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The electromagnetic field theory of consciousness is a theory that says the electromagnetic field generated by the brain (measurable by ECoG) is the actual carrier of conscious experience.

This theory was initially proposed by Susan Pockett, Johnjoe McFadden(CEMI Field Theory)[1][2][3]and E. Roy John. Related is Andrew and Alexander Fingelkurts theory "Operational Architectonics framework of brain-mind functioning".[4][5][6]

The starting point for these theories is the fact that every time a neuron fires to generate an action potential and a postsynaptic potential in the next neuron down the line, it also generates a disturbance to the surrounding electromagnetic (EM) field. Information coded in neuron firing patterns is therefore reflected into the brain's EM field. Locating consciousness in the brain's EM field, rather than the neurons, has the advantage of neatly accounting for how information located in millions of neurons scattered throughout the brain can be unified into a single conscious experience (sometimes called the binding problem): the information is unified in the EM field. In this way EM field consciousness can be considered to be 'joined-up information'.

This theory accounts for several otherwise puzzling facts, such as the finding that attention and awareness tend to be correlated with the synchronous firing of multiple neurons rather than the firing of individual neurons. When neurons fire together their EM fields generate stronger EM field disturbances; so synchronous neuron firing will tend to have a larger impact on the brain's EM field (and thereby consciousness) than the firing of individual neurons. However their generation by synchronous firing is not the only important characteristic of conscious electromagnetic fields — in Pockett's original theory, spatial pattern is the defining feature of a conscious (as opposed to a non-conscious) field.[7]

The different EM field theories disagree as to the role of the proposed conscious EM field on brain function. In McFadden's cemi field theory, the brain's global EM field modifies the electric charges across neural membranes and thereby influences the probability that particular neurons will fire, providing a feed-back loop that drives free will. However in the theories of Susan Pockett and E. Roy John, there is no necessary causal link between the conscious EM field and our consciously willed actions.

If true, the theory has major implications for efforts to design consciousness into Artificial intelligence machines; current microprocessor technology is designed to transmit information linearly along electrical channels, and more general electromagnetic effects are seen as a nuisance and damped out; if this theory is right, however, this is directly counterproductive to the process of creating an artificially-intelligent computer, which on some versions of the theory would instead have electromagnetic fields that synchronized its outputs—or in the original version of the theory would have spatially patterned electromagnetic fields.

The first experiments on physical implementation of the electromagnetic theory of consciousness are carried out by the Russian research group[attribution needed] of scientists claiming to have built McFadden-style EM field consciousness hardware. Researchers K. N. Shevchenko, N. V. Shevchenko, and B. V. Shulgin at the experimental physics department of Ural State Technical University – UPI created a model of neural network on neurons (EM (electromagnetic) neurons) with additional channels for information exchange via electromagnetic field and patented it (Patent RU 2309457 C1, Int. Cl. G06N 3/06, G06G 7/60. Neuron Network Model. Application 06.05.2006; Date of publication 27.10.2007; Bulletin 30).[8][9] Channels for interaction by electromagnetic field are implemented in an original construction of neural axons, resembling a chain of in-series radio-frequency pulse self oscillators with self-quenching circuits and radio-pulse envelope separators. The concept of EM neurons is nearly the same as that described in McFadden’s CEMI theory, but with one exception: the mechanism of EM field information exchange between neurons is different. These engineered neurons have much in common with their biological counterparts and correspond with typical neurological patterns of behavior.

The issue of spontaneous generation of consciousness in networks with this type of architecture remains open, however, and research is ongoing.

Further reading

published in: Journal of Consciousness Studies (2002) 9: 23-50

See also


  1. Johnjoe McFadden (2002). The Conscious Electromagnetic Information (Cemi) Field Theory: The Hard Problem Made Easy?. Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (8): 45–60.
  2. Johnjoe McFadden (2002). Synchronous Firing and Its Influence on the Brain’s Electromagnetic Field: Evidence for an Electromagnetic Field Theory of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (4): 23–50.
  3. Jack A. Tuszynski (2006). "12. The CEMI Field Theory: Seven Clues to the Nature of Consciousness" Springer The Emerging Physics of Consciousness, 385-404. (the chapter author is Johnjoe McFadden)
  4. Andrew A. Fingelkurts and Alexander A. Fingelkurts, Mapping of the Brain Operational Architectonics, published in: Chen, F. J. (ed.) Focus on Brain Mapping Research, Nova Science Publishers, 2005 pp. 59-98
  5. Fingelkurts AnA, Fingelkurst AIA, operational architectonics of the human eeg NI2001 World Congress on Neuroinformatics, Vienna, Austria, September 24-29, 2001
  6. Andrew A. Fingelkurts, Alexander A. Fingelkurts, Operational architectonics of perception and cognition (a principle of self-organized metastable brain states, talk presented at VI Parmenides Workshop, of Institute of Medical Psychology, University of Munich, Elba Italy, April 5 to 10, 2003

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