Dreams are a remarkable experiment in psychology and neuroscience, conducted every night in every sleeping person. They show that the human brain, disconnected from the environment, can generate an entire world of conscious experiences by itself. Content analysis and developmental studies have promoted understanding of dream phenomenology. In parallel, brain lesion studies, functional imaging and neurophysiology have advanced current knowledge of the neural basis of dreaming. It is now possible to start integrating these two strands of research to address fundamental (...) questions that dreams pose for cognitive neuroscience: how conscious experiences in sleep relate to underlying brain activity; why the dreamer is largely disconnected from the environment; and whether dreaming is more closely related to mental imagery or to perception. (shrink)
The brains of higher mammals are extraordinary integrative devices. Signals from large numbers of functionally specialized groups of neurons distributed over many brain regions are integrated to generate a coherent, multimodal scene. Signals from the environment are integrated with ongoing, patterned neural activity that provides them with a meaningful context. We review recent advances in neurophysiology and neuroimaging that are beginning to reveal the neural mechanisms of integration. In addition, we discuss concepts and measures derived from information theory that lend (...) a theoretical basis to the notion of complexity as integration of information and suggest new experimental tests of these concepts. (shrink)
Objective correlates—behavioral, functional, and neural—provide essential tools for the scientific study of consciousness. But reliance on these correlates should not lead to the ‘fallacy of misplaced objectivity’: the assumption that only objective properties should and can be accounted for objectively through science. Instead, what needs to be explained scientifically is what experience is intrinsically— its subjective properties—not just what we can do with it extrinsically. And it must be explained; otherwise the way experience feels would turn out to be magical (...) rather than physical. We argue that it is possible to account for subjective properties objectively once we move beyond cognitive functions and realize what experience is and how it is structured. Drawing on integrated information theory, we show how an objective science of the subjective can account, in strictly physical terms, for both the essential properties of every experience and the specific properties that make particular experiences feel the way they do. (shrink)
Causal reductionism is the widespread assumption that there is no room for additional causes once we have accounted for all elementary mechanisms within a system. Due to its intuitive appeal, causal reductionism is prevalent in neuroscience: once all neurons have been caused to fire or not to fire, it seems that causally there is nothing left to be accounted for. Here, we argue that these reductionist intuitions are based on an implicit, unexamined notion of causation that conflates causation with prediction. (...) By means of a simple model organism, we demonstrate that causal reductionism cannot provide a complete and coherent account of ‘what caused what’. To that end, we outline an explicit, operational approach to analyzing causal structures. (shrink)
This book explores how we can measure consciousness. It clarifies what consciousness is, how it can be generated from a physical system, and how it can be measured. It also shows how conscious states can be expressed mathematically and how precise predictions can be made using data from neurophysiological studies.
The target article misrepresents the foundations of integrated information theory and ignores many essential publications. It, thus, falls to this lead commentary to outline the axioms and postulates of IIT and correct major misconceptions. The commentary also explains why IIT starts from phenomenology and why it predicts that only select physical substrates can support consciousness. Finally, it highlights that IIT's account of experience – a cause–effect structure quantified by integrated information – has nothing to do with “information transfer.”.
Integrated information theory (IIT) starts from the essential properties of experience and translates them into requirements that any physical system must satisfy to be conscious. It argues that the physical substrate of consciousness (PSC) must constitute a maximum of irreducible, internal cause‐effect power of a specific form, and provides a calculus to determine, in principle, both the quality and the quantity of an experience. Applied to the brain, IIT predicts that the spatio‐temporal grain of the neural units constituting the PSC, (...) and the relevant neural states, are those that maximize cause‐effect power. Moreover, the PSC can shrink, move, split and disintegrate depending on various anatomical and physiological parameters. These predictions are testable with brain stimulation and recording experiments. The theory can explain parsimoniously many known facts about the relationship between consciousness and the brain, including its association with certain cortical structures, its breakdown in deep sleep, anesthesia and seizures, and its return in dreams. (shrink)
Integrated information theory (IIT) starts from the essential properties of experience (axioms) and translates them into requirements that any physical system must satisfy to be conscious (postulates; see Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness: An Outline, this volume). The postulates of IIT can be seen as a list of requirements for something to exist ‘for itself’, as an intrinsic entity, and thus have relevance for ontology and metaphysics. Some implications of the theory include the divide between intrinsic and extrinsic entities, the (...) incoherence of ontological reductionism, and the intrinsic nature of meaning. (shrink)
We propose that sleep is linked to synaptic homeostasis. Specifically, we propose that: (1) Wakefulness is associated with synaptic potentiation in cortical circuits; (2) synaptic potentiation is tied to the homeostatic regulation of slow wave activity; (3) slow wave activity is associated with synaptic downscaling; and (4) synaptic downscaling is tied to several beneficial effects of sleep, including performance enhancement.
Many kinds of complex systems exhibit characteristic patterns of temporal correlations that emerge as the result of functional interactions within a structured network. One such complex system is the brain, composed of numerous neuronal units linked by synaptic connections. The activity of these neuronal units gives rise to dynamic states that are characterized by specific patterns of neuronal activation and co-activation. These patterns, called functional connectivity, are possible neural correlates of perceptual and cognitive processes. Which functional connectivity patterns arise depends (...) on the anatomical structure of the underlying network, which in turn is modified by a broad range of activity-dependent processes. Given this intricate relationship between structure and function, the question of how patterns of anatomical connectivity constrain or determine dynamical patterns is of considerable theoretical importance. The present study develops computational tools to analyze networks in terms of their structure and dynamics. We identify different classes of network, including networks that are characterized by high complexity. These highly complex networks have distinct structural characteristics such as clustered connectivity and short wiring length similar to those of large-scale networks of the cerebral cortex. (shrink)
A set of images can be considered as meaningfully different for an observer if they can be distinguished phenomenally from one another. Each phenomenal difference must be supported by some neurophysiological differences. Differentiation analysis aims to quantify neurophysiological differentiation evoked by a given set of stimuli to assess its meaningfulness to the individual observer. As a proof of concept using high-density EEG, we show increased neurophysiological differentiation for a set of natural, meaningfully different images in contrast to another set of (...) artificially generated, meaninglessly different images in nine participants. Stimulus-evoked neurophysiological differentiation (over 257 channels, 800 ms) was systematically greater for meaningful vs. meaningless stimulus categories both at the group level and for individual subjects. Spatial breakdown showed a central-posterior peak of differentiation, consistent with the visual nature of the stimulus sets. Temporal breakdown revealed an early peak of differentiation around 110 ms, prominent in the central-posterior region; and a later, longer-lasting peak at 300–500 ms that was spatially more distributed. The early peak of differentiation was not accompanied by changes in mean ERP amplitude, whereas the later peak was associated with a higher amplitude ERP for meaningful images. An ERP component similar to visual-awareness-negativity occurred during the nadir of differentiation across all image types. Control stimulus sets and further analysis indicate that changes in neurophysiological differentiation between meaningful and meaningless stimulus sets could not be accounted for by spatial properties of the stimuli or by stimulus novelty and predictability. (shrink)
This paper presents Integrated Information Theory (IIT) 4.0. IIT aims to account for the properties of experience in physical (operational) terms. It identifies the essential properties of experience (axioms), infers the necessary and sufficient properties that its substrate must satisfy (postulates), and expresses them in mathematical terms. In principle, the postulates can be applied to any system of units in a state to determine whether it is conscious, to what degree, and in what way. IIT offers a parsimonious explanation of (...) empirical evidence, makes testable predictions, and permits inferences and extrapolations. IIT 4.0 incorporates several developments of the past ten years, including a more accurate translation of axioms into postulates and mathematical expressions, the introduction of a unique measure of intrinsic information that is consistent with the postulates, and an explicit assessment of causal relations. By fully unfolding a system's irreducible cause-effect power, the distinctions and relations specified by a substrate can account for the quality of experience. (shrink)
The distinction between receptive field and conceptual field is appealing and heuristically useful. Conceptually, it is more satisfactory to distinguish between information from the environment and from the brain. We emphasize here a selectionist view that considers information transmission within the brain as modulated by a stimulus, rather than information transmission from a stimulus as modulated by the context.