What is consciousness?
· Consciousness is our awareness and arousal by internal and external events and sensations.
Consciousness and the Brain
Two main aspects:
· Awareness – subjective knowledge of the things happening around us.
· Arousal – essentially our reaction to our awareness.
Levels of Awareness:
1. Higher-level Consciousness: Our processing power; our ability to think and work out problems on a higher thinking level such as academics.
2. Lower-level Consciousness: Our processing power that requires very minimal effort such as habitual mannerisms and daydreaming.
3. Altered States of Consciousness: A state that alters our consciousness due to unusual circumstances or substances such as drugs, depression, fatigue, and hypnosis.
4. Subconscious Awareness: Very minimal awareness to surrounding circumstances; this state typically occurs while sleeping and dreaming, but also can be reached when daydreaming or meditating.
5. No Awareness: Our unconscious state. Not having any awareness to inner or external circumstances.

Biological Rhythms and Sleep
· Sleep – Our body and brain’s means of recuperating and rejuvenating from the previous day’s work and processing through rest and little awareness.
· Biological Rhythms – Essentially our biological clock that our body adjusts to and lets us know when we need to sleep and wake up.
The Purpose of Sleep and Our Need for Sleep
· We need sleep in order to regain energy physically, and also to allow the brain to process and restore information and neurons used and acquired in the previous day. Lack of sleep can cause mental and physical deficiencies.
· Extra sources:

Stages of Wakefulness and Sleep

· Wakeful: Our brain emits Beta rays which cause us to be alert and concentrated or Alpha rays which occur when we are more relaxed or drowsy.
· Stage 1: Drowsy sleep with some muscular movement such as jerking one’s head when trying to stay awake. This is a very light sleep and often is not recognized by the sleeper as actual sleep.
· Stage 2: Lower muscular activity. The sleeper is not consciously aware of their surroundings, but is still in a light sleep. This stage is characterized by “sleep spindles”, which are sudden increases in wave frequency.
· Stage 3 & 4: “Delta sleep”, the deepest sleep. These are the stages that people have issues such as sleepwalking, sleep-talking, and bed-wetting in. These two stages get progressively shorter as the night progresses.
· REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep: Active stage of sleep. This is the stage in which our dreams occur, and it is also related to memory and creatively. This stage of sleep gets longer as the night progresses.

Additional facts:
· Young children and adolescents require more sleep (10-12 hours).
· Adults require an average of 8 hours of sleep, and a minimum of 4.
· Elderly require slightly more sleep than average adults.

Additional sources:

Sleep and Disease
· Neurons that control sleep also contribute to our immune system explaining why we become more sleepy than usual when we get sick.
· Depression, obesity, and heart disease will typically have a side-effect of sleeplessness as well.
Additional sources:
Sleep Disorders
· Insomnia: An individual’s inability to sleep. It can be a problem with falling asleep, waking often, or waking too early. Insomnia is very common in the U.S.A. and many times is linked with stress or depression.
· Sleepwalking and Sleep Talking: These occur during the deepest stages of sleep. Typically is just a phase that will go away with time.
· Nightmares and Night Terrors: Nightmares are bad dreams that cause the sleeper to wake up. Night terrors are when the sleeper awakes suddenly and are intensely fearful. Night terrors tend to wear off with time.


· Narcolepsy: Suddenly falling asleep and any time. Typically more common and evident in adults.

· Sleep Apnea: The individual’s failure to breathe while sleeping due to a failure in the respiration system. Characterized by extremely loud snoring followed by sudden silence.
Three theories:
1. Freud’s Psychodynamic Approach: Dreams are significant of a deeper and subconscious meaning. Often he believed in a sexual significance in dreams.


2. Cognitive Theory: Thinking while dreaming is similar to wakeful thinking. Dreams are a means to process and remember information.
3. Activation-Synthesis Theory: Driven by internal stimuli. Our brain tries to make sense of neural firings.

· Psychoactive Drugs: drugs that act on the neurosystem and alter consciousness, change perception and change mood.
· More than 200 million people each year use illicit drugs. Out of the 200 million, 25 million have problems abusing the drugs which can interfere with the individuals work and social abilities.
· Drug use in youth leads to unsafe sex:
o STD’s
o Unplanned pregnancy
o Depression
o School-related deficits.
· The USA has the highest rate of adolescent drug use.
Uses of Psychoactive drugs:
Continued use of psychoactive drugs leads to:
· Tolerance: the need to take increasing amounts of a drug to get the same effect.
· Physical dependence: the physiological need for a drug that causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as physical pain and craving for a drug when it is cut off.
· Psychological dependence: the strong mental desire to continue using a drug for emotional relief.
Both physical and psychological dependence are referred to as “addictions”.
How does the brain become addicted to psychoactive drugs?
· Psychoactive drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain’s reward pathways.
Types of Psychoactive drugs:
· Depressants: psychoactive hallucinogens that decrease, or depress, the central nervous system.
o Alcohol: slows down the brain’s activity and inhibits the ability to talk, walk, think, etc.

· Factors in the effects of alcohol on different individuals:
o Body weight
o Intake of alcohol
o Metabolizing alcohol
o Presence/absence of tolerance
· The basal ganglia is involved in compulsive behaviors which may lead to a greater demand for alcohol, without considering the reasons and consequences.

· In the United States, alcohol is the most used drug

· Alcoholism- a disorder that is characterized by long-term, repeated, uncontrolled, compulsive, and excessive use of alcohol which weakens the health and social relationship of the individual

o Approximately 18 million Americans are alcoholics (Grant & others, 2004).
o 1/3 of all alcoholics recover with or without treatment

George Valliant had 4 rules for recovering alcoholics:
1. Having a bad experience with alcohol (such as a medical emergency)
2. Having a substitute dependency
3. Having positive relationships
4. To join a support group (example: Alcoholics Anonymous)

· Barbiturates: decrease the activity of the Central Nervous System
· Barbiturates were once prescribed as sleeping aids
· Are the most used drug in suicide attempts because when taken in large amounts (and/or with any amount of alcohol) barbiturates can be deadly
· Seizures can be produced when an individual suddenly withdrawals from talking barbiturates

· Tranquilizers: (examples: Valium and Xanax) reduce anxiety and induce relaxation in an individual

· Opiates:

o Also known as Narcotics
o Opiates are powerful painkillers
o Most common Opiate: Morphine and Heroin
o An individual may have an increased appetite and an increased sexual desire when using opiates
· Stimulants: increase the activity of the Central Nervous System

o Most used: amphetamines, caffeine, cocaine, and nicotine
o Caffeine: most widely used stimulant
§ Caffeinism- an “overdose” of caffeine characterized by mood changes, anxiety and sleep distruption
§ Sudden caffeine withdrawal can result in mild symptoms: headaches, lethargy, apathy, and concentration difficulties, which usually clear up in several days.
o Nicotine: stimulates the brain by raising the dopamine levels
§ In smoking and smokeless tobacco, Nicotine is the main psychoactive ingredient
§ Nicotine helps improve attention and alertness, reducing anger and anxiety, and relieves pain
o Amphetamines: individuals use amphetamines to boost their energy, stay awake or lose weight
§ Amphetamines increase the level of dopamine in the brain
§ Ritalin, a prescription drug for ADD, is also a stimulant
§ A known amphetamine, Crystal Meth, gives a powerful feeling of euphoria, and is also highly addictive
o Cocaine:
§ Either snorted or intravenously injected in forms of crystals or powder
§ Highly addictive
o MDMA (Ecstasy): has both stimulant and hallucinogen properties
o Individuals who use Ecstasy heavily have cognitive deficits that are still present two years after use
· Hallucinogens: psychoactive drugs which alter an individuals’ visual experiences which produce images which are not real
o Marijuana is a mild hallucinogen
o LSD is a stronger hallucinogen
· Often called psychedelic (Greek word meaning “mind-revealing”) drugs
o Marijuana: made of the dried leaves and flowers of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa
§ Active ingredient is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)
§ Physical effects: increased pulse rate and blood pressure, red eyes, coughing and dry mouth
§ Marijuana can weaken attention and memory
§ Medical use: treatment of glaucoma (an eye disorder)
o LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
§ When using, the visual experiences include objects changing their shapes and glowing
§ “Kaleidoscopic” images
§ Pleasurable and grotesque images
§ Using LSD can trigger extreme anxiety, paranoia, and suicidal or homicidal impulses
§ Physical effects on the body: dizziness, nausea, and tremors
§ Acts on the neurotransmitter serotonin and can also effect dopamine
§ Rapid mood swings and weakened memory and attention can occur

§ Use of LSD heightened in the 1960s and 1970s


  • Hypnosis- an altered state of consciousness where the individual is usually receptive to suggestions.
  • People have been using basic hypnotic techniques since the beginning of history.
  • 4 steps to Hypnotizing a person
    1. Minimize distractions and make the individual comfortable.
    2. Tell the individual to concentrate on something specific, such as a ticking clock.
    3. Inform the individual what they should expect while in the hypnotic state, such as a pleasant floating sensation or relaxation.
    4. Suggest feelings or events the individual knows will occur or observe such as “Your eyes are getting tired.” When this occurs, the individual interprets them as being caused by the suggestion of the hypnotist and accepts this as an indication that something is happening. This increase in the individual’s expectations that the hypnotist will make things happen in the future makes the individual even more suggestible.
  • Divided Consciousness- Hilgard’s view was that hypnosis involves the splitting of consciousness into two separate components, one follows the commands of the hypnotist and the second acts as a “hidden observer.”
  • Social Cognitive Behavior- the theory that hypnosis is a normal state where the hypnotized individual behaves the way that he or she believes a hypnotized person should behave.

Consciousness and Health and Wellness: Meditation

  • The altered state of consciousness of hypnosis can also be achieved through meditation.
  • During the process of meditation, the mediator is very mindful of their feelings and thoughts but not wholly consumed by them.
  • Meditation- attaining a peaceful state of mind where thoughts are not occupied by worry.
  • Mindful Mediation- when distracting thoughts and feelings are acknowledged and observed nonjudgmentally.
  • Hypnagogic Reverie- an overwhelming feeling of knowing that everything will work out or wellness right before you fall asleep.
  • Reaching the State of Meditation:
    1. Find a quiet, comfortable place.
    2. Sit upright, rest your chin comfortably on your chest, place your arms in your lap, and close your eyes.
    3. Focus on your breathing. While inhaling and exhaling, pay attention to the sensation of air flowing through your body, the feeling of the filling and emptying your lungs.
    4. Begin repeating a single word to yourself every time you exhale.
    5. If your thoughts are intruding and you cannot focus, refocus on your breathing and saying your chosen word every time you exhale.


  1. What is consciousness?
    • Consciousness is our awareness and arousal by internal and external events and sensations.
  2. Why do we need sleep?
    • We need sleep in order to regain energy physically, and also to allow the brain to process and restore information and neurons used and acquired in the previous day. Lack of sleep can cause mental and physical deficiencies.

3. What is Hypnosis?

· An altered state of consciousness where the individual is usually receptive to suggestions.
4. What is Hypnagogic Reverie?
· Overwhelming feelings of wellness, or knowing that everything will work, right before you fall asleep.
5. What are the three different psychoactive drug classifications?
· Depressants, Stimulants, and Hallucinogens.
6. What four different drugs were covered under the depressants category?
· Alcohol, Barbiturates, Tranquilizers, and Opiates (Narcotics).
7. What five different drugs are classified under the stimulant category?
· Amphetamines, Cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy), Caffeine, and Nicotine.
8. What two different drugs are classified as hallucinogens? Which is more potent?
· LSD and Marijuana. LSD is the more potent drug.