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

Topics List


Abnormal Function of Brainstudies of the abnormal functioning of the brain can provide insight for the functioning of consciousness

Amygdalathe part of the limbic system most specifically involved with emotional experience

Attention – Visual attention, feedback and synchronization from parietal cortex to sensory areas

Auditory Perception and Music

Auditory System

Basal Ganglia – the basal ganglia have traditionally been regarded as motor structures that regulate the initiation of movements.  Basal ganglia may also be involved in non-motor aspects of behavior such as regulating the initiation and termination of cognitive processes such as planning, working memory, and attention.

Brain Anatomy

Brain Anatomy List --

Brain Imaging

Brain Stem

Cerebellum --


Cognition, Emotion, Motivation

Complexity, Self-Organization, Emergence -

Consciousness as ‘Remembered Present’ – Mental object convolved with Sense-of-Self

Consciousness Theories

Core Consciousness – Edelman’s term Primary Consciousness refers essentially the same concept as Damasio’s term Core Consciousness. Core consciousness refers to the consciousness non-human animals have, typically mammals and perhaps some rudimentary aspects in reptiles. Insects, for example, probably don’t have consciousness.

Dynamic Core of Consciousness – The Dynamic Core hypothesis formulated by Gerald Edelman is the fundamental neurobiological foundation of my concept of consciousness. The dynamic core is a constantly changing hierarchical web of reentrant neural activity (perhaps 10-20% of total neural activity) that mediates a mental pattern of thought at any one instant.

Embryonic and Early-Childhood Development – Nature and Nurture, both contribute to synaptic connections of neural circuits.

Emotion -

Evolution of the Brain

Fear ---- Pleasure --

FAPs - Fixed Action PatternsMovement is facilitated by hierarchies of Central Pattern Generators (CPGs) or fixed action patterns (FAPs), neural synaptic patterns that respond unconsciously to motivation signals. FAPs can be learned, such as the finger movements of a concert violinist.  Innate FAPs include an infant’s sucking, crying and yawning.


Frontal Lobes

Hearing and Music

Hearing and Speech

Hippocampus --

Human-type Consciousness - Edelman’s term Higher-order Consciousness and Damasio’s term Extended Consciousness refer to essentially the same concepts. I have coined the term Human-type Consciousness to refer to both researcher’s concepts. Human-type consciousness, as the name implies, refers to the consciousness we all experience in all its aspects. Human-type consciousness subsumes Core Consciousness.

Intelligence – Multiple kinds of intelligence

Language — Language is a system of abstract symbols and grammar (rules) that facilitates the perceptual categorization of detailed thoughts and the communication of perceptions and memories. Language is probably not required for consciousness.

Learning Learning permits an organism to adapt to rapidly changing aspects of the environment that cannot be achieved by natural selection alone. Each new learning experience modifies the pattern of synaptic efficacies.

Limbic SystemThe limbic system comprises a group of structures surrounding the top of the brain stem, which serve to quickly evaluate sensory data and trigger an animal’s motor responses. The emotional brain is centered in the limbic system.

Memory – Declarative memory, Procedural memory, Working memory; Short-term, Long-term memory; Hippocampus; Consolidation of memory

Mental Image, Map, Neural Pattern, Image, Object, etc. – multiple terms for similar concepts

Modeling Brain Functionality of Consciousness -

Modularity of Brain -

Motivation – connects the prefrontal cortex decision process to the premotor cortex; activates the basal ganglia, cerebellum, spinal cord. Dopaminergic projection from the ventral tegmen­tal area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens

Movement Control – Fixed Action Patterns (FAPS), premotor cortex, motor cortex, basal ganglia, pons, cerebellum


Neural Network

Neurons and Synapses

Neuromodulatory Systems --

Neurotransmitters – Excitatory (), Inhibitory (GABA); Modulators (Dopamine, Serotonin)

Orientation --

Oscillation, Synchronization

Perception, Memory, Consciousness

Perceptual Categorization --

Pictorial Description of Consciousness

Plasticity of Neural Connections -- Brain’s 1015 synapses are constantly being modified by experience, thereby providing a reality emulator for prediction and decision making

Prefrontal Cortex

Reentry and Recursion --

Reentry, Oscillation, Synchronization – Reverberate connections in neural networks

Reward and Punishment

Samples --

Sense of Self – Autonomic nervous system, Self preservation

Sensory Input

Sensory Pathways

Sleep, Dreaming, Memory Consolidation, Creativity – Complexity, Self-Assembly of neural networks

States of Consciousness

Thalamocortical System –  Consciousness and awareness of what happens around us and of ourselves is rooted in the complexity of the functional and anatomical networks of the thalamocortical system.

Topological networks (Three) in the brain -- (1) Thalamocortical system, (2) Parallel, unidirectional pathways through the basal ganglia, (3) Fan-out meshwork of diffusely projecting neurotransmitter modulatory neurons emanating from brain stem nuclei

Vision – Vision is not required for consciousness. Blind people have consciousness.

Unconscious Processes support consciousness

Working Memory -