Thoughts on the effects of the blood supply to the brain – ‘passing out’, consciousness, the self, death, and other things – the ‘transitional experience’

Here’s a thought I had:

When one ‘passes out’ blood supply is dropped in the brain.  Generally, the arterial blood supply is reduced.  In other words, it is not stopped but its pressure is reduced.  Abrupt drops in the blood supply tend to cause a person to almost immediately ‘pass out’.  If the blood supply is only reduced gradually, and the person remains somewhat conscious, then they can go through a ‘slow passing out’.  I call this the ‘transitional experience’ .  This is the consciousness that precedes a complete ‘blacking out’ or ‘passing out’.  And when we do truly ‘pass out’ we completely lose consciousness.  When this happens we ‘black out’.  Our consciousness is gone.  Our self is gone.  We as if no longer exist as a person.  Nothing is remembered because there is nothing to remember . . . consciousness and the self are gone.  But in the ‘transitional experience’ the self continues to experience though in a modified and altered consciousness.  Because it is associated with decreased blood supply it shows that there is an association between the altered consciousness and blood supply.

The arterial supply of the cerebral cortex comes up from the neck by two Internal Carotid Arteries which passes up on either side of the throat and two Vertebral Arteries which are along the front or anterior side of the spinal cord and follow up the brain stem.  These all come together in the area of the Hypothalamus where the cortex meets the brain stem where they connect together, with communicating arteries, and then spread out in six main directions (three on each side or lobe of the cerebral cortex).  The Anterior Cerebral Artery supplies the central part of the cerebral cortex, running from the front to the middle of the cerebral cortex.  The Middle Cerebral Artery supplies the sides of the cerebral cortex.  The Posterior Cerebral Artery supplies the rear part of the cerebral cortex.  In other words, the arteries meet at one point at the top of the brain stem and then spread out over the cerebral cortex from there.

THE ‘TRANSITIONAL EXPERIENCE’ AND THE CEREBRAL CORTEX

When one looks at the ‘transitional experience’ one can see a pattern in the experience and specific locations in the brain.  This experience describe what I call ‘brain centers’.  This states that specific locations in the brain tend to entail certain specific functions.  When these are disrupted in some way (such as decreased blood supply) one experiences specific traits associated with these centers.

Examples of ‘brain centers’, associated with the ‘transitional experience’, are:

Frontal lobe

This is the ‘analytical’ area of the brain, one could say.  As a result, arterial disruption causes a sense of disorientation or confusion.

Parietal lobe – Motor/sensory centers

This causes a sense of motor and sensory awkwardness.

Occipital lobe

This lobe causes visual distortions and images. This can turn into something like dreaming or hallucinations.

Temporal lobe

This lobe creates a sense of ‘disconnectedness’ and strange senses of space.  One may even feel as if one has separated from ones body.

In the ‘transitional experience’ one tends to experience things from front-to-back-to-outward.  That is to say, from the frontal lobe to the parietal lobe to the occipital lobe to the temporal lobe.  To put it in its simplist way, we “feel confused, then feel awkward, then see images, and then feel removed from things” . . . as we move from front-to-back-to-outward.  Keep in mind that, because of all the variables and factors involved, the ‘transitional experience’ never appears exactly the same to everyone of course.  Some people may not feel it at all.  Others may only feel certain qualities, perhaps only one.  Also, the reason for their ‘passing out’ may affect it.  Even their personality may affect it.  It seems to me, though, that as it moves to the rear or posterior part of the brain there is a tendency for it to be less experienced by people.

The front-to-back-to-outward pattern seems to show some interesting things: 

  • Consciousness is made up of ‘layers’, and not just a simple all-encompassing entity.  As a result, the ‘transitional experience’ is like a slow stripping away of these layers.
  • These ‘layers’ actually reflect the ‘brain centers’ of specific locations in the brain.
  • Once the first layer deteriorates the ‘transitional experience’ moves to the next layer or, rather, to the next ‘brain center’, which then moves on to the next layer or ‘brain center’ and so on down the line, almost like dominos.
  • As consciousness passes through the different layers, consciousness, on the whole, slowly  deteriorates and changes.  Its a stripping away of consciousness, piece by piece.
  • The stripping away of the layers exposes each ‘brain center’ allowing it to be experienced in a more pronounced way.
  • The most sensitive place of the brain is the frontal lobe. It is the first affected and the first to deteriorate.
  • Consciousness is very touchy with blood supply.  A decrease in blood supply greatly affects the ‘brain centers’ and, subsequently, consciousness.

So we can see that the ‘transitional experience’ tends to reflect a deterioration of consciousness caused by an alteration in the functioning of the ‘brain centers’.  As each layer (‘brain center’) deteriorates, consciousness goes to the next lower layer until it deteriorates, then onto the next lower level, and so on.  That is to say, it isn’t just ‘one experience’ but an active ongoing evolving experience that is changing and altering as time moves on . . . a deterioration. 

As each layer deteriorates we experience its deterioration.  That is to say, there appear to be stages in the experiencing of the deterioration of each layer of consciousness (‘brain centers’).  It goes something like this:

  1. Normal functioning. 
  2. Decreased blood supply begins. 
  3. The deterioration of the layers begins to be felt.  As the layer deteriorates specific qualities, characteristic of the functioning of that layer (‘brain center’), are experienced.
  4. The experiencing of that ‘brain center is then dissipated and disappears.
  5. The next layer is then experienced.

This shows that, as the deterioration of the layers happens, there is a point where a specific layer or ‘brain center’ becomes a “dominant awareness”.  It is what is felt and known at the time, creating what can be very unique experiences.  In my opinion, this is because of:

  • The cells in the ‘brain center’ are ceasing to function properly.  The lack of blood supply does not allow the cells to metabolize or function as effectively.
  • The absence of the ‘compliment effect’ of the layers (‘brain centers’) that have already deteriorated.  Consciousness requires all layers (‘brain centers’) to be working.  In this way, they support and compliment each other.  When one or more layers fails this support and complimentary quality is upset creating an imbalance.  This causes a tendency for the next layer (‘brain center’) to be overemphasized, prominent, and dominate.
  • Since this process usually happens rapidly (often in a matter of seconds) the rest of the brain cannot adjust to it fast enough.  Often, our brain can adjust to changes in our cells behavior (and, eventually, the behavior of the ‘brain center’) by offsetting it to other parts of the brain which can, sometimes, compensate for the decreased failure of that ‘brain center’.  In short, the brain hasn’t had enough time to adjust in the ‘transitional experience’.

Its also interesting to note that the behavior of the self in ‘passing out’ primarily consists in “observing” or “watching” the affects of the altered ‘brain centers’.  One is watching passively, as if watching a movie pass before ones self.  This is significant in that it shows that the self is not perceiving itself as being threatened in the ‘transitional experience’, as it is often is in death (see below).  In other words, the ‘transitional experience’ does not directly affect the self.

LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

As mentioned above, the ‘transitional experience’ suggests that consciousness is made up of levels.  That is to say, each level contributes a particular quality and trait to consciousness.  One may compare them to the different organs that make up the body.  Each organ has specific functions but it takes all of them to make up the whole.

In addition, the ‘transitional experience’ suggest an association between these levels and specific anatomical parts of the brain:  the ‘brain centers’.  This shows that there is an anatomical association with some aspects of consciousness.  In other words, consciousness is not found in a specific part of the brain, but is something made up of many parts of the brain. 

The different traits of consciousness, as revealed by the ‘transitional experience’, entail qualities such as:

  • A sense of order in ones conception of the world.
  • Motor and sensory control and organization.
  • Making sense out of images and what they mean.
  • Orientation and a sense of where one is in space.
  • Feeling ‘connected’ to the world.

Each one of these is a specific individual function but the net result of all these appear to make up strong qualities of consciousness.  If one looks closer it appears that these traits all describe a general quality of a ‘making sense’ of ones self and where one is in the world.   This suggests that consciousness is what gives a ‘wholeness’ to the world, ones self in the world, and in our selves .  It is able to do this as a result of these:

  • Specific influence – the efforts of each individual level (‘brain center’) contributing its part.
  • Unity influence – the working together of all the levels (‘brain center’), together as a group.

The failure or disruption of any one of these, in a number of ways, often reflect:

  • A problem, mental and/or physical.  A failure of unity, for example, can lead to something like schizophrenia.  A failure of the motor level will cause motor disturbances.
  • Various ‘mental experiences’.  These can lead to things like religious experiences, different perceptions or awareness, and even insights.  It can even be done artificially.  Many drugs alter the function of specific ‘brain centers’ creating many ‘pseudo-experiences’.  Depending on the situation, these can be a problem or be beneficial.  The ‘transitional experience’, on the other hand, creates a ‘mental experience’ because it is a slow failing of unity by the slow breakdown of the levels, one by one.

The fact that, as the levels deteriorate, it goes from one level to another level show that consciousness has something like a hierarchy to the levels (‘brain center’).  The deterioration begins at what can be described as an ‘uppermost level’ and ends at what can be called the ‘lowermost level’ with each describing a specific center or location in the brain and specific traits and functioning in relation to consciousness:

  • Uppermost level:  The frontal lobe seems to bring everything together and as if harnesses the different levels to work as a whole.  Perhaps one could call it the “brain within the brain”.  This makes it the aspect of consciousness that is on the ‘front lines’, so to speak.
  • Lowermost level:  The temporal lobe seems the foundation of consciousness, the base of all the other levels, by creating a general sense of ones self in relation to the world.  In so doing, it as if sets the ‘framework’ for the workings of the other levels by giving them a ‘platform’ for them to work on.

These tend to describe a more general functioning, helping more to create a whole.  The layers in between seem to consist of more specific functions of consciousness.  They are more particular in their functioning and tend to describe a more specific purpose.  In this way, the uppermost and lowermost levels as if cast a net over all the other levels uniting them together and are as if ‘bookends’ that make it all a whole.  In this way, we could say that, in regard to brain anatomy and consciousness, there is a ‘triangle of whole consciousness’:

  1. Frontal Lobe – harnesses all the levels.
  2. Left Temporal Lobe – creates a framework for all levels.
  3. Right Temporal Lobe – creates a framework for all levels.

In this way , the ‘transitional experience’ describe this triangle and the deterioration describe the movement going from one tip to the other two tips, a slow breakdown of the ‘whole consciousness’

DEATH AND NDE

I have always felt that the actual experience of death is a form of ‘passing out’. It seems to me that, in dying, the blood supply is dropped in the brain causing the person to ‘pass out’ often going through a ‘transitional experience’ (depending on how one dies, of course).  A lot of dying is a result of blood supply being reduced to the brain for one reason or another (heart stopping, oxygen depleted, etc.).  This would mean that the experience of death entails this ‘transitional experience’ of consciousness similar to ‘passing out’.  This loss of blood supply include:

  • Instantaneous (within seconds).  There will probably be no experience.
  • Rapid (within seconds or even minutes).  This would make it similar to ‘passing out’ and may entail parts of the ‘transitional experience’ or multiple parts.
  • Slow (over many minutes).  In this case, this may create an involved ‘transitional experience’ consisting of many, or all, layers (‘brain centers’).  This may be when it is experienced the most profoundly.
  • Very slow (over many minutes or even hours, and even days).  It seems to me that the longer it is the less ‘transitional experience’ is experienced.  This is probably because the brain has time to “adjust”, though there may be scattered experiences especially near the end when the blood supply drops dramatically.  In that case, it would become like one of the above.

If the blood supply is not reinstated quickly the brain cells begin to die over time until the person cannot be revived anymore.  This is actual death (I wrote an article involving dying called “Thoughts on the process of dying“).  This shows that, in death, one has gone way beyond the ‘transitional experience’.  In this way, the ‘transitional experience’ becomes nothing but a phase in the process and event of death.

Interestingly, many so-called near-death-experiences (NDE) entail qualities of a ‘transitional experience’.  I feel that this is no mistake.  In fact, I tend to consider the so-called near-death experience as just a deeper form of ‘transitional experience’.  I tend to feel that this entails more than the normal ‘transitional experience’ entails.  This is probably because, in dying, one goes beyond a ‘passing out’ because the whole brain is losing blood supply for an extended time, far more than in ‘passing out’.  This brings in other issues that effects other parts of the brain creating a different experience.  Because the greater part of the brain is losing their blood supply, as well, it tends to greatly alter the experience of ‘passing out’.  The brain and self, so to speak, begins to become desperate and a reaction is created.  In this way, one could describe stages to the ‘transitional experience’:

  1. Normal ‘transitional experience’ –  A ‘passing out’, a low blood supply that does not put the brain/self in crisis.  Blood supply is then revived and normal functioning follows.
  2. Tense ‘transitional experience’ – Blood supply is decreased enough that various ‘mental experiences’ appear which may become an NDE or resemble it.  Sometimes, one may even experience a different sense of self and awareness.  At this stage, one can be revived but one feels ‘changed’ oftentimes.  Some people may even think they have had a ‘revelation’ of some sort.  It as if the lack of blood supply begins to create a reaction in the brain/self, often as if it is trying to ‘hang on’ to life.
  3. Critical ‘transitional experience’ – Extended loss of blood and imminent death.  Brain cells begin to die and deteriorate.  If one is revived here one has brain damage.

The creation of the tense and, subsequently, critical  ‘transitional experience’ brings out various points such as:

  • The brain/self can perceive itself as threatened and can try to ‘maintain’ or ‘revive’ itself. 
  • Being threatened, the brain can actually becomes more active and lively.  This may create very involved dream-like experiences, such as found in an NDE.
  • Being threatened, the self may figure more prominently.  As a result, the self is more than observing, as seen in ‘passing out’ (which I described above), but may figure prominently.  This increased sense of self, coupled with the various mental experiences of the ‘transitional experience’, can create unique experiences such as that one is in a ‘waking dream’, for example.  One may feel ‘alive in a dream’, which may be interpreted as ‘being a spirit’.  In some respects, in death, or excessive loss of blood supply, the brain or, more specifically, the self, is as if trying to preserve itself, forcing itself to become more “involved” creating a more extensive ‘passing out’ experience or even an NDE.  In this condition of decreased blood supply, though, the self is really hampered and hindered.  That is to say, its not defending itself to the best of its ability . . . it cannot.  In some respects its like a “last ditch effort”, a struggle to hold on.  It is unable to do any ‘outward’ actions (such as movement, speech, etc.) and is, in a sense, handicapped.  It as if has become paralyzed in its efforts.  This paralyzing effect is, no doubt, one of the reasons why it appears in this limited way . . . as an experience.  Of course, if the blood supply continues the brain eventually dies no matter what the self attempts to do.
  • It may awaken new forms of awareness.  These may be related to the world, the self, and life.  In this way, an NDE can, for some people, have a ‘revelation’ quality at times,and open up a new or dormant awareness.

I should point out that all death involves the experience of ‘passing out’ or an NDE or an experience of some sort.  This primarily depends on conditions.  First of all, one must have the correct conditions that allows one to experience them.  Death isn’t always experienced, such as in a sudden tragic crash.  Not only that, it seems that one’s personality and attitude, even, may play a big part in its experience.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

The ‘transitional experience’ effects brings out some interesting points:

  • It shows that consciousness is very much bound up with the arterial flow of the cerebral cortex.  In many ways, the arterial flow to the cerebral cortex is one of the most ‘pressing’ issues with consciousness and the self.  To reduce the blood pressure, even a small amount, can adversely affect them almost immediately.  This is why the ‘transitional experience’ happens.
  • It shows that ‘consciousness’ lies in the cortex.  When the cortex is affected our consciousness is affected.
  • Consciousness does not appear to lie in any specific spot in the cortex or at least has no apparent ‘brain center’.
  • The self is not consciousness and is separate from it.  In the normal ‘transitional experience’ phase the self is not affected, only consciousness is affected.  As a result, the experience is ‘passive’ and as if watched.  Only when it becomes more serious, as in the tense phase, does the self come in and can make an impact the experience.  This shows that the self is separate from consciousness.
  • Because the ‘transitional experience’ can affect our self it seems to suggest that the cortex is a significant aspect in the makeup of our self.

Overall, it shows an association between these elements:  blood supply, cerebral cortex, consciousness, and self.

———

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Death and dying, Existence, Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Neurology and the brain, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Science and technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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