Psychology HCCThe Pearson Custom LibraryHCC Custom EditionChapter 3: ConsciousnessConsciousness: your awareness of everything that is going on around you and inside your own head at any given moment, which you use to organize your behavior, including your thoughts, sensations, and feelings.Cognitive neuroscientists view consciousness as being generated by a set of action potentials in the communication among neurons just sufficient to produce aspecific perception, memory, or experience in our awareness. Example: your eyes see a dog-->the neurons along the optic pathway to the occipital lobe’s visual cortex are activated-->the visual association cortex is activated to identify the external stimulus as a “dog”. Bam!--consciousness!Much of people’s time awake is spent in a state called waking consciousness- thoughts, feelings, and sensations are clear and organized, and the person feels alert.
There are, however, variations of consciousness called altered states of consciousness- occur when there is a shift in the quality or pattern of your mental activity. Thoughts may be fuzzy, disorganized. Feel less alert. Sometimes the altered state may mean being more alert (using stimulants). You may divide your conscious awareness: driving while thinking about the day ahead: may not remember your driving trip.Studies have shown that driving while talking on a cell phone, even hands free, puts person at same risk as driving under the influence of alcohol.Texting while driving can be deadly.Forms of altered states: daydreaming, being hypnotized, a meditative state.Certain drugs cause altered states: caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, etc.Sleep- the most common altered state experienced by people.The sleep-wake cycle is called a circadian rhythm: in Latin, circa = about. diem = day.
A circadian rhythm means it takes about a day to complete.The sleep-wake cycle is controlled by a tiny area in the hypothalamus. The tiny area isthe suprachiasmatic nucleus--the internal clock that tells people when to wake and when to fall asleep.The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is sensitive to changes in light. Daylight fades--> the SCN tells the pineal gland to secrete melatonin-->melatonin accumulates-->person feels sleepy. Light comes into theeyes-->the SCN tells the pineal gland to stop secreting melatonin, allowing the body to awaken.