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

Shedding Light on Biology of Human Consciousness

Study in human participants lends insight into one of neuroscience’s greatest puzzles: how the brain transforms unconscious information into conscious thought - The Brain’s ‘Aha!’ Moment

Columbia scientists have identified the brain’s ‘aha!’ moment, that flash in time when you suddenly become aware of information, such as knowing the answer to a difficult question. Today’s findings in humans, combined with previous research, provide compelling evidence that this moment, this feeling of having decided pierces consciousness when information being collected by the brain reaches a critical level.

The results of this study further suggest that this piercing of consciousness shares the same underlying brain mechanisms known to be involved in making far simpler decisions. Importantly, this study offers hope that the biological foundations of consciousness may well be within our grasp.

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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