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      Why the Brain Knows More than We Do: Non-Conscious Representations and Their Role in the Construction of Conscious Experience


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          Scientific studies have shown that non-conscious stimuli and representations influence information processing during conscious experience. In the light of such evidence, questions about potential functional links between non-conscious brain representations and conscious experience arise. This article discusses neural model capable of explaining how statistical learning mechanisms in dedicated resonant circuits could generate specific temporal activity traces of non-conscious representations in the brain. How reentrant signaling, top-down matching, and statistical coincidence of such activity traces may lead to the progressive consolidation of temporal patterns that constitute the neural signatures of conscious experience in networks extending across large distances beyond functionally specialized brain regions is then explained.

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          Conscious, preconscious, and subliminal processing: a testable taxonomy.

          Of the many brain events evoked by a visual stimulus, which are specifically associated with conscious perception, and which merely reflect non-conscious processing? Several recent neuroimaging studies have contrasted conscious and non-conscious visual processing, but their results appear inconsistent. Some support a correlation of conscious perception with early occipital events, others with late parieto-frontal activity. Here we attempt to make sense of these dissenting results. On the basis of the global neuronal workspace hypothesis, we propose a taxonomy that distinguishes between vigilance and access to conscious report, as well as between subliminal, preconscious and conscious processing. We suggest that these distinctions map onto different neural mechanisms, and that conscious perception is systematically associated with surges of parieto-frontal activity causing top-down amplification.
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            Towards a true neural stance on consciousness.

            Consciousness is traditionally defined in mental or psychological terms. In trying to find its neural basis, introspective or behavioral observations are considered the gold standard, to which neural measures should be fitted. I argue that this poses serious problems for understanding the mind-brain relationship. To solve these problems, neural and behavioral measures should be put on an equal footing. I illustrate this by an example from visual neuroscience, in which both neural and behavioral arguments converge towards a coherent scientific definition of visual consciousness. However, to accept this definition, we need to let go of our intuitive or psychological notions of conscious experience and let the neuroscience arguments have their way. Only by moving our notion of mind towards that of brain can progress be made.
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              Somatosensory cortical map changes following digit amputation in adult monkeys.

              The cortical representations of the hand in area 3b in adult owl monkeys were defined with use of microelectrode mapping techniques 2-8 months after surgical amputation of digit 3, or of both digits 2 and 3. Digital nerves were tied to prevent their regeneration within the amputation stump. Successive maps were derived in several monkeys to determine the nature of changes in map organization in the same individuals over time. In all monkeys studied, the representations of adjacent digits and palmar surfaces expanded topographically to occupy most or all of the cortical territories formerly representing the amputated digit(s). With the expansion of the representations of these surrounding skin surfaces (1) there were severalfold increases in their magnification and (2) roughly corresponding decreases in receptive field areas. Thus, with increases in magnification, surrounding skin surfaces were represented in correspondingly finer grain, implying that the rule relating receptive field overlap to separation in distance across the cortex (see Sur et al., '80) was dynamically maintained as receptive fields progressively decreased in size. These studies also revealed that: the discontinuities between the representations of the digits underwent significant translocations (usually by hundreds of microns) after amputation, and sharp new discontinuous boundaries formed where usually separated, expanded digital representations (e.g., of digits 1 and 4) approached each other in the reorganizing map, implying that these map discontinuities are normally dynamically maintained. Changes in receptive field sizes with expansion of representations of surrounding skin surfaces into the deprived cortical zone had a spatial distribution and time course similar to changes in sensory acuity on the stumps of human amputees. This suggests that experience-dependent map changes result in changes in sensory capabilities. The major topographic changes were limited to a cortical zone 500-700 micron on either side of the initial boundaries of the representation of the amputated digits. More distant regions did not appear to reorganize (i.e., were not occupied by inputs from surrounding skin surfaces) even many months after amputation. The representations of some skin surfaces moved in entirety to locations within the former territories of representation of amputated digits in every monkey studied. In man, no mislocation errors or perceptual distortions result from stimulation of surfaces surrounding a digital amputation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

                Author and article information

                Brain Sci
                Brain Sci
                Brain Sciences
                27 December 2011
                March 2012
                : 2
                : 1
                : 1-21
                Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, UMR 5508, Université Montpellier, Montpellier 34095, France; E-Mail: birgitta.dresp-langley@ 123456univ-montp2.fr ; Tel.: +33-(0)4-67-14-45-33; Fax: +33-(0)4-67-14-45-55
                © 2012 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

                : 16 November 2011
                : 12 December 2011
                : 20 December 2011

                non-conscious representation,temporal brain activity patterns,top-down matching,reentrant signaling,resonance,conscious experience


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