The Hebbian Synapse: Progenitor of Consciousness

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A dualistic approach to consciousness is presented that employs Hebbian synaptic dynamics and the basic notion of measurement in science to bridge the so-called explanatory gap between first-person consciousness and third-person science. Unconscious processing by neural circuitry characterizes (i) the neuron as a measuring instrument and (ii) the neural signal as the quantity to be measured. Hebbian synaptic dynamics, effectuating the storage of information, implements the role of an observer of a measurement outcome. The approach extends physical renormalization techniques, as applied to phase changes, to biology. This leads to the proposal of a ramification process in neural systems (brains) from a primitive form of sensation associated with the Hebbian synapse toward more elaborate experiential forms of consciousness (feelings, qualia) associated with hierarchies of neuronal assemblies. Characterizing sensation as a form of mutual information at the synaptic level motivates a relation between consciousness and phase changes of information.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Computer Science Yale University, New Haven CT, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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