Consciousness and body image: lessons from phantom limbs, Capgras syndrome and pain asymbolia

V. S. Ramachandran


Words such as ‘consciousness’ and ‘self’ actually encompass a number of distinct phenomena that are loosely lumped together. The study of neurological syndromes allows us to explore the neural mechanisms that might underlie different aspects of self, such as body image and emotional responses to sensory stimuli, and perhaps even laughter and humour. Mapping the ‘functional logic’ of the many different attributes of human nature on to specific neural circuits in the brain offers the best hope of understanding how the activity of neurons gives rise to conscious experience. We consider three neurological syndromes (phantom limbs, Capgras delusion and pain asymbolia) to illustrate this idea.

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