Cleeremans hypothesizes that consciousness is not something we are born with, but is rather learned, and that such a phenomenon can occur in different brain regions, as its location can be flexible.
“Consciousness is the brain’s non-conceptual theory about itself, gained through experience—that is learning, interacting with itself, the world, and with other people,” he says. His hypothesis, called the ‘radical plasticity thesis,’ is connected with recent research that has found the adult brain is more adaptable than we originally thought — even capable of taking on new roles when injury occurs.
According to Cleeremans, even though the French man’s remaining brain was so small, the leftover neurons were still capable of generating a theory about themselves, which explains how the man remained conscious of his actions. This situation is a reminder that our brains can learn more than we might think, even under grave circumstances.