The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Uncentered Consciousness

Based on the fact that brain lesions remove consciousness only when they remove performance, the Austrian psychologist Marcel Kinsbourne (“Integrated Field Theory of Consciousness”, 1988) reached the conclusion that consciousness "is" performance, and developed an "integrated cortical field theory" of consciousness.

Kinsbourne criticizes the idea that consciousness sits at the top of a pyramid of cognitive faculties and that it is produced by the neural activity of a specialized region of the brain.

Kinsbourne believes that consciousness is not a product of neural activity: it is the neural activity itself. The brain does not generate consciousness: it is conscious. There is no need for a special region to manufacture consciousness.  Kinsbourne criticizes the idea that for some information to become conscious it has to be input to a special region of the brain, which is in charge of "transducing" neural activity into a conscious feeling.  Kinsbourne believes that it is not the region that matters but the state of the circuit. Any region of the brain can be conscious when its circuits are in the appropriate state.

There is no central site for consciousness: any site can host consciousness.  In this model there is no need for binding.  And the model admits the possibility of more than one consciousness.  Kinsbourne's model is "heterarchical", i.e. highly distributed.

The US neuroscientist Denise Ingebo-Barth believes that consciousness is a stream of discrete conscious events, just like a film is made by a stream of frames. The nervous system operates based on its own programming and its input.  An operation of the nervous system results in a "trajectory" of neural events in the brain. Whenever that trajectory crosses the thalamus, a conscious event is generated. That trajectory could be coming from the senses (and result in a sensation) or the cortex (and result in a thought) and could be going to the cortex (and result in a memory).  Trajectories evolve through a series of possible "fluctuations" and superimpositions, and, when they cross the thalamus, result in feelings.


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