I have speculated for a long time that brain waves could be the "location" of human consciousness or indeed the "soul". My argument for this is the following:

  • They vary with different states of consciousness, like dreaming.
  • They cover the brain as a whole and have provides coherence like the perception of time
  • I heard about an experiment with a man with severe secures that had his brain cut of in two with no neural connections. He didn't get a split personality and could perform functions that involved both halves of the brain. That told me that there couldn't be a completely neural explanation to consciousness. So which other mechanism do we know that could bridge that gap and provide a coherent self awareness combining the two brain halves: brain waves.
  • They may appear simple on the outside of the scull but on the inside they could display very rich characteristics.
  • Neural nets does not have brain waves and doesn't exhibit any signs of consciousness even though they have some kind of intelligence.

What kind of experiment could validate this hypothesis?

What does research say on this matter?

What do you think about this idea in general?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ All of your premises are wrong. For example, there are neural nets that exhibit oscillations, and you cannot prove that neural nets don't have consciousness. Brainwaves have repeatedly been measured inside the skull, and their behavior on the surface is already very rich. Split-brain patients appear in some respects to have two separate "selves" - corresponding to their two separate brain halves. And so on. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Have you heard of the alien hand syndrome? And by the way, corpus callosotomy does not completely disconnects the two hemispheres and if it would they wouldn't be any brainwaves traveling between the two. $\endgroup$
    – Izhaki
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious: do you know what brain waves are? $\endgroup$
    – Chelonian
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ To best clarify my line of thought: My idea was that the brainwave reflected which locations in the brain that was active and the wave itself was your experience of it. Similar to the way soundwaves discloses locations of objects and their vibrations. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is important to be clear exactly what "brain waves" are: they are variations in the electrical field coming off the brain, as picked up by an EEG machine and written in wave-shaped lines with a pen on chart paper (or today on an oscilloscope or into a computer). This electrical field is due to the synchronous activity of neurons of the brain, but any object that gave off an electrical field, like a television or power line, could be converted to waves on a graph in the same way. In a nutshell: it's just electricity. $\endgroup$
    – Chelonian
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 7:39

1 Answer 1


In a famous experiment Luigi Galvani conducted in 1780, he observed that a dead frog leg was twitching when electricity was applied to its nerves. Following your line of argument, electricity would be the meta-physical phenomena that gives rise to life.

Brainwaves are the signature of neural activity; we capture them through electrical measurements. We couldn't have observed them had it not been for neurons communicating.

The most established and empirically-supported theory we have on consciousness demonstrates that consciousness is the result of a cortex-wide neural discharges on a highly connected 'master' network that has access to, and can 'extract' control of all lower-level networks.

If this sounds overly complicated, think of an octopus that sees all the lights and can press all the buttons.

If you want to learn (a lot) more on consciousness and brainwaves, I recommend you read Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts by Stanislas Dehaene, which is a highly accessible text.


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