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8.1b. Neural Correlates of Consciousness (Neural Correlates of Consciousness on PhilPapers)

See also:
Baars, Bernard J. (1995). Surprisingly small subcortical structures are needed for the state of waking consciousness, while cortical projection areas seem to provide perceptual contents of consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 4:159-62.   (Google)
Balog, Katalin (2007). Comments on Ned Block's target article “Consciousness, accessibility, and the mesh between psychology and neuroscience”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (4):499-500.   (Google)
Abstract: Block argues that relevant data in psychology and neuroscience shows that access consciousness is not constitutively necessary for phenomenality. However, a phenomenal state can be access conscious in two radically different ways. Its content can be access conscious, or its phenomenality can be access conscious. I’ll argue that while Block’s thesis is right when it is formulated in terms of the first notion of access consciousness, there is an alternative hypothesis about the relationship between phenomenality and access in terms of the second notion that is not touched by Block’s argument.
Bauer, R. (2004). In search of a neural signature of consciousness: Facts, hypotheses, and proposals. Synthese 141 (2):233-45.   (Google)
Abstract:   Evolution leads to more and more complex structures, e.g., molecules, cells and organisms. By means of such structures elementary dynamic bio-electrical fields originate in single cells. They further develop into neurons with neuronal fields, and these combine and integrate in brains into global neuro-electrical fields (NEF) as a medium for the fast representation of outer stimuli. The present hypothesis proposes a specific state of the global NEF in brains as the signature of consciousness. This NEF changes periodically between two states, a de- and a hyperpolarized brain state, and these in turn are paralleled intimately by transitions between consciousness and unconsciousness. In the hyperpolarized state the elementary neuronal fields are enslaved and synchronized by strong oscillations, and under these conditions the NEF is of low information capacity. In the depolarized state, however, the elementary fields are freed to self-organize and superimpose into an integrated NEF rich in information. In this condition the NEF acquires a qualitatively new state variable: consciousness. This new variable is no longer physically measurable; it can only be perceived by introspection
Becchio, Cristina & Bertone, Cesare (2005). Beyond cartesian subjectivism: Neural correlates of shared intentionality. Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (7):20-30.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: In the present paper we present a short review of some recent neuro- physiological and neuropsychological findings which suggest that self-generated actions and actions of others are mapped on the same neural substratum. Since this substratum is neutral with respect to the agent, correctly attributing an action to its proper author requires the co-activation of areas specific to the self and the other. A conceptual analysis of the empirical data will lead us to conclude that from a neurobiological point of view the problem is not 'how is it possible to share the intentions of others', but rather 'how one can distinguish one's own action/intention from those of other people'
Blankenburg, F.; Ruff, C. C.; Deichmann, R.; Rees, G. & Driver, J. (2006). The cutaneous rabbit illusion affects human primary sensory cortex somatotopically. PLoS Biology 4 (3):e69.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Brown, Richard (2006). What is a brain state? Philosophical Psychology 19 (6):729-742.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Philosophers have been talking about brain states for almost 50 years and as of yet no one has articulated a theoretical account of what one is. In fact this issue has received almost no attention and cognitive scientists still use meaningless phrases like 'C-fiber firing' and 'neuronal activity' when theorizing about the relation of the mind to the brain. To date when theorists do discuss brain states they usually do so in the context of making some other argument with the result being that any discussion of what brain states are has a distinct en passant flavor. In light of this it is a goal of mine to make brain states the center of attention by providing some general discussion of them. I briefly look at the argument of Bechtel and Mundale, as I think that they expose a common misconception philosophers had about brain states early on. I then turn to briefly examining Polger's argument, as I think he offers an intuitive account of what we expect brain states to be as well as a convincing argument against a common candidate for knowledge about brain states that is currently "on the scene." I then introduce a distinction between brain states and states of the brain: Particular brain states occur against background states of the brain. I argue that brain states are patterns of synchronous neural firing, which reflects the electrical face of the brain; states of the brain are the gating and modulating of neural activity and reflect the chemical face of the brain
Coenen, A. M. L. (1998). Neuronal phenomena associated with vigilance and consciousness: From cellular mechanisms to electroencephalographic patterns. Consciousness and Cognition 7 (1):42-53.   (Cited by 29 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The neuroanatomical substrates controlling and regulating sleeping and waking, and thus consciousness, are located in the brain stem. Most crucial for bringing the brain into a state conducive for consciousness and information processing is the mesencephalic part of the brain stem. This part controls the state of waking, which is generally associated with a high degree of consciousness. Wakefulness is accompanied by a low-amplitude, high-frequency electroencephalogram, due to the fact that thalamocortical neurons fire in a state of tonic depolarization. Information can easily pass the low-level threshold of these neurons, leading to a high transfer ratio. The complexity of the electroencephalogram during conscious waking is high, as expressed in a high correlation dimension. Accordingly, the level of information processing is high. Spindles, and alpha waves in humans, mark the transition from wakefulness to sleep. These phenomena are related to drowsiness, associated with a reduction in consciousness. Drowsiness occurs when cells undergo moderate hyperpolarizations. Increased inhibitions result in a reduction of afferent information, with a lowered transfer ratio. Information processing subsides, which is also expressed in a diminished correlation dimension. Consciousness is further decreased at the onset of slow wave sleep. This sleep is controlled by the medullar reticular formation and is characterized by a high-voltage, low-frequency electroencephalogram. Slow wave sleep becomes manifest when neurons undergo a further hyperpolarization. Inhibitory activities are so strong that the transfer ratio further drops, as does the correlation dimension. Thus, sensory information is largely blocked and information processing is on a low level. Finally, rapid eye movement sleep is regulated by the pontine reticular formation and is associated with a ''wake-like'' electroencephalographic pattern. Just as during wakefulness, this is the expression of a depolarization of thalamocortical neurons. The transfer ratio of rapid eye movement sleep has not yet been determined, but seems to vary. Evidence exists that this type of sleep, associated with dreaming, with some kind of perception and consciousness, is involved in processing of ''internal'' information. In line with this, rapid eye movement sleep has higher correlation dimensions than slow-wave sleep and sometimes even higher than wakefulness. It is assumed that the ''near-the-threshold'' depolarized state of neurons in the thalamus and cerebral cortex is a necessary condition for perceptual processes and consciousness, such as occurs during waking and in an altered form during rapid eye movement sleep
Coghill, Robert C.; McHaffie, John G. & Yen, Ye-Fen (2003). Neural correlates of interindividual differences in the subjective experience of pain. Pnas 100 (14):8538-8542.   (Cited by 68 | Google | More links)
Collerton, Daniel & Perry, Elaine (2007). Do multiple cortical-subcortical interactions support different aspects of consciousness? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (1):88-89.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Merker's core idea, that the experience of being conscious reflects the interactions of actions, targets, and motivations in the upper brainstem, with cortex providing the content of the conscious experience, merits serious consideration. However, we have two areas of concern: first, that his definition of consciousness is so broad that it is difficult to find any organisms with a brain that could be non-conscious; second, that the focus on one cortical–subcortical system neglects other systems (e.g., basal forebrain and brainstem cholinergic systems and their cortical and thalamic target areas) which may be of at least equal significance. (Published Online May 1 2007)
Daselaar, Sander M.; Fleck, Mathias S.; Prince, Steven E. & Cabeza, Roberto (2006). The medial temporal lobe distinguishes old from new independently of consciousness. Journal of Neuroscience 26 (21):5835-5839.   (Google | More links)
Del Cul, Antoine; Baillet, Sylvain & Dehaene, Stanislas (2007). Brain dynamics underlying the nonlinear threshold for access to consciousness. Public Library of Science, Biology 5 (10):e260.   (Google)
Dimond, S. J. (1976). Brain circuits for consciousness. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution 13:376-95.   (Cited by 10 | Google)
Duzel, Emrah; Yonelinas, Andrew P.; Mangun, G. R.; Heinze, H. J. & Tulving, Endel (1997). Event-related brain potential correlates of two states of conscious awareness in memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 94:5973-8.   (Cited by 191 | Google | More links)
Fingelkurts, Alexander A. & Fingelkurts, Andrew A. (2009). Is Our Brain Hardwired to Produce God, or is Our Brain Hardwired to Perceive God? A Systematic Review on the Role of the Brain in Mediating Religious Experience. Cognitive Processing 10 (4):293-326.   (Google)
Abstract: To figure out whether the main empirical question “Is our brain hardwired to believe in and produce God, or is our brain hardwired to perceive and experience God?” is answered, this paper presents systematic critical review of the positions, arguments and controversies of each side of the neuroscientific-theological debate and puts forward an integral view where the human is seen as a psycho-somatic entity consisting of the multiple levels and dimensions of human existence (physical, biological, psychological, and spiritual reality), allowing consciousness/mind/spirit and brain/body/matter to be seen as different sides of the same phenomenon, neither reducible to each other. The emergence of a form of causation distinctive from physics where mental/conscious agency (a) is neither identical with nor reducible to brain processes and (b) does exert “downward” causal influence on brain plasticity and the various levels of brain functioning is discussed. This manuscript also discusses the role of cognitive processes in religious experience and outlines what can neuroscience offer for study of religious experience and what is the significance of this study for neuroscience, clinicians, theology and philosophy. A methodological shift from “explanation” to “description” of religious experience is suggested. This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion between theologians, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists.
Fingelkurts, Andrew A. & Fingerlkurts, Alexander A. (2001). Operational architectonics of the human brain biopotential field: Toward solving the mind-brain problem. Brain and Mind 2 (3):261-296.   (Cited by 38 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The understanding of the interrelationship between brain and mind remains far from clear. It is well established that the brain's capacity to integrate information from numerous sources forms the basis for cognitive abilities. However, the core unresolved question is how information about the "objective" physical entities of the external world can be integrated, and how unifiedand coherent mental states (or Gestalts) can be established in the internal entities of distributed neuronal systems. The present paper offers a unified methodological and conceptual basis for a possible mechanism of how the transient synchronization of brain operations may construct the unified and relatively stable neural states, which underlie mental states. It was shown that the sequence of metastable spatial EEG mosaics does exist and probably reflects the rapid stabilization periods of the interrelation of large neuron systems. At the EEG level this is reflected in the stabilization of quasi-stationary segments on corresponding channels. Within the introduced framework, physical brain processes and psychological processes are considered as two basic aspects of a single whole informational brain state. The relations between operational process of the brain, mental states and consciousness are discussed.
Fingelkurts, Andrew A.; Fingelkurts, Alexander A. & Neves, Carlos F. H. (2009). Phenomenological architecture of a mind and Operational Architectonics of the brain: the unified metastable continuum. In Robert Kozma & John Caulfield (eds.), Journal of New Mathematics and Natural Computing. Special Issue on Neurodynamic Correlates of Higher Cognition and Consciousness: Theoretical and Experimental Approaches - in Honor of Walter J Freeman's 80th Birthday. World Scientific.   (Google)
Abstract: In our contribution we will observe phenomenal architecture of a mind and operational architectonics of the brain and will show their intimate connectedness within a single integrated metastable continuum. The notion of operation of different complexity is the fundamental and central one in bridging the gap between brain and mind: it is precisely by means of this notion that it is possible to identify what at the same time belongs to the phenomenal conscious level and to the neurophysiological level of brain activity organization, and what mediates between them. Implications for linguistic semantics, self-organized distributed computing algorithms, artificial machine consciousness, and diagnosis of dynamic brain diseases will be discussed briefly.
Freeman, Walter J. (2007). Roles of allocortex and centrencephalon in intentionality and consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (1):92-93.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: “Decortication” does not distinguish between removing all cerebral cortex, including three-layered allocortex or just six-layered neocortex. Functional decortication, by spreading depression, reversibly suppresses only neocortex, leaving minimal intentionality. Removal of all forebrain structures except a hypothalamic “island” blocks all intentional behaviors, leaving only tropisms. To what extent do Merker's examples retain allocortex, and how might such residues affect his interpretations? (Published Online May 1 2007)
Gallese, Vittorio (2000). The acting subject: Toward the neural basis of social cognition. In Thomas Metzinger (ed.), Neural Correlates of Consciousness. MIT Press.   (Cited by 39 | Google)
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Gazzaniga, Michael S. (1993). Brain mechanisms and conscious experience. In Experimental and Theoretical Studies of Consciousness. (Ciba Foundation Symposium 174).   (Cited by 9 | Google)
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Jasper, H. (1998). Sensory information and conscious experience. In H. Jasper, L. Descarries, V. Castellucci & S. Rossignol (eds.), Consciousness: At the Frontiers of Neuroscience. Lippincott-Raven.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
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Jones, B. E. (1998). The neural basis of consciousness across the sleep-waking cycle. In H. Jasper, L. Descarries, V. Castellucci & S. Rossignol (eds.), Consciousness: At the Frontiers of Neuroscience. Lippincott-Raven.   (Cited by 25 | Google)
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Meiran, N.; Hommel, Bernhard; Bibi, U. & Lev, I. (2002). Consciousness and control in task switching. Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (1):10-33.   (Cited by 12 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Participants were required to switch among randomly ordered tasks, and instructional cues were used to indicate which task to execute. In Experiments 1 and 2, the participants indicated their readiness for the task switch before they received the target stimulus; thus, each trial was associated with two primary dependent measures: (1) readiness time and (2) target reaction time. Slow readiness responses and instructions emphasizing high readiness were paradoxically accompanied by slow target reaction time. Moreover, the effect of task switching on readiness time was an order of magnitude smaller then the (objectively estimated) duration required for task preparation (Experiment 3). The results strongly suggest that participants have little conscious awareness of their preparedness and challenge commonly accepted assumptions concerning the role of consciousness in cognitive control
Merker, Bjorn (2007). Grounding consciousness: The mesodiencephalon as thalamocortical base. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (1):110-134.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: My response addresses general commentary themes such as my neglect of the forebrain contribution to human consciousness, the bearing of blindsight on consciousness theory, the definition of wakefulness, the significance of emotion and pain perception for consciousness theory, and concerns regarding remnant cortex in children with hydranencephaly. Further specific topics, such as phenomenal and phylogenetic aspects of mesodiencephalic-thalamocortical relations, are also discussed. (Published Online May 1 2007)
Metzinger, Thomas (2000). Introduction: Consciousness research at the end of the twentieth century. In T. Metzinger (ed.), Neural Correlates of Consciousness. MIT Press.   (Cited by 4 | Google)
Abstract: conscious content like ``the self in the act of In 1989 the philosopher Colin McGinn asked the knowing'' (see, e.g., chapters 7 and 20 in this following question: ``How can technicolor phe- volume) or high-level phenomenal properties like nomenology arise from soggy gray matter?'' ``coherence'' or ``holism'' (e.g., chapters 8 and 9 (1989: 349). Since then many authors in the ®eld in this volume). But what, precisely, does it mean of consciousness research have quoted this ques- that conscious experience has a ``content''? Is tion over and over, like a slogan that in a nut- this an entity open to empirical research pro- shell conveys a deep and important theoretical grams and interdisciplinary cooperation? And problem. It seems that almost none of them dis- what would it mean to map this content onto covered the subtle trap inherent in this question. physical states ``under a certain description''? In The brain is not gray. The brain is colorless. other words: What kinds of relations a
Metzinger, Thomas (2000). Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Empirical and Conceptual Questions. MIT Press.   (Cited by 80 | Google)
Abstract: This book brings together an international group of neuroscientists and philosophers who are investigating how the content of subjective experience is...
Morsella, Ezequiel & Bargh, John A. (2007). Supracortical consciousness: Insights from temporal dynamics, processing-content, and olfaction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (1):100.   (Google)
Abstract: To further illuminate the nature of conscious states, it may be progressive to integrate Merker's important contribution with what is known regarding (a) the temporal relation between conscious states and activation of the mesodiencephalic system; (b) the nature of the information (e.g., perceptual vs. premotor) involved in conscious integration; and (c) the neural correlates of olfactory consciousness. (Published Online May 1 2007)
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Abstract: Based on theoretical considerations of Aurell (1979) and Block (1995), we argue that object recognition awareness is distinct from purely sensory awareness and that the former is mediated by neuronal activities in areas that are separate and distinct from cortical sensory areas. We propose that two of the principal functions of neuronal activities in sensory cortex, which are to provide sensory awareness and to effect the computations that are necessary for object recognition, are dissociated. We provide examples of how this dissociation might be achieved and argue that the components of the neuronal activities which carry the computations do not directly enter the awareness of the subject. The results of these computations are sparse representations (i.e., vector or distributed codes) which are activated by the presentation of particular sensory objects and are essentially engrams for the recognition of objects. These final representations occur in the highest order areas of sensory cortex; in the visual analyzer, the areas include the anterior part of the inferior temporal cortex and the perirhinal cortex. We propose, based on lesion and connectional data, that the two areas in which activities provide recognition awareness are the temporopolar cortex and the medial orbitofrontal cortex. Activities in the temporopolar cortex provide the recognition awareness of objects learned in the remote past (consolidated object recognition), and those in the medial orbitofrontal cortex provide the recognition awareness of objects learned in the recent past. The activation of the sparse representation for a particular sensory object in turn activates neurons in one or both of these regions of cortex, and it is the activities of these neurons that provide the awareness of recognition of the object in question. The neural circuitry involved in the activation of these representations is discussed
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Abstract: The neural and endocrine bases of the generation of thirst are reviewed. Based on this review, a hierarchical system of neural structures that regulate water conservation and acquisition is proposed. The system includes primary sensory-receptive areas; secondary sensory structures (circumventricular organs), which detect levels of hormones, including angiotensin II and vasopressin, which are involved in generating thirst; preoptic and hypothalamic structures; and an area within the ventrolateral quadrant of the periaqueductal gray matter. Hodological and other data are used to determine the hierarchical organization of the system. Based on studies of the effects of lesions to various structures within the hierarchy of the system, it is proposed that the awareness of thirst in rodents is either entirely or predominantly due to neuronal activities in a subsection of the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray matter. It is also hypothesized that the awareness of thirst in primates is due to neuronal activities in both the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray and in a region within the medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex
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Abstract: A lesion of striate cortex, area V1, produces blindness in the retinotopically corresponding part of the visual field, although in some cases visual abilities in the blind field remain that are paradoxically devoid of conscious visual percepts ("blindsight"). Here we demonstrate that the blindsight subject GY can experience visual sensations of phosphenes in his blind field induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Such blind field percepts could only be induced when stimulation was applied bilaterally, i.e. over GY's area V5/MT in both hemispheres. Consistent with an earlier report [Cowey, A., & Walsh, V. (2000). Magnetically induced phosphenes in sighted, blind and blindsighted observers. Neuroreport, 11, 3269-3273], GY never experienced phosphenes when stimulation was restricted to his ipsilesional V5/MT. To the best of our knowledge this is the first time GY has experienced visual qualia in his blind hemifield. The present report characterizes the necessary conditions for such conscious experience in his hemianopic visual field and interprets them as demonstrating that only via a contribution from GY's intact hemisphere can activation in the damaged hemisphere reach visual awareness.
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Abstract: Recent scientific work aiming to give a neurobiological explanation of phenomenal consciousness has largely focused on finding neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). The hope is that by locating neural correlates of phenomenally conscious mental states, some light will be cast on how the brain is able to give rise to such states. In this paper I argue that NCC research is unable to produce evidence of such neural correlates. I do this by considering two alternative interpretations of NCC research—an eliminativist and a disjunctivist interpretation. I show that each of these interpretations is compatible with the scientific data and yet is more parsimonious than accounts involving the supposed phenomenon of phenomenal consciousness
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