A Field Theory of Consciousness

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Abstract:

This article summarizes a variety of current as well as previous research in support of a new theory of consciousness. Evidence has been steadily accumulating that information about a stimulus complex is distributed to many neuronal populations dispersed throughout the brain and is represented by the departure from randomness of the temporal pattern of neural discharges within these large ensembles. Zero phase lag synchronization occurs between discharges of neurons in different brain regions and is enhanced by presentation of stimuli. This evidence further suggests that spatiotemporal patterns of coherence, which have been identified by spatial principal component analysis, may encode a multidimensional representation of a present or past event. How such distributed information is integrated into a holistic percept constitutes the binding problem. How a percept defined by a spatial distribution of nonrandomness can be subjectively experienced constitutes the problem of consciousness. Explanations based on a discrete connectionistic network cannot be reconciled with the relevant facts. Evidence is presented herein of invariant features of brain electrical activity found to change reversibly with loss and return of consciousness in a study of 176 patients anesthetized during surgical procedures. A review of relevant research areas, as well as the anesthesia data, leads to a postulation that consciousness is a property of quantumlike processes, within a brain field resonating within a core of structures, which may be the neural substrate of consciousness. This core includes regions of the prefrontal cortex, the frontal cortex, the pre- and paracentral cortex, thalamus, limbic system, and basal ganglia.

Keywords: Key Words: consciousness; QEEG; anesthetic effects; coherence; field theory; synchrony; tomography

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Brain Research Laboratories, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, New York, 10016

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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