Brain, science and consciousness
What are the links between brain and consciousness ? Does the brain produce consciousness ? A questioning that follows the article Thoughts + Emotions = Mental. In this article, I discuss the brain/consciousness relationship from the perspective of medicine, neuroscience and meditation.
An unexpected state of consciousness
It is possible to experience a more or less brief loss of consciousness a few minutes after an aneurysm has ruptured. Briefly, the process at work is as follows : when bleeding begins, the body immediately sets up a defense mechanism called hemostasis, which purpose is to stop the bleeding.
Hemostasis – which is correlated with a decrease in cerebral perfusion pressure  – induces, among other things, a decrease in blood flow inside the brain, and consequently a decrease in oxygen supply. In some people, this may lead to loss of consciousness, and thus help to confirm the diagnosis of meningeal hemorrhage.
This loss of consciousness did not occur in my case. In fact, not only did it not happen, but it is rather disturbing to note that it was precisely at the moment it could have happened – within the first five minutes of the onset of the bleeding – that I experienced an expanded consciousness (see the articles about My story). Thus, instead of having lost consciousness, in the medical sense of the word, I have, so to speak, perceived my conscience more than ever before.
Let us note that our vocabulary is very revealing : we speak of loss of consciousness, as if we presupposed that a state of unconsciousness totally cuts us off from consciousness. But is that really the case ? Let’s continue our exploration.
A score for consciousness
How does it work ?
There are two prognostic scores, from which the severity of a meningeal hemorrhage can be estimated using a clinical scale. These scores also help to estimate the chances of recovery of the affected person. These are directly dependent on her initial clinical assessment. The first score, that of Hunt and Hess, was developed in 1968. It is specific to meningeal hemorrhages, and comes in a graduation from 0 (unruptured aneurysm) to 5 (deep coma).
The second score, that of the World Federation of Neurosurgery (WFNS), is used to evaluate the functional prognosis at six months. It is derived from the Glasgow score, which is based solely on the state of consciousness. In addition to the fact that the Glasgow score itself is a relevant indicator for my research, it is the only one that has been indicated in my medical records. So I’m doubly interested in it.
The Glasgow Scale, or Glasgow Score, takes its name from the eponymous city in Scotland. This is where the Institute of Neurology where it was developed by Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennet in 1974 is located. This scale was developed as an indicator of the level of consciousness to help doctors estimate the severity of head injuries. With this information, they can better adapt their actions to maintain a person’s vital functions in a state of emergency. The scale goes from 3, for a person in a deep coma, to 15, for a perfectly conscious and oriented person, i.e. knowing who she is, what has happened to her, and being able to situate herself in time and space. The score is evaluated according to three criteria : verbal response, eye opening and motor response.
A too short scale for consciousness
According to my medical records, when I arrived at the emergency room, I was a « Glasgow 15 patient ». In other words, I couldn’t be more aware of myself… Even though I appreciate how crucial the evaluation of « my score » was to the medical team at the time, when I later became aware of this information, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought that the « expanded consciousness » case had obviously not been predicted on this scale !
Indeed, how can we, from the outside, evaluate an inner experience ? Even if we had measured this score a few minutes after the start of the hemorrhage, we would have found 15, because externally I must have been in about the same state, and internally I was the only one who could appreciate – that’s the case to say – my experience.
The fact that this last one goes far beyond loss of consciousness and the limits of the Glasgow scale led me to take a closer look at how medicine views the relationship between consciousness and brain. I realized that, in a way, it is still trying to assess inner experiences.
In this way, it matches the different states of consciousness with brain’s rhythms. But if this correspondence has the merit of clarifying the relationship between consciousness and brain, it nevertheless raises a fundamental question : is consciousness produced by the brain ? In other words, can consciousness be summed up as chemical, physical and electromagnetic activities in the brain ?
Brain and neurosciences
For neuroscientist and physicist Denis Bédat, a specialist in brain states, the intensity of the electromagnetic energy generated permanently by the brain varies according to our permeability to external stimuli. Thus, « the greater the external solicitations are, the more the neurons absorb and process information » . It increases the intensity of electromagnetic energy in the brain. If, on the contrary, we are able to remain impervious to these solicitations, then the electromagnetic energy generated will be much less intense. He explains that « the great yogis quickly reach the state of consciousness of their choice and stay in, even in the middle of a discotheque ! Their brain waves are structured, sometimes even harmonic. » 
Therefore, this suggests that one may have a different response, in terms of state of consciousness, to the same environment.
There are four main categories of frequencies. They correspond to different brain activities, each associated with a specific field of consciousness. These frequencies oscillate between 0.5 and 40 Hz per second, and range from deep sleep to intense activity. The frequency close to absolute zero corresponds to very reduced brain activity (coma). On the other hand, the sixth frequency range, that of gamma waves, around 40 Hz, does not seem to correspond to an ordinary state of consciousness.
Indeed, the frequencies emitted are those observed in yogis for example. Each field of consciousness reflects a particular mental state, impacting our biological processes. « The release of this or that neurotransmitter in the brain is conditioned by the intensity of communication between neurons »  explains Denis Bédat.
The researcher also indicates that « thanks to electroencephalogram and neurofeedback systems, currently available in some neuro-hospital research centers, it is now possible to identify and act on the brain frequency in real time » . Thus, thanks to stimulations in the form of light, sound or other vibrations, one can switch from one frequency to another very easily.
The following table is based on the Denis Bédat’s work. It lists these different fields of consciousness by associating to them the vibrated frequencies as well as the corresponding body and brain activity.
Meditation and neurosciences
In 2002, gamma waves were the subject of scientific studies  thanks to Richard Davidson. Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, he has a neuroscience research laboratory. He also works at the American Mind and Life Institute, whose aim is to promote a reciprocal contribution between Buddhism and science, and in particular to show the neurological effects of meditation.
With the support of the Dalai Lama, Richard Davidson has managed to convince Buddhist monks with between 10,000 and 50,000 hours of meditation to lend their brains to neuroscience. He was able to reveal a significant production of gamma waves in the monks’ brains while they were meditating on unconditional compassion. The latter can be defined as a willingness and readiness to help all living beings, which is only possible from the space of the heart.
For a synchronized brain !
Gamma waves are found in every person’s brain, and are the only waves that are present in all brain areas. However, they are only activated when the brain undertakes a lasting and sustained action, such as during an effort of attention or memorization. The more they are activated, the more they make the populations of neurons present in the different cerebral areas interact, finally leading them to have a synchronous activity.
Meditation can significantly increase the production of gamma waves, in proportion to the number of hours worked. In doing so, it produces greater synchronization of brain areas. Thus, the main benefit of this practice lies in the increased coherence of brain activity. Better, it is a restructuring of the brain that is at play, because this coherence continues after each session. Of course, the sustainability of brain restructuring goes hand in hand with regularity of practice.
From neuronal plasticity…
These results were confirmed in 2004 during another series of experiments carried out with the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. He is also a member of the Mind and Life Institute and is actively involved in research on neuronal plasticity. This can be defined as the brain’s ability to create, undo or reorganize neural networks and neural connections. In fact, it’s neural plasticity that explains brain restructuring.
Indeed, research on the subject shows that throughout life – and not just in early childhood as one has long been believed – the brain acts as « a dynamic system, constantly reconfiguring itself » . The changes that occur in it are not the exception but the rule, both at the cellular level and in the structures and functions of the brain.
Corroborating previous experiences, Matthieu Ricard’s brain showed an increase in gamma activity in a meditative state, an activity that continued when the monk left this state. The brain imaging (MRI) used for the occasion highlighted, among other things, activity in the area responsible for managing emotions. This activity is concomitant with an appeasement of the regions that maintain the consciousness of the « I » and the « other ».
… to brain training
These elements have established the fact that brain training leads to increased perception, greater problem-solving ability and, above all, expanded consciousness. It should be noted that the concept of mental training is sometimes found in the literature. On the one hand, mental has a very special meaning for me. On the other hand, it can easily mislead us in matters of conscience. That’s why I think it’s more accurate to talk about brain training.
Although medicine allows us to observe correlations between states of consciousness and brain rhythms, it does not make it possible to explain what consciousness is, nor what its links are with lived experience. And for my part, the more I progressed in my investigation of consciousness, the more I felt that it might be more accurate to speak of conscious experience rather than consciousness.
I suggest you continue your exploration of consciousness, by reading the article on conscious experience, or the one presenting the point of view of the physicist Nassim Haramein : see the article Quantum consciousness.
Notes and references
 Cerebral perfusion takes place in the circulatory system where extracellular gas and liquid exchanges take place. Within this network, the elements have extremely small dimensions and diameters, of the order of micro or nanometer (this is called microcirculation). Cerebral perfusion provides energy substrates (oxygen and glucose) to neurons according to local metabolism.
 BEDAT Denis. (December 20, 2013), quoted by Réjane Ereau, Les champs de la conscience. In : INREES – Inexploré, free translation
 Ibid., free translation
 Ibid., free translation
 Ibid., free translation
 RICARD Matthieu, LUTZ Antony and DAVIDSON Richard. (February 2015). Méditation, comment elle modifie le cerveau, In : Pour la Science, n°448, free translation
 LES DOSSIERS DE LA RECHERCHE. Interview with Jean-Pierre Changeux : La plasticité cérébrale forge notre individualité, n°40, August 2010, p.6, free translation