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Putting the puzzle together. Part I: Towards a general theory of the neural correlates of consciousness

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Despite the whirl of controversy surrounding consciousness studies, there is real progress being made in cognitive science towards establishing an empirically rigorous theory of mind, in both its conscious and non-conscious manifestations. In this two-part article, beginning with a broad overview of clinical and experimental findings bearing on the neural correlates of conscious processes, the author traces the development of several related models that appear to converge upon a central ‘conscious system’. This extended reticular-thalamic activating system (ERTAS) has been increasingly implicated in a variety of functions associated with consciousness, including: orienting to salient events in the outer world; dream (REM) sleep; the polymodal integration of sensory processes in the cortex (binding); selective attention and volition. It is argued that the increasing convergence of models from clinical and experimental neuroscience is leading towards a general theory of consciousness which is both non-dualist and non- reductionist. Part II will appear in JCS, 4 (2), pp. 99-120.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Colorado Neurological Institute, 740 Clarkson Street, Denver, CO 80218, USA.

Publication date: 1997-01-01

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