Monday, 9 June 2008


Johnjoe McFadden
School of Biomedical and Life Sciences,
University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 5XH, UK.

The human brain consists of approximately 100 billion electrically active neurones that generate an endogenous electromagnetic (em) field, whose role in neuronal computing has not been fully examined. The source, magnitude and likely influence of the brain´s endogenous em field are here considered. An estimate of the strength and magnitude of the brain´s em field is gained from theoretical considerations, brain scanning and microelectrode data. An estimate of the likely influence of the brain´s em field is gained from theoretical principles and considerations of the experimental effects of external em fields on neurone firing both in vitro and in vivo. I point out that synchronous firing of distributed neurones phase-locks induced em field fluctuations to increase their magnitude and influence. Synchronous firing has previously been demonstrated to correlate with awareness and perception, indicating that perturbations to the brain´s em field also correlate with awareness. I point out that the brain´s em field represents an integrated electromagnetic field representation of distributed neuronal information and has dynamics that closely map to those expected for a correlate of consciousness. I propose that the brain´s em information field is the physical substrate of conscious awareness – the cemi field - and make a number of predictions that follow from this proposal. Experimental evidence pertinent to these predictions is examined and shown to be entirely consistent with the cemi field theory. The cemi field theory provides solutions to many of the intractable problems of consciousness – such as the binding problem – and provides new insights into the role of consciousness, the meaning of free will and the nature of qualia. It thus places consciousness within a secure physical framework and provides a route towards constructing an artificial consciousness.


Does the cemi (conscious electromagnetic field) field survive after death?
"mmm an interesting question. My hypothesis is that conciousness is the experience of information, from the inside. There is a postulate in physics that information is neither created or destroyed - the conservation of information 'law'. It is however just a postulate, nobody has ever proved it. But, if true, it would suggest that awareness (associated with that information) - in some form - might survive death." Johnjoe McFadden

Additional links:


Anthony Peake said...

RAC: (and Johnjoe) Thanks for this postintg. I am so honoured that academic papers are now being posted on this blog. It is a reflection of the intellectual vigour that I was so wishing to inculcate when I started the blog. I have not had time to read the paper yet but I will do so later today and comment in due course. At first glance it looks like another fantastic contribution to our growing field of itladian philosophy and science. Thank you both.


RAC said...

Sorry Tony, I took the liberty of posting this abstract with a link to the whole under fair use laws: though I suspect the author would be most honored to find his work referenced here.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

RAC: Robert, sorry that I have not replied earlier but Mondays are always ludicrously busy for me!!

I just simply don’t have time to give your excellent post the attention it deserves at the moment, owing to all the other posts made on the same day (which is a travesty within itself), but I will come back to this and comment further when I have read through everything.

What I would add to your post is these links to your original post (and our debate within the comments) and also the post of Shiva a few days later (and again the debate within the comments) that others may wish to read through to follow the progression of this hypothesis:

Electromagnetic Waves of Memory [by RAC]


Electromagnetic Memory - My Ideas [by Shiva]

Now, my initial concerns regarding the suggestion that Consciousness is an Electromagnetic Field are as follows (so please feel free to post your replies as a further comment while I read through the papers you have posted in the next day or so)

1, If consciousness is electromagnetic, then why don't we lose consciousness when we walk under an electrical pylon or cable or any other source of external electromagnetic fields?

2, Surely if consciousness itself was an electromagnetic field then it would short circuit our very brain, the electromagnetic impulses of which are evident from EEGs etc.

3, So, in your assertion, what effect does consciousness have on the brain itself?

4, What of magnetic charge and polarity? If consciousness were an electromagnetic field then what of field charge and field polarity?

5, And if we are to assume consciousness as an electromagnetic field then logically the laws of electromagnetism would also apply to consciousness, and this would include our dear mutual friend Max Planck. So adopting the Planck Constant of electromagnetic wavelengths, are you suggesting that Consciousness is also Quantifiable and thus Quantum? Is there an ‘amount’ of consciousness that cannot be taken any smaller? This makes no sense to me personally!

"No serious researcher I know believes in an electromagnetic theory of consciousness. It's not really worth talking about scientifically!"
- Bernard Baars (Neurobiologist and co-editor of Consciousness & Cognition)

Anyway, just a few initial thoughts for you to chew over there, I need to go for a lie down after spending well over an hour reading and responding to every new post here after a very long day, and I promise I will read all the papers you have posted here and will come back to you with more when I have time, hopefully over the next couple of days (presuming of course there are not another 10 posts that appear!!!!)

Thanks for posting this research though: Just because I don’t personally agree with it doesn’t make it not plausible.

RAC said...

Thanks for the gracious response Karl. I too am living la vida loca the next couple of days so will wait to respond more completely when time better permits. I might suggest though that you invite the author (he lives in London) to the next ITLAD pub crawl for his input. I'm sure he would make a welcome addition to the ITLAD family.

Karl L Le Marcs said...

RAC: Thanks Robert, I look forward to your considered response and your opinions on my questions. I will read the full paper over the next couple of days.
And I will be in London soon for a few days so if the author is not averse to a few ales then a meeting would be quite agreeable to me.
*smile and speak soon*

RAC said...

Question 1. "If consciousness is electromagnetic, then why don't we lose consciousness when we walk under an electrical pylon or cable or any other source of external electromagnetic fields?"

Response "The high conductivity of the cerebral fluid and fluid within the brain ventricles creates an effective ‘Faraday cage´ that insulates the brain from most natural exogenous electric fields. A constant external electric field will thereby induce almost no field at all in the brain (Adair, 1991). Alternating currents from technological devices (power lines, mobile phones, etc.) will generate an alternating induced field, but its magnitude will be very weak. For example, a 60 Hz electrical field of 1000 V/m (typical of a powerline) will generate a tissue field of only 40 mV/m inside the head (Adair, 1991), clearly much weaker than either the endogenous em field or the field caused by thermal noise in cell membranes. Magnetic fields do penetrate tissue much more readily than electric fields but most naturally encountered magnetic fields, and also those experienced during nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) scanning, are static (changing only the direction of moving charges) and are thereby unlikely to have physiological effects.

Changing magnetic fields will penetrate the skull and induce electric currents in the brain. However, there is abundant evidence (from e.g. TMS studies as outlined above,) that these do modify brain activity. Indeed, repetitive TMS is subject to strict safety guidelines to prevent inducing seizures in normal subjects (Hallett, 2000) through field effects."
I would personally add that basic radio theory easily solves this problem with filtering. It's not the amplitude that matters, it's the frequency. RAC

RAC said...

Questions 2 & 3: I think it depends on how you define consciousness. Is consciousness the result of our experiences or is it the cause of our experience?

And of course my original contention was only that the electromagnetic field is where memory was stored. To go beyond that is more than I have currently considered.

RAC said...

Question 4: "What of magnetic charge and polarity? If consciousness were an electromagnetic field then what of field charge and field polarity?"

Response: The charge and polarity would represent signal bias - an integral part of any electronic circuit.

RAC said...

Question 5: I think my response to questions 2 & 3 would also apply here.

RAC said...

Comment: "No serious researcher I know believes in an electromagnetic theory of consciousness. It's not really worth talking about scientifically!"

Response: "The brain´s em field is as much a part of it´s activity as neuronal firing. Efforts to understand human consciousness have focussed on the informational processing performed by neurone firing and synaptic transmission, yet the brain´s em field holds precisely the same information as neurone firing patterns and may be involved in transmission and processing of that information. The equivalence of matter and energy, apparent in Einstein´s famous equation, implies that there is no a priori reason why consciousness should be associated with the matter of neurones rather than the em field activity within and between neurones. However, whereas information in neurones in digital, discrete and spatially localised, information in em fields is analogue, integrated and distributed. I note that these latter characteristics are those usually ascribed to the phenomenon of consciousness and are the properties of consciousness that are most difficult to account for in neural identity models of consciousness. I have earlier proposed (McFadden, 2000) that the seat of consciousness is the brain´s em field and a similar proposal has recently been put forward by Sue Pockett (Pockett, 2000). I therefore examine the proposition that the brain´s em field is consciousness and that information held in distributed neurones is integrated into a single conscious em field: the cemi field." -Johnjoe McFadden

RAC said...

But of course for those leaning more towards one of the many quantum mind theories the role of electromagnetic energy can seem a lot less romantic:

"Consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source." -David Chalmers

All kidding aside, I actually do believe the seat of consciousness resides somewhere at the quantum level. However, I can not help but to believe that electromagnetic forces play a major role in the brain's/mind's functioning. Nature wastes not and it is undeniable that we create our own electromagnetic field; therefore, this field must serve a purpose.

RAC said...

Now a question for you Karl. You frequently mention the Akashic records in your posts and describe it as it has always been described; a record of all that has ever been. My question then is how and where do you propose the Akashic record is stored? What are the mechanics of this record and how do we access it (read and write)?

Thanks in advance for the debate. I always look forward to your responses despite the exasperation which often follows. ;-)

Karl L Le Marcs said...

RAC: Oooooh is it my turn!!

Right, let's look at your comments.......

Question 1: I rather suspected you would give this as an answer, to which the until now, unanswered reciprocal question is: Well, ok, if we accept this (which is highly debatable once scrutinised scientifically) then what of the eyes and the ears and the nose, all of which have direct input to the neuronal and electromagnetic make up of the brain. Surely if consciousness itself was an electromagnetic field then simply placing something as tiny as a mobile phone anywhere near our auditory appature would cause the whole system to short circuit and we would lose consciousness. Now, whilst, admittedly there are some concerns regarding mobile phone radiation this is NOTHING close to the effect it would have if consciousness was an electromagnetic field!!

Question 2 & 3: No, no, no. I'm not accepting that, it's dodging the question!! If you want consciousness defined then given your two options I think it is highly evident that it is the latter; that consciousness is the cause of our experience. There is a tremendous book called "The Self-Aware Universe" which deals specifically in this issue. So I would ask to repeat my original Questions numbered 2 and 3 to you given my "definition" of consciousness, being it is the cause of our experiences.

Regarding memory storage, I quote from Ervin Laszlo's magnificent book "Science and the Akashic Field":

"On the principle of "like informs like", we can read first of all the information carried by the hologram of our own brain and body. Reading out what we have read into the field is the physical basis of long-term memory. It removes the limitation on information storage by a brain enclosed in a finite cranium. We can read out anything and everything that we have read into the field - we can literally "re-call" from it all the things we have never ever experienced."

Question 4: If we accept the hypothesis that consciousness is indeed an electromagnetic field then this field would have a specific polarity and charge. Now, in order to maintain supersymmetry there would, by very definition, be a requirement for a neutralising, alternately and precisely balanced field of opposite charge and polarity, otherwise the entire model of classical physics and the new model of Quantum physics, collapses on itself.

As I stated in your other post, any new theory MUST include within it the established models of classical physics and quantum mechanics OR suggest an alternative. If we include Consciousness as a hypothesised electromagnetic field then the four fundamental forces of the universe (Gravity, Electromagnetism, The Strong Nuclear Force and The Weak Nuclear Force) fall out of equilibrium owing to this field energy and all established physics collapses!

Question 5: This is the most important question of the 5 I asked you and I certainly do not think you have addressed it in your reply to question 2&3. So, given my addendum to Question 2 and 3 (above) I would ask you to also re-address my Question 5 as IF you are asserting that there is a quanta of consciousness (which surely you must assert if you believe the consciousness field to be electromagnetic) then how is it possible to have memory at all?

Finally, I do agree with you that the core of consciousness resides at the Quantum level and I think the work of Stuart Hameroff onto Microtubials is the secret, personally, and this is where I would position my theory of the particle of consciousness.

And very finally, re your question on the Akashic Records. This is currently discussed in THREE chapters of my book, so to address it here as a comment is virtually impossible. I may well write a post on its own on this soon though. But what I will say is that on blog I use the term Akashic Records as I think this concept is mostly known by those that come here. When I say Akashic Records, and in my deeper writings I actually go into Vacuum Energy and Zero-Point field energy (both of which I would highly recommend you read into, alongside the Akashic Field theorem)

*Great Fun ain't it*