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Now one theory that claims to do just that is rapidly gaining weight, with strong evidence from research such as Laureys's to back up its predictions. The idea, dubbed the global workspace theory, was first floated in 1983 by Bernard Baars of The Neuroscience Institute in San Diego, California. He proposed that non-conscious experiences are processed locally within separate regions of the brain, like the visual cortex. According to this theory, we only become conscious of this information if these signals are broadcast to an assembly of neurons distributed across many different regions of the brain - the "global workspace" - which then reverberates in a flash of coordinated activity.
The global workspace model of consciousness, proposed by Bernard Baars of The Neuroscience Institute in San Diego, California, argues that non-conscious perceptions are processed in relatively small, local areas of the brain. It is only when this information is broadcast to a network of neural regions, the "global workspace", that we become conscious of whatever it is that we are experiencing.
With the help of a hammer-wielding scientist, Jennifer Aniston and a general anaesthetic, Professor Marcus du Sautoy goes in search of answers to one of science's greatest mysteries: how do we know who we are? While the thoughts that make us feel as though we know ourselves are easy to experience, they are notoriously difficult to explain.
So, in order to find out where they come from, Marcus subjects himself to a series of probing experiments. He learns at what age our self-awareness emerges and whether other species share this trait.
Next, he has his mind scrambled by a cutting-edge experiment in anaesthesia. Having survived that ordeal, Marcus is given an out-of-body experience in a bid to locate his true self. And in Hollywood, he learns how celebrities are helping scientists understand the microscopic activities of our brain.
Finally, he takes part in a mind-reading experiment that both helps explain and radically alters his understanding of who he is.