a solid mass performs. It is broken into rocks and smoked with a long glass tube called crack pipe. Inhaling the smoke delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs and produces an intense and immediate high. High doses of cocaine can cause paranoia, sleeplessness, delusions, seizures, strokes, and potentially cardiac arrest.
3.4 Amphetamines are synthetically produced compounds that produce long-lasting excitation of the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that keeps us ready for action. Amphetamines raise heart rate, increase motivation, and elevate mood. Some common effects are insomnia, stomach distress, headaches, decreased libido, and difficulty in concentration.
3.5 Ecstasy is chemically similar to both methamphetamine and active ingredient in psilocybin mushrooms, making it both a stimulant and a mild hallucinogen. It produces mild hallucinations as well as physiological arousal. It is sometimes called the “love drug” because it produces feelings of euphoria, warmth, and connectedness with others. Long-term effects include persistent mental deficits, low mood, and serotonin deficiencies in certain areas of the brain.
4. Hallucinogens are substances that create distorted perceptions of reality ranging from mild to extreme. Examples of this are the following:
4.1 Marijuana, also called pot or weed, is a mild hallucinogen. It rarely causes overdose that cause death. Marijuana alters mood to create euphoria and changes perception, especially one’s perception of time and food. It makes time appear to slow down and makes food more desirable.
4.2 PCP is sold on the street by such names as “angel dust” and “rocket fuel”, “Sherms”, “killer joints” or “KJs” are names that refer to PCP poured over cigarettes or marijuana joints. PCP can be eaten, snorted, smokes, or injected. PCP has hallucinogenic properties as well as stimulant and depressant effects. In higher doses, PCP causes a drop in blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration. This may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, drooling, loss of balance, and dizziness. Hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, and garbled speech also result. Users may become severely disoriented or suicidal and may therefore be a danger to themselves or others. Seizures, coma, or death may also occur.
4.3 LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), more commonly referred to as acid, is the most potent perception-alerting drug known. Users of LSD may experience increased blood pressure and heart rate, dizziness, loss of appetite, and nausea, but the drug’s main effects appear to be emotional and sensory. Even at low doses, LSD causes bizarre hallucinations, distortions in time and body image, and intense emotions that together are often referred to as “tripping”

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