The concept of Consciousness at the Laurentides meeting in 1953

F. Clarac


The “Laurentian symposium” organised by Dr. J.F. Delafresnay in 23-28 August 1953 gathered twenty outstanding participants together. The main topic of the meeting was to demonstrate that recent physiological data on the reticular formation (RF) opened new fields of research related to the study of “consciousness”. The lecture by Magoun and Moruzzi presented cortical arousal due to RF. They explained that a lesion in RF induced a comatose state. The neurosurgeon W. Penfield summarized the results accumulated with brain surgeries. He explained any portion of the cerebral cortex may be removed without producing unconsciousness. By contrast, any injury of the brain stem induced a state of unconsciousness. However, the psychologists of the meeting, Hebb and Lashley did not understand the interest of physiologists for the concept of consciousness, they considered not well defined and mostly discussed by philosophers. It seems obvious that, after 1980 and today, the concept of consciousness is a key problem in neuroscience. It is now discussed regularly by neuroscientists. Although very incomplete approaches were available, due to technical limitations, the Laurentides meeting appeared quite crucial and the first, following behaviorism, to considerconsciousness as a scientific enquiry.


Consciousness • Reticular formation (FR) • Centrencephalon • Arousal • EEGs recordings • Non specific thalamic projections

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