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

Brain Functions as a Reality Emulator

Reality is represented by the firing rates in a dynamically-reconfiguring neural network pattern.  Firing rates of neurons vary from about 5 Hz to about 500 Hz.  Neuronal network pattern is reconfigured dynamically on the basis of about 100 to 500 ms. Neuronal network is constantly active with great variation in average level of activity, varying from subdued in NREM sleep to intensely attentive alert in challenging situations during wakefulness.

Brain operates as a Reality Emulator (Llinás; I of the Vortex, 13)

Dreaming and wakefulness are so similar from electrophysiological and neurological points of view that wakefulness may be described as a dreamlike state  modulated by  sensory input. (Llinas, Mind-Brain Continuum; Llinás & Paré; Brain Modulated by Senses, 6)

The brain fashions an internal model of the external world as a basis for prediction and exploration of alternatives. (e.g., mental exploration of possible move sequences in chess)   (Holland; Hidden Order, 33)

Brain stores an internal representation of the world. (Kandel; Principles of Neural Science, 1277)

Events in the outside world are represented by patterns of activity in neocortical areas. (Marrs 1971 model)   (Andersen; Hippocampus Book, 734)

Our brains are belief engines, evolved pattern recognition machines that connect the dots and create meaning out of the patterns that we think we see in nature. (Shermer; Believing Brain, 59)

Association is the most natural form of neural network computation. Neural networks can be thought of as pattern associators, which link an input pattern with the most appropriate output pattern. (Anderson; Associative Networks, 102)

The process of fitting memories into a comfortable form    is an active process    that depends on a person's own prior knowledge and beliefs about the world,    the preformed tendencies and bias    that the person brings to the task of remembering. (Mlodinow; Subliminal, 69)

Some illusions are programmed so firmly in our brains that the mere knowledge that they are false does not stop us from seeing them. (Carter; Mapping the Mind, 207)

Patternicity -- the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise. (Shermer; Believing Brain, 60)

Patternicity is a potent force in human nature. Visit a Las Vegas casino and observe people playing the slots with varied attempts to find a pattern between pulling the slot machine handle and the payoff. (Shermer; Believing Brain, 65)


Reentry with Recursion

Reentry with recursion is a characteristic feature of much of neural network activity in a many-level hierarchy of ever-larger nested reentry loops.  Even in the parallel pathways at higher levels such as in the cortex/basal-ganglia/thalamus/cortex pathway, there is likely to be considerable reentry with recursion among normal lower-level assemblies comprising the overall pathway.  Reentry loops do not comprise simple single-pathway loops.  Instead, the reentry signal pathways are multiply-connected with many cross-connections along a dynamic bundle of instantaneously active axons forming a signal pathway.  Relevant information comprising this reality simulation is represented not by active individual neurons but by closely-contiguous neurons firing nearly coherently, perhaps with a spatial Gaussian distribution.  A quantum of information is likely represented by at least a few dozen neurons firing in a nearly synchronous manner.  The somewhat overlapping dendritic tree patterns of neurons will likely assure highly correlated firing in a spatial Gaussian distribution.

Brain constructs maps of its surroundings; subsets of neurons interact in the background to maintain those maps.  When new data comes in, the neurons reconfigure the maps. (Ratey; User's Guide to Brain, 113)

The idea that an iterative algorithm is carried out in the thalamocortical loop has received experimental confirmation in observed oscillations. (Arbib, Handbook of Brain Theory; Mumford; Thalamus, 982)

Experience will convert cortical networks into representations of the environment and of subject's actions in the environment, i.e. into cognitive representations or cognits. Neocortical representations of our internal and external environments, of our internal milieu and the world around us, are built by modulation of contacts between neurons. (Fuster; Cortex and Mind, 37-40)


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