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In biological psychology, awareness describes a human or animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event. Awareness does not necessarily imply understanding, just an ability to be conscious of, feel or perceive.
Awareness is a relative concept. An animal may be partially aware, may be subconsciously aware, or may be acutely aware of an event. Awareness may be focused on an internal state, such as a visceral feeling, or on external events by way of sensory perception. Awareness provides the raw material from which animals develop qualia, or subjective ideas about their experience.
Electro-chemical networks related to the chordate nervous system facilitate awareness. Researchers have debated what minimal components are necessary for animals to be aware of environmental stimulus, though all animals have some capacity for acute reactive behavior that implies a faculty for awareness.
Popular ideas about consciousness suggest the phenomenon describes a condition of being aware of one's awareness. Efforts to describe consciousness in neurological terms have focused on describing networks in the brain that develop awareness of the qualia developed by other networks.
Neural systems that regulate attention serve to attentuate awareness among complex animals whose central and peripheral nervous system provides more information than cognitive areas of the brain can assimilate. Within an attenuated system of awareness, a mind might be aware of much more than is being contemplated in a focused extended consciousness.
When a patient goes for a surgical operation, it is desirable to temporarily make the patient unaware. Anaesthesiologists specialise in this and a major responsibility is prevent awareness during the operation. This is achieved by giving anesthetic drugs through the veins and through the lungs.
- National Library of Medicine Conditioning, awareness, and the hippocampus.
- Euroscience Conference: Presentation on Human Awareness and Behaviour In A Changing World.
- Cornell University: Recent findings in the awareness of brain damaged people.
- Awareness, Consciousness, Intelligence - comparing the terms
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