Authors
Ram Vimal
Vision Research Institute
Abstract
A general definition of consciousness is: ‘consciousness is a mental aspect of a system or a process, which is a conscious experience, a conscious function, or both depending on the context’, where the term context refers to metaphysical views, constraints, specific aims, and so on. One of the aspects of visual consciousness is the visual subjective experience (SE) or the first person experience that occurs/emerges in the visual neural-network of thalamocortical system (which includes dorsal and ventral visual pathways and frontal cortex) during dynamic interactions among widely distributed neuronal groups. In this article, however, consciousness and SE are interchangeably used unless noted. Consciousness can be either access (reportable) or phenomenal consciousness. For access consciousness, the interactions are between feed forward stimulus dependent signals and fronto-parietal feedback attentional signals. The necessary ingredients for access (reportable) consciousness are (i) wakefulness, (ii) reentrant interactions among neural populations, (iii) fronto-parietal and thalamic-reticular-nucleus attentional signals that modulate consciousness, (iv) working memory that retains information for consciousness, (v) stimulus at or above threshold level, and (vi) neural-network proto-experiences (PEs) that are superposed SEs embedded in a neural-network. Attention and the ability to report are not necessary for phenomenal consciousness. The neural source for the arousal system is the ascending reticular activating system in the brain stem, which brings the thalamocortical neural networks to wakeful state as a baseline for consciousness to occur. Reentrant interactions among neural populations bind stimulus attributes (such as location and features) and entail consciousness. Attention could be the results of reentry and competitive interactions, and modulates the stimulus related feed forward signal and consciousness. The ‘sources’ of attention may be thalamic reticular nucleus for bottom-up or frontal cortex for top-down direction. The ‘target’ of visual attention is ‘V4/V8/VO’ for Red-Green (R-G) channel. The neural correlates of the psychophysical entity R-G channel appear to be ‘V4/V8/VO’-neural-network (retina → LGN ↔ V1 ↔ V2 ↔ ‘V4/V8/VO’, and areas for attention, memory, and wakefulness). The psychophysical Red-Green Channel, its neurophysiological correlates V4/V8/VO-neural-network, and related experience (such as redness) are integrated. The dual-aspect-dual-mode PE-SE framework (Vimal, J Integr Neurosci 7:49–73, 2008) was used to address the explanatory gap problem of materialism. Neural-network and related SEs are the results of the co-evolution and co-development of the material aspect (mass, charge, spin, force, quanta, and space-time) and the mental aspect of fundamental particles (strings or elementary particles (fermions and bosons)). Their mental aspects are considered as the carriers of superposed multiple possible experiences (SEs/PEs) in unexpressed form. These possibilities are actualized when neural-networks are formed via neural Darwinism, and a specific SE is selected by a matching process when the necessary ingredients of consciousness/SE are satisfied. A simple experimental design is suggested to address the necessary and sufficient attributes of consciousness.
Keywords Access and phenomenal consciousness  arousal system   reentry   attention   memory   executive functions  proto-experiences   subjective experiences  string   elementary particle   fermion
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References found in this work BETA

On a Confusion About a Function of Consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness.Bernard J. Baars - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness.David Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.
Consciousness and Mind.David M. Rosenthal - 2005 - Oxford University Press UK.

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Citations of this work BETA

Meanings Attributed to the Term Consciousness: An Overview.Ram Vimal - 2009 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 16 (5):9-27.
Phenomenal Time and its Biological Correlates.Ram L. P. Vimal & Christopher J. Davia - 2010 - Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 1 (5):560-572.

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