Science can explain how the human brain works, but not how the universe works, according to a team of Australian researchers.
The study is one of the first to show that our minds work by harnessing the properties of nature to create a new form of consciousness.
The team, led by a University of New South Wales psychologist, showed that our brains are capable of manipulating the brainwaves and electrical activity of a subject to make them conscious or non-conscious.
“Our experiments show that there is no difference in the structure or function of the brain between conscious and non-aware subjects, suggesting that the brain functions in a non-invasive manner, unlike that in humans,” said Dr Andrew Wills.
“This finding has profound implications for how we perceive, feel, think, feel emotions and, perhaps, even have sex.”
The research was published in the journal Current Biology.
While most scientists would agree that consciousness is the ability to perceive or feel emotions, the researchers used a new technology called neural prostheses, which mimic the way a human brain responds to a stimulus.
“We wanted to understand how the brain was working, so we created an artificial brain using a neural prosthesis and asked it to experience a simulated emotion,” Dr Wills said.
“It was able to feel sadness, fear and excitement, but also to perceive the world through the eyes of a robot.”
In the lab, the robot was presented with a series of stimuli that it was asked to respond to.
One of these included the words ‘happy’, ‘happy’ and ‘happy happy’, and the robot felt a variety of emotions, including sadness, joy, fear, surprise and amusement.
“The results of our study indicate that the human brains are able to manipulate the brain waves of the robot to create an awareness of positive and negative emotions, even when the robot is not aware of the emotions,” DrWills said in a statement.
“While our results do not indicate that consciousness can occur in the absence of a brain, the ability of our brain to create this awareness in the presence of an external stimulus is consistent with the existence of a conscious mind.”
The study also suggests that consciousness cannot exist without a conscious brain, but does not rule out that the concept of a consciousness-free world exists.
The researchers have not yet conducted a follow-up study to further explore this question.
Dr Wills and his colleagues are now trying to understand what consciousness is.
“To answer this question, we need to understand why it is possible to create awareness and why this awareness is produced,” Dr J.D. Salzman, a neuroscientist at the University of Queensland, told ABC News.
“These are the fundamental questions that we are exploring in our lab.”