Followup to: Room for one more?
24-25 Aug 2010
I woke up around 1:00 PM and took 2 piracetam and choline, and again at 8:00 PM and 3:00 AM. Falling asleep last night seemed faster and easier than usual, as if I was able to actually focus on it instead of being distracted. Waking up was interesting - usually there's something of a haze of confusion when I immediately wake up, which I'm sure is normal. This time, it almost seemed like I had some level of conscious awareness that was already active as soon as I woke up. It was nothing like an "instant-on" effect, but there was some kind of greater clarity and ease of thought available when I would usually still be half-asleep.
Or maybe I was just imagining it.
I went out for dinner with my family today, and worked at the gallery for a bit. I finally got the papers for a custodial investment account that's apparently supposed to be my college fund - it has about $100 in it. I listened to the new Katy Perry album, which actually isn't that bad. Maybe I was just in a better mood today, but I wasn't really irritated about anything. I napped from around 9 PM to 1, and had some dreams, but not especially memorable ones.
Did you know there's actually a procedure to remove a whole half of the brain, in cases of intractable epilepsy where the problem lies in one hemisphere? (They don't actually remove the hemisphere itself anymore, only disconnecting it, but the effects are the same.) It's only performed in early childhood, while the brain is still plastic enough for the remaining hemisphere to take over the functions of the lost half. Most patients are still able to develop almost normally in terms of intelligence, memory, learning ability, personality and general cognition.
What is the inner experience of having half of your brain removed like? Rather than being sedated, what would it be like to be conscious as this happened - and what would happen to your consciousness? (Again, this isn't completely hypothetical - at 14, Ahad Israfil suffered a gunshot wound that destroyed one of his hemispheres; he regained consciousness hours later and attempted to speak, and eventually made a full recovery without significant mental impairment.)
If one of your hemispheres is taken out of your head, it would seem that your consciousness persists in the remaining hemisphere - whatever radical shifts you may experience in your own consciousness as half of your brain is removed, your perceptual awareness would continue in the other half. You're still there: "you" would still be in that half. Right?
And yet, not counting any significant differences that may be present in a hemisphere heavily affected by seizures, if the other half was left in and the opposite hemisphere was removed, you would apparently experience that same continuity of consciousness (regardless of how you might be changed by losing one half rather than the other).
If this is possible, and both hemispheres are equally capable of independent consciousness, what would happen if one hemisphere was preserved and simply transplanted into a duplicate of your body? Where would "you", your unified consciousness, continue to? One half or the other?
More importantly, if both hemispheres can maintain your consciousness (albeit in an altered form), what does a removed and discarded hemisphere experience: loss of perceptual awareness, then loss of consciousness, then death? What if "you" were actually located in the discarded hemisphere - not the one still in your head?
I suspect that this question could be resolved with a more complete understanding and definition of what consciousness is, assuming it can be resolved. I'm gonna go listen to Katy Perry.