Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Consciousness as an Emergent Property of Thalamocortical Activity

Perception-Action Cycle

The back lobes of the brain are generally involved with sensory functions and details of perception.  The front lobes are generally involved with functions of action.  Wake-time neural activity has intense "ping-pong" signaling between the sensory areas and the action planning and execution areas. Action plans are continually generated recursively as movement control of the body produces actions, which are detected by the senses and then evaluated and revised by the brain's cognitive, emotional, and motivational networks.


Link to — Perception-Action Cycle Diagram

Research study —  Parietal Cortex Decision-Making


Movement control includes the premotor and motor areas of the frontal lobes together with subcortical structures of the basal ganglia, cerebellum, brainstem and spinal cord.  Movement control generally involves a descending hierarchy of neural action patterns of stereotyped movements.  This Fixed Action Pattern (FAP) hierarchy is the result of a combination of genetic endowment together with a lifetime of learning stored synaptically in procedural memory.  This hierarchy of synaptic memory allows a concert violinist or pianist to perform a well-rehearsed concerto, concentrating on the emotional aspects of the performance, without the slightest thought about individual finger movements — thoughts of which finger to place where or which individual piano keys to strike.  All the mechanical details of the pianist or violinist performance are stored in synapses, a procedural memory ingrained and trained by countless hours of practice, practice, practice . . .


Prefrontal regions are reciprocally connected with temporal, parietal, and occipital cortices, where they receive higher-level visual, auditory, and somatosensory information. (Miller; Human Frontal Lobes, 49)


Fuster’s Perception-Action Cycle

Perception-action cycle is a circular cybernetic flow of information processing between the organism and its environment in a sequence of goal-directed actions. An action of the organism causes an environmental change that will be processed by sensory systems, which will produce signals to inform the next action, and so on. Perception-action cycle is of prime importance for the adaptive success of a temporally extended gestalt of behavior, where each action is contingent on the effects of the previous one. Perception-action cycle operates at all levels of the central nervous system. Simple, automatic, and well rehearsed behaviors engage only the lower levels of the perception-action cycle, where, for sensorimotor integration, the cycle runs through the spinal cord and subcortical structures. (Fuster; Prefrontal Cortex, 382)



Return to — Cognition, Emotion, Motivation