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Stinking Consciousness!

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Abstract:

Contemporary neuroscientific theories of consciousness are typically based on the study of vision and have neglected olfaction. Several of these (e.g. Global Workspace Theories, the Information Integration theory, and the various theories offered by Crick and Koch) claim that a thalamic relay is necessary for consciousness. Studies on olfaction and the olfactory system's anatomical structure show this claim to be incorrect, thus showing these theories to be either false or inadequate as general and comprehensive accounts of consciousness. Attempts to rescue these theories by claiming that there is a structure in the olfactory system that is functionally equivalent to the thalamus in the visual system, such as the olfactory bulb or the olfactory cortex, are also shown to fail. If we wish to understand consciousness, we have to wake up and smell it.

Keywords: Olfaction; attention; awareness; consciousness; neurobiological theories of consciousness; olfactory bulb; thalamus

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CUNY, Graduate Center, Philosophy Program, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, Email: byoung@gc.cuny.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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