On the correlation between synchronized oscillatory activities and consciousness

Consciousness and Cognition 10 (4):485-495 (2001)
Abstract
Recent experiments have shown that the amplitudes of cortical gamma band oscillatory activities that occur during anesthesia are often greater than amplitudes of similar activities that occur without anesthesia. This result is apparently at odds with the hypothesis that synchronized oscillatory activities constitute the neural correlate of consciousness. We argue that while synchronization and oscillatory patterning are necessary conditions for consciousness, they are not sufficient. Based on the results of a binocular rivalry study of Fries et al. (1997), we propose that the degrees of oscillatory strength and synchronization of neuronal activities determine the degree of awareness those activities produce. On the other hand, the overal firing rates of neurons in cortical sensory areas are not correlated with the degree of awareness the activities of those neurons produce. The results of the experiment of Fries et al. (1997) appear to conflict with the results of another binocular rivalry experiment, in which monkeys were trained to pull a lever in order to report which stimulus object was being perceived (Leopold & Logothetis, 1996). In the latter experiment, it was demonstrated that the firing rates of neurons in striate cortex did not change during perceptual alterations, while 90% of neurons in inferior and superior temporal cortices changed their firing rate when the perceived image changed. This result led to the conclusion that activities in temporal cortex are correlated with visual awareness, but those in striate cortex are not. We argue that activities in temporal cortex contribute little, if anything, to perceptual awareness, and that their primary function is computational. Thus the correlation between the firing rates of neurons in these areas and the responses of the monkeys is due to the recognition of a particular stimulus object, which in turn is due to the computations made there
Keywords *Consciousness States  *Neurons  *Temporal Lobe  *Visual Perception  Anesthetic Drugs
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