While you may not remember life as a toddler, you most likely believe that your selfhood then—your essential being—was intrinsically the same as it is today.

Buddhists, though, suggest that this is just an illusion—a philosophy that’s increasingly supported by scientific research.

“Buddhists argue that nothing is constant, everything changes through time, you have a constantly changing stream of consciousness,” Evan Thompson, a philosophy of mind professor at the University of British Columbia, tells Quartz. “And from a neuroscience perspective, the brain and body is constantly in flux. There’s nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.”

While you may not remember life as a toddler, you most likely believe that your selfhood then—your essential being—was intrinsically the same as it is today.

Buddhists, though, suggest that this is just an illusion—a philosophy that’s increasingly supported by scientific research.

“Buddhists argue that nothing is constant, everything changes through time, you have a constantly changing stream of consciousness,” Evan Thompson, a philosophy of mind professor at the University of British Columbia, tells Quartz. “And from a neuroscience perspective, the brain and body is constantly in flux. There’s nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.”

Studies of meditators’ sleep patterns suggest this might indeed be the case. A study published in 2013 found that meditation can affect electro-physical brain patterns during sleep, and the findings suggest there could be capacity to “process information and maintain some level of awareness, even during a state when usually these cognitive functions are greatly impaired,” according to the researchers.

But neither neuroscience nor Buddhism has a definitive answer on exactly how consciousness relates to the brain. And the two fields diverge on certain aspects of the topic. Buddhists believe that there’s some form of consciousness that’s not dependent on the physical body, while neuroscientists (and Thompson), disagree.

But Thompson supports the Buddhists’ view that the self does in fact exist.

“In neuroscience, you’ll often come across people who say the self is an illusion created by the brain. My view is that the brain and the body work together in the context of our physical environment to create a sense of self. And it’s misguided to say that just because it’s a construction, it’s an illusion.”

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