Two fun and stimulating videos by Ramachandran:
Consciousness, Qualia, and Self
A journey to the center of your mind
I think there is a sort of nerve in the brain, unique to humans, with dendrites in many but not all parts of the brain that deliver their data to some area in the sensory cortex just as nerves from the senses do. (I would propose “introspective nerves” or “mirror nerves” but those terms are well used elsewhere. I will call them JTAG nerves as an inside joke from the electronics industry. I might call them “self nerves” but perhaps that is presumptuous.) I assume that delivery to the sensory cortex results in qualia, sort of by definition. I follow Ramachandran’s idea that some data from some of the senses are delivered, as well as to the sensory cortex, to more primitive brain structures and this results in phenomena such as blindsight.
Many or most senses produce qualia which I take to be among the raw inputs to consciousness. (Some claim we act on pheromones even while we are unaware of them.) JTAG nerves thus make us aware of some of what is going on in our heads—aware in a way that gives us ‘something to speak of’ to use Ramachandran’s marvelous pun. I am tempted to say further that qualia, especially these introspective sorts, feed directly to short term memory perhaps even before they are ‘viewed’—that we actually form the memories of qualia before we experience them. I am tempted to say this except for the fact that the claim may have no meaning; perhaps all that we experience is from our short term memories. Narrative is always in past tense; does it make sense to ask if we were there when it happened? I think I will not try to answer that question. Perhaps the shortest term memory is just what you are aware of just now. Some sort of process filters this information for delivery to longer term memory.