Necessary Ingredients of Consciousness: Integration of Psychophysical, Neurophysiological, and Consciousness Research for the Red-Green Channel

Vision Research Institute: Living Vision and Consciousness Research 1 (1) (2009)
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A general definition of consciousness is: ‘consciousness is a mental aspect of a system or a process, which is a conscious experience, a conscious function, or both depending on the context’, where the term context refers to metaphysical views, constraints, specific aims, and so on. One of the aspects of visual consciousness is the visual subjective experience (SE) or the first person experience that occurs/emerges in the visual neural-network of thalamocortical system (which includes dorsal and ventral visual pathways and frontal cortex) during dynamic interactions among widely distributed neuronal groups. In this article, however, consciousness and SE are interchangeably used unless noted. Consciousness can be either access (reportable) or phenomenal consciousness. For access consciousness, the interactions are between feed forward stimulus dependent signals and fronto-parietal feedback attentional signals. The necessary ingredients for access (reportable) consciousness are (i) wakefulness, (ii) reentrant interactions among neural populations, (iii) fronto-parietal and thalamic-reticular-nucleus attentional signals that modulate consciousness, (iv) working memory that retains information for consciousness, (v) stimulus at or above threshold level, and (vi) neural-network proto-experiences (PEs) that are superposed SEs embedded in a neural-network. Attention and the ability to report are not necessary for phenomenal consciousness. The neural source for the arousal system is the ascending reticular activating system in the brain stem, which brings the thalamocortical neural networks to wakeful state as a baseline for consciousness to occur. Reentrant interactions among neural populations bind stimulus attributes (such as location and features) and entail consciousness. Attention could be the results of reentry and competitive interactions, and modulates the stimulus related feed forward signal and consciousness. The ‘sources’ of attention may be thalamic reticular nucleus for bottom-up or frontal cortex for top-down direction. The ‘target’ of visual attention is ‘V4/V8/VO’ for Red-Green (R-G) channel. The neural correlates of the psychophysical entity R-G channel appear to be ‘V4/V8/VO’-neural-network (retina → LGN ↔ V1 ↔ V2 ↔ ‘V4/V8/VO’, and areas for attention, memory, and wakefulness). The psychophysical Red-Green Channel, its neurophysiological correlates V4/V8/VO-neural-network, and related experience (such as redness) are integrated. The dual-aspect-dual-mode PE-SE framework (Vimal, J Integr Neurosci 7:49–73, 2008) was used to address the explanatory gap problem of materialism. Neural-network and related SEs are the results of the co-evolution and co-development of the material aspect (mass, charge, spin, force, quanta, and space-time) and the mental aspect of fundamental particles (strings or elementary particles (fermions and bosons)). Their mental aspects are considered as the carriers of superposed multiple possible experiences (SEs/PEs) in unexpressed form. These possibilities are actualized when neural-networks are formed via neural Darwinism, and a specific SE is selected by a matching process when the necessary ingredients of consciousness/SE are satisfied. A simple experimental design is suggested to address the necessary and sufficient attributes of consciousness.

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Ram Vimal
Vision Research Institute


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