Tuesday, April 25, 2006

1.4 The neuronal correlates of consciousness (2)

In page 18 paragraph 2 Koch says:

"... the NCC activity must affect other neurons in some manner. This post-NCC activity influences other neurons that ultimately cause some behavior. This activity can also feed back to the NCC neurons and to previous stages in the hierarchy, significantly complicating matters"

Something bothers me about this way of thinking. It is too static. There is an NCC, and the NCC does something (generates consciousness and affects other non-NCC cells). Reaching the NCC is an unambiguous state. You either are there or not. No questions asked. When we know from many lines of research that this is not so true (unconscious perception, near-threshold perception, attention research, etc).

On the side, the issue of feed-back is a fascinating one. We have very little knowledge regarding the role of these massive projections.
As an example, let's say I am looking at an apple on a black room. Let's say that the NCC for the apple lights up. So now I am conscious of the apple. Then this NCC projects all over the place (to frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobe structures) including the cells in lower visual cortical areas that generated in the first place this NCC activity. This means that the actual NCC of the apple is going to change slightly on the next 'consciousness wave' (post-feed-back). This change might have an effect on how we perceive the apple or no effect at all possibly. If it does have an effect, what would be the mental effect? Maybe getting distracted and thinking about the movie you're watching tonight? Maybe seeing slight changes in the image? Maybe paying more attention to some aspect of the apple? Can you ever have one phenomenal state for more than a few milliseconds?


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