In the following context neuroscientist Susan Greenfield is talking about two kinds of experiments that are bold below. My questions are that

  1. Is the first experiment an imaginative experiment that she is wishing to be possible in the future?

  2. Does "such studies show" (the italic part to the end of the paragraph) refer to the the first experiment or the second?

  3. Does anyone has any idea what "a second assembly will not form because the first is acting as a rival." means or what it is referring to?


I suggest that there is no magic ingredient in the brain that mediates consciousness. A critical factor could be the number of neurons that are corralled at any one time and it is the extent of these assemblies that will determine consciousness. The most valuable approach would lie in brain imaging in conscious volunteer subjects as they were undergoing different tests that one could predict would modify their neuronal assemblies in certain ways. But at the moment the time and space resolution, although awesome in what has been developed over the past ten years, is still not sufficient. At the moment, only voltage-sensitive dyes showing up areas of activity in response to an epicentre can be used – and then only in experimental animals. By virtue of the fine temporal resolution available from their use, such studies show, for example, that a second assembly will not form because the first is acting as a rival. That is the kind of precision, the sort of timing we are going to need to characterize how neuronal assemblies relate to consciousness.

1 Answer 1

  1. The first experiment described in bold is indeed hypothetical. The use of the words could and would carry the aspect of the unattained. The sentence following starts with "But", and tells us that the "resolution" we actually have isn't sufficient to make the first experiment realizable.
  2. such studies refers to the ones using "voltage-sensitive dyes"
  3. Apparently, when one assembly (i.e, an "area of activity") forms in the brains of the animal subjects, it prevents other areas of activity from starting up.

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