“Neuroscientific Models of Subjectivity in Check: The Case of Terminal Lucidity”
Does a self exist? What relationship does it have with conscious life and its neuropsychiatric disorders and mechanisms?
The notion of self becomes indeed essential to understand consciousness in its subjectivity and self-identity. Considering the embodied and embedded condition of the self, neuropsychiatric pathologies seem to alter subjectivity and reflect its fragility. However, a minimal self seems to endure, what means that the core of subjectivity remains despite both neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Another challenge for an embodied and interdisciplinary perspective of the self lies in the case of terminal lucidity. The unexpected return of mental clarity and memory shortly before death in patients suffering from severe psychiatric and neurologic disorders is a frequently reported but rare or almost not studied phenomenon. Terminal lucidity has been reported in the medical literature over the past 250 years in patients suffering from brain abscesses, tumors, strokes, meningitis, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and affective disorders.
The recovering of lost memory, cognitive functions and self-identity with a deteriorated brain raises some challenges like:
-The neuroscience of terminal states may be more complex than traditionally thought.
-Seemingly irreversible lost cognitive functions can be somehow regained. More neurologic studies are needed in terminal states.
-How memory and cognitive contents are retained when self-identity and cognitive abilities were lost to be later brought back when the abilities are recovered.
-Subjectivity may have different “mechanisms” to endure and to manifest than the usually assigned by neuroscientific models of normal brains.