Organoids and specifically human cerebral organoids (HCOs) are one of the most relevant novelties in the field of biomedical research. Grown either from embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells, HCOs can be used as in vitro three-dimensional models, mimicking the developmental process and organization of the developing human brain. Based on that, and despite their current limitations, it cannot be assumed that they will never at any stage of development manifest some rudimentary form of consciousness. In the absence of behavioral (...) indicators of consciousness, the theoretical neurobiology of consciousness being applied to unresponsive brain-injured patients can be considered with respect to HCOs. In clinical neurology, it is difficult to discern a capacity for consciousness in unresponsive brain-injured patients who provide no behavioral indicators of consciousness. In such scenarios, a validated neurobiological theory of consciousness, which tells us what the neural mechanisms of consciousness are, could be used to identify a capacity for consciousness. Like the unresponsive patients that provide a diagnostic difficulty for neurologists, HCOs provide no behavioral indicators of consciousness. Therefore, this article discusses how three prominent neurobiological theories of consciousness apply to human cerebral organoids. From the perspective of the Temporal Circuit Hypothesis, the Global Neuronal Workspace Theory, and the Integrated Information Theory, we discuss what neuronal structures and functions might indicate that cerebral organoids have a neurobiological capacity to be conscious. (shrink)
Information processing that subserves conscious cognitive functions is thought to involve recurrent signaling through feedforward and feedback loops among hierarchically arranged functional regions of the cerebral cortex. In the current issue of Consciousness and Cognition, Lee et al. report that loss of consciousness, as produced by a bolus injection of the general anesthetic propofol to human volunteers, was accompanied by a decrease in wide-band EEG feedback connectivity from frontal cortex to parietal cortex, confirming a prediction from previous experimental studies. Interestingly, (...) frontoparietal feedback connectivity did not fully recover after the anesthetic effect wore off and the subjects first opened their eyes in response to a verbal command. Possible interpretations of the results and their implications with respect to the neural correlates of consciousness and unconsciousness are discussed. (shrink)
In this chapter, it is argued that the Mind-Body Powers model of neural correlates of consciousness provides a metaphysical framework that yields the theoretical possibility of empirically detecting consciousness. Since the model is informed by an Aristotelian-Thomistic hylomorphic ontology rather than a physicalist ontology, it provides a philosophical foundation for the science of consciousness that is an alternative to physicalism. Our claim is not that the Mind-Body Powers model provides the only alternative, but rather that it provides a sufficient framework (...) for empirically detecting and scientifically studying consciousness. Elsewhere, the integrated information theory’s prediction about the neural correlate of being conscious has been used to illustrate how the Mind-Body Powers model grounds the possibility of empirically detecting consciousness (see M. Owen, 2021, ch. 8). The theory’s prediction was used as one plausible example of a hypothesis about the nature and location of the neural correlate that can be combined with the model. However, there is no settled conclusion about which neurobiological theory of consciousness accurately identifies the neural mechanisms corresponding to being conscious (NAS, 2021, p. 39; Sattin et al., 2021; Seth, 2017; Seth & Bayne, 2022). Therefore, this work will employ another plausible neurobiological prediction provided by the Temporal Circuit Hypothesis. The hypothesis is combined with the Mind-Body Powers model to demonstrate that empirically detecting consciousness is metaphysically plausible wholly apart from a physicalist framework. (shrink)
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