Manual Neurodynamics of Cognition and Consciousness (Understanding Complex Systems)

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This brain network consists of low frequency oscillations between certain cerebral areas including the posterior cingulate cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and the angular gyrus [72]. OAT ties this network to the first person sense of self and agency centered in the subconscious 3D matrix [11][77].

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The DST ties in bodily electrical oscillations into this network as part of its body-mind framework by citing influence on the DMN by cardio and respiratory waves [78]. Furthermore, the DST propounds that the low-amplitude oscillations of the DMN in association with cardiorespiratory oscillations create a framework upon which the faster oscillations of consciousness can be built [30]. Work by the Fingelkurts and other researchers has identified the DMN as a preferable neural correlate for the sense of self [79][80]. The Fingelkurts identified in their research a three-part modularization of the DMN which showed altered activity relative to each three subnet modules after extensive mediation training [80].

They describe how their research indicates each module contributes specific functions in forming a complex self-hood [80]. Both the DST and OAT describe the self being physically centered in the externalized perceptual reality of which the foundation is the subconscious 3D matrix [24][80].

The DST further describes this center as being the physical location of the thalamus as all perceptual streams are coordinated by and around it [24]. This disembodiment and loss of self-boundaries is asserted by the Fingelkurts with research support to be due to decreased functional connectivity among the posterior subnets of the DMN [80]. The DST advances the concepts of self and the DMN through linking it to respiratory and cardio activity, helping to explain some effects of deep-breathing meditative practices [30].

The DST asserts that the increased functional connectivity seen in the frontal subnet of the DMN could be caused by rhythmic respiration generated inhibitory impulses and cardio-respiratory phase synchronization [86]. GWT consists of multiple detailed hypotheses aimed at understanding the differences between conscious and unconscious brain events [46], disregarding the possibility of consciousness involving bodily events.

The DST also aims to understand this difference, instead associating consciousness with higher frequency oscillations and integrated and complex electrophysiological activity which require the thalamus. Strong similarities lie between GWT and the DST in the shared importance of globally distributed, synchronous activity across the thalamocortical network, as well as its parallel processing capabilities [24][46].

The DST completes this view by further asserting the importance of oscillatory harmony across the entire body, not just the central nervous system [24].

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GWT fails to include explanations on aspects of emotion and the top-down dominance of the sensory system. The DST explains how a baseline consciousness is always active in an awake person via the DMN and lower frequency bioelectric oscillations which maintain the internal 3D space which allows for experiential awareness [30].

GWT theory misidentifies the vast role unconscious physiology plays in the structure of consciousness by separating it from globally active networks which are propounded to be conscious. The DST however explains how all bioelectric cellular activity is part of a global network, citing the evidence that lower frequency oscillations it associates with the unconscious support, underlie, organize, and modulate higher frequency ones it associates with consciousness [87][88].

Both models hold the assertion that the contents of experience are associated with the global networking of the thalamocortical system [24][46]. The perspective of GWT is that conscious contents may emerge anywhere in this corticothalamic network [46] Figure 3 , however, the DST explains how parietal regions of this network are required for consciousness because they spatially map percepts [89]. While GWT does acknowledge this spatial quality, it limits it to visual perception [46].

Both models stress the bidirectionality, or reentrant neural connections in the corticothalamic network that bind and broadcast information throughout the brain [24][46]. This global framework creates an unconscious basis upon which consciousness is built [30]. The corticothalamic perspective of consciousness has been based on a variety of scientific findings including brain imaging studies, intracranial stimulation recordings, and empirical analysis of conscious and unconscious brain conditions [38][46][66].

While GWT acknowledges the neural oscillations as highly. Figure 3. Consciousness Can Occur Anywhere in the Corticothalamic loop. This figure illustrates the GWT concept that consciousness can arise from anywhere in the corticothalamic network, depending on which activity is bound and broadcast to the rest of the network.

Each yellow starburst indicates a site of binding and global broadcasting leading to consciousness. Activity dominating from certain brain areas leads to unique experiences such as the experience of a single star broadcasting from V1 in the occipital lobe. Previously published in [46]. Permission obtained from Creative Commons License.

Neurodynamics of Cognition and Consciousness

Baars et al. However, the synchronization of the sensory organs with their cortical counterparts with the cortex talking more to the sensory organs than the sensory organs to the cortex has been stressed by the DST [31]. A strong benefit to maintaining perceptual representations in a physical form at the site of the sensory organs frees up the need for the brain to maintain internal, mental sensory representations. A criticism of the GWT lies in the nature of unconscious and conscious neural activity.

Suggested by GTW, significant activation of concepts in the brain leads to consciousness of those concepts [91]. However, it is clear that generality of concepts transcend the experiences they apply to [91]. For instance, take the concept of a chair. Whenever the concept of a chair is attempted in visualization, only certain tokens of chairs from certain vantage points can be experienced. Categories cannot be perceived. It is clear that abstractions that can be understood and processed by the unconscious mind cannot be consciously experienced.

For instance, consider the word culture. When we think of this we understand its meaning and implication but cannot consciously experience any particular concept of culture although we can identify it. This implies that strong activation of neural concepts is not sufficient for entrance into consciousness. By identifying an underlying, global, bioelectric structure creating an unconscious 3D virtual matrix upon which a conscious world simulation can be built, the DST has advantages over GWT in explaining the ontology of consciousness.

The DST, through its world simulation approach, accounts for criticisms of the GWT such as how the existence of global neural broadcasting is not sufficient for consciousness of certain concepts such as the lack of ability for people to qualitatively perceive categories, stressing the necessity of a spatial component to all qualia.

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Through an embodied cognitive approach in stressing the role sensory receptors play in consciousness, the DST helps explain the strong influence the body has over the cognitive mind, providing a means for voluntarily modulating mood, stress, and cognition. By describing an electromagnetic field cognitive architecture, the DST provides a physical substrate for consciousness, thereby providing a starting point for solving this hard problem. GWT explains that top-down attention helps determine which information is task-relevant and enters global availability.

The DST attempts to do the same focused on a similar concept of metastable information integration, however, it includes the thalamus and the sensory receptors in a global manner. Both the DST and IIT explain how conscious arises from processes that arise from a system that cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts; in the case of the DST, this system is the whole body and brain. The inclusion by the DST of the thalamus as the ultimate integrator of information is a substantial difference between the two theories. IIT propounds that consciousness is minimized or eliminated during slow-wave sleep because the irreducible system leading to consciousness becomes significantly smaller and reconfigured, and the neural networks are much less complex and more disconnected due to bistability [92][93].

The DST on the other hand describes how the disconnect between the thalamus and cortex during slow-wave sleep [94]leads to unconsciousness because the thalamus ceases to integrate and unify the information from the body and corticothalamic network into a metastable harmony that generates the 3D world simulation of consciousness. IIT asserts that the cerebellum is not part of consciousness because it is a feedforward network that has multiple independent zones which do not form a large complex, therefore not form a large system that integrates information [92].

The DST asserts that the cerebellum is not significantly involved in the production of consciousness because it does not influence the generation of the world simulation, only the motor interaction with it. It could be understood that destruction of the cerebellum alters consciousness in that it disrupts the conscious perception of coordination between the body and physical environment.

We propound that IIT has gained a strong acceptance and popularity by playing on what we know to be true about the brain being a vast spanning web of integrated information. Many people have an intuition about consciousness being an integrated whole resulting from the full spectrum of brain activity, however, most networks in the brain are actually unconscious [95], and unconscious activity precedes the arrival of consciousness [96].

Quantum Approaches to Consciousness

In describing consciousness as resulting from information processing systems, IIT fails to account for why the majority of cognitive activity is unconscious. The DST however posits this unconscious activity as the foundation of consciousness [30]. IIT is one of the few theories that incorporates mathematics, however, an over focus on this mathematical aspect may take attention away from the empirical hurdles that must be overcome to develop an accurate biological model. IIT provides important insight into the nature of informational integration and consciousness; however, there are empirical observations that seem to disprove IIT, which the DST does explain.

The terminologies used in the IIT model are often esoteric and baffling to those who try to understand it on the first exposure. While this may be necessary, it brings forth the criticism that IIT is trying to persuade its audience of its accuracy by perplexing them.

The axioms of conscious proposed by IIT are certainly insightful and verifiable, however they seem to lack support for the theories own fundamental concepts. In the principle of exclusion provided by IIT, only one consciousness can be maintained by any system [47].

Even if its components satisfy the other requirements for consciousness, that consciousness would be suppressed by the greater whole. This however leads to the conclusion that if a group discussion leads to large information integration, sufficient for consciousness, then the individual members of that group would cease to be conscious.

The DST describes how during meditation, some can achieve an awareness of this unconscious spatial matrix, leading to experiences of identifying with and experiencing a vast, boundary-less, empty space []. This naked space is filled in with oscillations giving rise to qualia that arise from corticothalamic feedback loops which are integrated by the thalamus [24].

Neural Mechanisms of Spatial Cognition and Imagination

IIT does not identify a functional importance to these lower frequency baseline oscillations which the DST proposes are increased during meditation due to increased cardio-respiratory synchronization, thus leading to dynamic changes in awareness [86]. By describing how body rhythms affect neural oscillations via an embodied cognitive approach, the DST can explain mechanisms of therapeutic benefits of techniques such as meditation. Tononi asserts that every experience is structured with different aspects into a singular integrated whole [47].

The DST shares this assertion and furthers its notion by describing how this integration occurs in the human mind and into what type of structure the qualia is integrated a virtual 3D matrix. IIT assumes this type of experience occurs with any sufficient information integrating system and in a strong similarity to the DST and other models, describes the corticothalamic system as the main neural substrate for integrating vast neural information [1].

The DST is founded on the structure of consciousness occurring as a 3D space just as in the 3D world in which we live. Tononi seems to apply the familiar structure of human consciousness to any potentially conscious physical system whereas the DST proposes distinct cortical and thalamic systems i. The necessity of the parietal lobe in consciousness is due to its role in constructing the spatial dimension of the internal replication of external space [89][][].

The spatial dimension of sensation is necessary for all experience to occur and this has been exemplified through an understanding of contralateral neglect syndrome as we have explained. According to his composition axiom, Tononi asserts that this experiential spatial characteristic is a fundamental result of any irreducible information processing and integrating system, however, when the parietal lobe is damaged leading to contralateral neglect, the brain still fully processes stimuli from the missing side unconsciously and the patient can maintain blindsight of these stimuli [56].

Neurodynamics of Cognition and Consciousness | Leonid I. Perlovsky | Springer

Unconscious stimuli from the neglected field of these patients significantly increased response times to a subsequent word related to the neglected stimuli, such as bat-ball, tree-apple, compared to unrelated words like bed-apple [], indicating they are part of the irreducible system and thus should be conscious. If Tononi is correct in stating the spatial characteristic is a result of any irreducible system, then contralateral neglect syndrome would not exist.

The same effect can be seen in the phenomenon of cortical blindsight in those with damage to the visual cortices. Although they can to some degree detect, localize, discriminate, and respond to visual stimuli in restricted ways, they cannot consciously experience the stimuli or understand why they are able to respond to it [][]. There is so much complex information integration that happens out of conscious awareness, that it seems the only way the assertions of IIT could be completely accurate is if there were multiple consciousnesses inside one brain.

It could be assumed that if multiple non-overlapping irreducible networks somehow separate in the brain existed simultaneously in one brain, more than one consciousness could exist in that brain, and this is actually an assertion of IIT, even in the everyday life of healthy people [47]. IIT asserts that sensory connections are feedforward, however if it would acknowledge that if indeed the sensory receptors are bioelectrically synchronized with their respective cortical sites and thus contain feedback as proposed by the DST described earlier in this article, then these sensory receptors would be part of the irreducible information integrating system leading to consciousness.

They would simultaneously be a part of cause and effect repertoire according to the view of the DST that they cause certain afferent stimuli and receive efferent effects by the cortex. Thus, according to this concept, the sensory receptors are in a sense part of the corticothalamic system. This is due to the feedback mechanisms proposed by DST in which information is fed back to the sensory receptors.

According to IIT, feedforward networks are not conscious as they lack any information integration [92]. DST accounts for this in its account of feedback to the sensory receptors and the feedback loops of the corticothalamic network which integrate information [24]. We propose that information integration as described by Tononi is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition to consciousness. This goes against common sense understandings however, especially since they would have an extremely greater quantity of consciousness than an average person.