Mind-Body Connections: How Does Consciousness Shape the Brain?

Panel Discussion September 11, 2008

The mind-body problem has traditionally been framed as a conundrum concerning the relation between two seemingly incompatible substances—corporeal and spiritual. Indeed, the elusive nature of consciousness itself certainly does not render it a good candidate for reduction to a physical basis. Noting that physical theories alone would be compatible with the absence of consciousness, popular philosophical arguments have long highlighted the fact that an adequate theory of consciousness requires more than mere brain physics can provide. In short, there is something more to our minds than meets the eye in brain imagery.

Today, advances in our knowledge of the underlying physics of consciousness seem to point to an entirely new paradigm based on a renewed view of mind–brain interactions. Various considerations derived from research in quantum physics and brain dynamics, the immune system, cognitive behavior therapy, and neuroplasticity suggest that mind-body connections do in fact work both ways, and that in important respects the mind, by re–gearing attention and emotion, can effectively shape or “rewire” the brain, thus substantially affecting one’s mental and physical health.

The issues investigated by physicists, physicians, and neuroscientists raise a spectrum of profound questions, such as that of the compatibility of free will and moral action with the “scientific” view of the world. More generally, they lead us to ask and examine in what sense the knowledge and practice of mind-body connections suggested by these new insights can affect our sense of selfhood and agency, as well as shed new light on our understanding of the practical implications of various disciplines of attention such as meditation, self–suggestion, and ethical awareness.


  • Elie During
  • Mario Beauregard
  • Jeffrey M. Schwartz
  • Henry P. Stapp
  • Esther M. Sternberg


  • Thursday, September 11, 2008