Not a HOT Dream

In Consciousness Inside and Out: Phenomenology, Neuroscience, and the Nature of Experience. Springer Studies in Brain and Mind. (2013)
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Higher-Order Thought (HOT) theories of consciousness maintain that the kind of awareness necessary for phenomenal consciousness depends on the cognitive accessibility that underlies reporting. There is empirical evidence strongly suggesting that the cognitive accessibility that underlies the ability to report visual experiences depends on the activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). This area, however, is highly deactivated during the conscious experiences we have during sleep: dreams. HOT theories are jeopardized, as I will argue. I will briefly present HOT theories in the first section. Section 2 offers empirical evidence to the effect that the cognitive accessibility that underlies the ability to report depends on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: dlPFC is the neural correlate of HOTs. Section 3 shows the evidence we have of the deactivation of this brain area during dreams and, in section 4, I present my argument. Finally, I consider and rejoin two possible replies that my opponent can offer: the possibility of an alternative neural correlate of HOTs during dreams and the denial that we have phenomenally conscious experiences during sleep.

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Miguel Angel Sebastian
National Autonomous University of Mexico


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