I know sensory neurons that respond to light and physical sensations (pressure, temperature) exist throughout our body, giving us information about our surroundings.

For instance, when I push the tip of my finger onto the table. I feel the coolness of the table as well as the smooth and hard texture of the wood.

The pressure and temperature create action potentials in the sensory neurons at the tip of my finger. This action potential triggers the next in the cascade of neuronal firings that reach the somatosensory cortex the brain.

Now, this is where the crux of the question lies. Forgive me if it's a little unclear.

When one thinks of where oneself resides, one thinks they reside behind their eyes. Our consciousness and mind reside behind our eyes and in our brain. So when that signal from the tip of our finger reaches the somatosensory cortex in our brain, how does the action potential then recreate the experience of "hard", "cool", and "smooth" in the final neurons in the brain?

How do the chemical and physical changes in the affected neurons of the cortex equate to real, "felt" sensations in our consciousness?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This is a very broad question. The guideline is that if you need a book chapter (or a book) to explain it, it's too broad. Try focusing the question down if you can. It's just plain simple neurology (as if neurology is simple...) but quite a bit of it. There's nothing "mystical" about it, if that's where you're headed. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 6:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Certainly disagree with @anongoodnurse. Not really a 'broad' question; it is also as mystical as mystical gets in science. Historically it has been a deep, fascinating topic for millennia of philosophy, and surely no chapter will provide an 'answer', only fragmented insights. Just an old and so far unsolved, or perhaps unsolvable problem by empirical science. You are asking about how physiology instigates qualia, i.e. you ask about the hard problem of consciousness. I suggest you read the wiki entry and expand readings from there. $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway, voting to close as duplicate of these questions (one, two, three) which already have sufficient and insightful answers. OP, please consult these! $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 20:43


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