A new low: Reassessing (and revising) the local recurrency theory of consciousness

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)
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Local Recurrency Theory (LR) holds that recurrent loops of neural activity localized to the visual cortex are necessary and sufficient for visual consciousness (if certain background conditions obtain). LR’s popularity has recently waned in favor of theories holding that higher-level types of processing are necessary for consciousness (for example, the Global Neuronal Workspace Theory and Higher-order Theory). This has been in part because of empirical evidence thought to disconfirm LR. However, these competing theories now face challenges of their own, often coming in the form of evidence showing that higher-level brain areas (that is, in the prefrontal cortex) are probably not essential for consciousness. Given growing challenges to LR's competitors, it would be timely to re-assess the prospects for LR. This article carries out such an investigation, first laying out the theory precisely, then going on to survey the evidence presented against it. What will be found is that none of the evidence necessarily undermines LR, but instead just fosters its theoretical enrichment. The overall conclusion: LR remains among our most promising neuroscientific theories of visual consciousness.

Author's Profile

Benjamin Kozuch
University of Alabama


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