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commented on yesterday
1. Consciousness depends primarily on a specific network of regions in the cortex (the wrinkled surface of the brain) and the thalamus (a walnut-sized structure buried deep in the interior). Some of these regions are important for determining the level of consciousness (the difference between waking and dreamless sleep) while others are involved in shaping conscious content (the specific qualities of any given experience).
2. Researchers have now discovered that many cognitive functions can take place in the absence of consciousness. We can perceive objects, make decisions, and even perform apparently voluntary actions without consciousness intervening.
3. Mammals share much of the neural machinery important for human consciousness, so it seems a safe bet to assume they are conscious as well, even if they can't tell us that they are.
See the full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/01/consciousness-eight-questions-science