Consciousness Overview

Consciousness is the quality or state of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.

At one time consciousness was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, but in recent years it has become a significant topic of research in psychology, neuropsychology and neuroscience. The primary focus is on understanding what it means biologically and psychologically for information to be present in consciousness—that is, on determining the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness.

Network Theory and Consciousness


Vanderbilt University researchers with a recent brain imaging study discovered global changes in how brain areas communicate with one another during awareness.

Using graph theory, a branch of mathematics concerned with explaining the interactive links between members of a complex network, such as social networks or flight routes, the researchers aimed to characterize how connections between the various parts of the brain were related to awareness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 3/9/15

Press Release

Vanderbilt University 3/9/15 by Melanie Moran

Where in your brain do you exist? Is your awareness of the world around you and of yourself as an individual the result of specific, focused changes in your brain, or does that awareness come from a broad network of neural activity? How does your brain produce awareness?

Vanderbilt University researchers took a significant step toward answering these longstanding questions with a recent brain imaging study, in which they discovered global changes in how brain areas communicate with one another during awareness. Their findings, which were published March 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenge previous theories that hypothesized much more restricted changes were responsible for producing awareness.

“Identifying the ...

Basal neurons & consciousness

Different states of mind are defined by distinct, characteristic waveforms. In some neurological disorders these waves are out of tune.

New research led by Harvard Medical School researchers has identified a specific class of neurons—basal forebrain GABA parvalbumin neurons, or PV neurons—that trigger these waves, acting as neurological conductors that trigger the cortex to “hum” rhythmically and in tune. PNAS 3/2/15

The Global Brainweb

The idea that consciousness has an integrative function has along history. The late Francisco Varela and colleagues called it the “brainweb” (2002).

Global Workspace theory suggests a fleeting memory capacity that enables access between brain functions that are otherwise separate.This makes sense in a brain that is a brainweb, viewed as amassive parallel distributed system of highly specialized processors.

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