States of consciousness


When we have knowledge of ourselves and what is happening around us, it is said that we are in a state of consciousness . For this, certain structures of the brain must be working properly. These are what allow us to be attentive, speak, perceive, remember and perform motor functions. Only when sleeping soundly (without dreams) are we not conscious. There are also other factors that lead to unconsciousness. The study of this area is complex and multidisciplinary, since it involves psychiatry, psychology, neurology, medicine and science. Even on a spiritual level, we speak of the states of consciousness of the human being.


What are states of consciousness?

When the neurocognitive functions of the human brain are active, that is, an individual is awake and his actions are intentional, he is said to be in a state of consciousness. When you sleep and have dreams, people live an experience and therefore also have a conscience. Only when the sleep is deep does it disappear . The state of consciousness then refers to when an individual is aware about existence and about what exists around him.


Components of states of consciousness

The definition of state of consciousness has two fundamental components:

  • Alertness level (the degree or state of consciousness)
  • Awareness of yourself and your surroundings (what consciousness contains)

Content of consciousness

It is established that consciousness has content when a person is able to process the information that is generated inward (about himself, self-awareness) and outward (the environment that surrounds him). For this it is necessary that you also be awake or alert . Scientifically it is pointed out that the unconscious states (there is no consciousness) are deep sleep and coma.

Normal (ordinary) states of consciousness

  • Vigil: When there is content in consciousness. The person is aware of himself and the outside on a continuous basis.
  • Sleep: Sleep is necessary for the body. Sleep is divided into two phases: NO REM (slow) and REM (fast).

Alterations in the state of consciousness

When alterations in the state of consciousness occur, it is a symptom of a pathology. The only alteration of consciousness that does not occur due to a disease is sleep, since it is a function that the body requires. During the deep phase consciousness fades. Some of the pathological abnormalities (they are also called states) are:

  • Eat: Here the state of consciousness remains the same as when experiencing deep sleep. The difference is that there are no external stimuli that can “wake up” the patient. Stimuli such as pain, voice or touch have no effect.
  • Vegetative or vegetative state : Open eyes are a sign that you are awake, but you are not aware of yourself or your environment. It is not conscious. These patients react but automatically (reflex actions), they do not do it on their own.
  • Minimal Awareness : Those affected can move slightly by themselves, such as when moving their eyes. They are able to say a few words and respond to basic prompts.
  • Delirium: The patient suffers a sudden change of confusion and level of consciousness. Your memory, thoughts, and orientation are messed up. It does not necessarily affect your motor skills.
  • Akinetic mutism : Your state of consciousness is limited. These patients are unable to speak or move. They are awake and can often track, especially to auditory stimuli.

Other related disorders

  • Epilepsy: It has been scientifically proven that the brain area that is deactivated during an epileptic seizure is the one related to consciousness. During an episode, which lasts about 10 seconds or less, patients are staring and unresponsive. Failure to respond may take several more minutes after the mishap.
  • Sleepwalking : It is an anomaly that occurs during deep dreams. They can even walk without being aware of them, their surroundings and do not respond to auditory stimuli and touches temporarily.

Causes of alterations or disorders of the states of consciousness

  • Lack of oxygen in the brain : Oxygen is vital for the brain to function. When the amount required decreases, brain cells are injured or die. When the blood flow to the brain is interrupted, consciousness is affected. The event can be triggered by a stroke, bleeding, or swelling of the brain. Tumors can also press on certain areas and compromise blood vessels. Other causes of oxygenation failure are due to seizures, heart attacks, and lung failure.
  • Head trauma: Blows to the head can affect the brain and therefore consciousness.
  • Drugs, alcohol and / or drugs : Some medications for pain or other conditions can influence the states of consciousness. The general anesthesia that they apply to perform surgical interventions has a great effect, since they put the patient into a deep sleep and completely numb the body so that they do not feel pain. Some drugs, especially those of high purity and / or chemically manufactured, intervene in how consciousness works, as they cause damage to the brain. Some people report that after taking drugs they experience other “levels of consciousness . ” Alcohol in excess also affects brain activity and therefore the state of consciousness of an individual.
  • Chronic diseases : Some chronic diseases such as diabetes and others that damage the liver or kidneys can cause chemicals or mineral imbalances harmful to the brain to be generated in the body. Likewise, degenerative pathologies such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can lead to alterations in consciousness.

Applications in medicine and science

The complexity of the states of consciousness makes them study in various areas of science, medicine , psychology , and even on a spiritual level. Thanks to neurosciences in conjunction with Physics and the rest of the areas, states of consciousness are applied in the creation of models or prototypes in order to explain the synaptic connections in the brain . That is, chemistry , communication and brain responses, among others. Visions and even mystical or supernatural experiences would be explained as disorders of consciousness due to imbalances in neurotransmitters in the brain.

Spiritual states of consciousness

There are several religions or spiritual practices that refer to states of consciousness. Most point out that there are higher degrees or levels of consciousness, which go beyond those scientifically described. Among the most deeply rooted beliefs on the subject, is the one that is based on the four oldest texts of Indian literature and from which the Vedic religion is based (before the Hindu religion was formed). The belief of the Vedas indicates that there are seven (7) states of consciousness , which are reached through meditation and spiritual work. They are a kind of extended consciousness that gradually leads to “enlightenment”, which would be the ideal state of the human being. These are:

  • Deep sleep : The senses are sluggish, with poor perception and cognition. However, it responds to stimuli such as touch, light, and sounds.
  • Dreamlike : Here you are more alert and awake than in the first state. You have dreams, experiences, images, and you even think. The dream world seems real and we only realize that it is not real when we wake up.
  • Vigil: It is the state in which you are frequently. Alert and awake. The activity of the brain is very different from the first two states. Most people only reach this level.
  • Consciousness of the soul: It is when you become aware of who observes within us. It occurs when one is totally calm, still and transcends to see the soul. The experience may be short-lived, but it makes a difference. The consequence of living it is that the “state of self” expands. It usually happens during meditation.
  • Cosmic consciousness : This level is reached when the spirit of a person can observe his physical or material body. There is a higher consciousness that allows you to locate yourself as part of an “infinite spirit” that is linked to a whole. This leaves the body and the soul to observe and analyze its own material exterior. Individuals become more creative, intuitive, and aware.
  • Divine consciousness : The observer (spirit outside the body) becomes stronger and more awake. It is felt within the body, in the soul, outside of it and in all living beings. You can notice the spirit possessed by plants, animals and in them the presence of God. You can even talk to them. It is not a constant state. It goes in and out of it. This degree of consciousness in the perennial way is attributed to the seers and prophets.
  • Unity consciousness : It is called “enlightenment” and is the highest level of spiritual consciousness. When it is achieved, the unity of being with the universe is perceived. The world is an extension of the human being and vice versa. These individuals are capable of performing so-called “miracles .

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