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      A higher-order theory of emotional consciousness

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      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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          Abstract

          Emotional states of consciousness, or what are typically called emotional feelings, are traditionally viewed as being innately programmed in subcortical areas of the brain, and are often treated as different from cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to the perception of external stimuli. We argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. In this view, what differs in emotional and nonemotional states are the kinds of inputs that are processed by a general cortical network of cognition, a network essential for conscious experiences. Although subcortical circuits are not directly responsible for conscious feelings, they provide nonconscious inputs that coalesce with other kinds of neural signals in the cognitive assembly of conscious emotional experiences. In building the case for this proposal, we defend a modified version of what is known as the higher-order theory of consciousness.

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          Most cited references 115

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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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            Neural bases of the non-conscious perception of emotional signals.

            Many emotional stimuli are processed without being consciously perceived. Recent evidence indicates that subcortical structures have a substantial role in this processing. These structures are part of a phylogenetically ancient pathway that has specific functional properties and that interacts with cortical processes. There is now increasing evidence that non-consciously perceived emotional stimuli induce distinct neurophysiological changes and influence behaviour towards the consciously perceived world. Understanding the neural bases of the non-conscious perception of emotional signals will clarify the phylogenetic continuity of emotion systems across species and the integration of cortical and subcortical activity in the human brain.
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              A framework for consciousness.

              Here we summarize our present approach to the problem of consciousness. After an introduction outlining our general strategy, we describe what is meant by the term 'framework' and set it out under ten headings. This framework offers a coherent scheme for explaining the neural correlates of (visual) consciousness in terms of competing cellular assemblies. Most of the ideas we favor have been suggested before, but their combination is original. We also outline some general experimental approaches to the problem and, finally, acknowledge some relevant aspects of the brain that have been left out of the proposed framework.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                March 07 2017
                March 07 2017
                March 07 2017
                February 15 2017
                : 114
                : 10
                : E2016-E2025
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1619316114
                5347624
                28202735
                © 2017

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