Search methods

The Dana site has a good little article by Jim Schnabel on the search for neural correlates of consciousness – why it is difficult? Some of those trying and how? (here). I recommend reading the article for a simple explanation of how the experiments are done.

But there are other interesting bits. Below is a very clear description of nonconscious and conscious activity. This is the process that the researchers are trying to explore in more detail.

Essentially, they found that during nonconscious perception, activity occurred in multiple areas of the cortex, yet never became coherent—firing in sync—over large distances; this nonconscious activity also dissipated relatively quickly.

By contrast, during conscious perception the activity was able to “ignite” into much longer-term, self-reinforcing, interconnected activity across widely separated cortical areas. This coherent activity included areas of the prefrontal cortex and appeared to be concentrated in the “gamma wave” range of frequencies, which previous research has linked to attention and consciousness.

Another interesting part of the article is reference to Koch’s take on Tononi’s theory:

Among possible explanations, Koch tentatively favors the “Information Integration” theory of consciousness put forward by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin. Tononi proposes that consciousness is a fundamental property arising from any system that uses interdependent, information-exchanging parts. By this logic, the most powerful consciousness-generating networks of the brain would be those that integrate the largest amount of neural activity—as the results from Naccache and colleagues also suggest.

The theory implies, however, that consciousness is not limited to highly evolved animals or even to biological brains. As Koch puts it, “Whether it’s my iPhone or the flatworm C. elegans or the human brain, it would differ only in the amount of consciousness. But all would be conscious.”

3 thoughts on “Search methods

  1. Very interesting article, thought provoking reading. Regarding the information integration theory I think that :
    The same thing happens with people teams, the more people you can integrate that can cooperate with each other, the better team it will result it.
    But I think there is one exception to this, if you join several resources that have the same skill, you can keep adding more but in most cases the system will not improve a bit, because with only one of that type, that kind of need will be covered. And also having more than one can be detrimental because the equivalent resources might compete with each other and cause failures or delays.

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