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The Physiological Basis of Consciousness: A Clinical Ambition and the Insufficiency of Current Philosophical Proposals

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In neuropsychiatric practice some patients present pathological deformations of consciousness. An understanding of the physiological basis of consciousness is therefore a clinical as well as scientific and philosophical problem. We review four possible responses to this clinical requirement: (1) absolute dualism, (2) McGinn's model of cognitive closure, (3) a model based on the inadequacy of physics, and (4) Wilczek's metaphor of mind-brain complementarity. One possible quantification of consciousness, the integrated information theory of consciousness, is considered, and its limitations and the difficulties associated with its implementation are outlined. A less ambitious alternative based on an extension of information dynamics which offers the possibility of global time-dependent characterizations of central nervous system (CNS) information dynamics is presented. We suggest that while an integration of information dynamics and network theory may fail to solve the matter-consciousness problem, the investigation could produce technologies and understandings that are clinically useful.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD USA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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