Consciousness Integrated and Differentiated
Giulio Tononi
The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego, CA, USA

A useful way of identifying the neural basis of consciousness is to consider the kinds of neural processes that could account for its most fundamental properties. Two fundamental properties of consciousness are integration or unity, and differentiation or informativeness. Integration is evident in that each conscious state is experienced as a whole and cannot be subdivided into independent components. Differentiation is evidenced by our ability to access, in a fraction of a second, any one out of countless numbers of conscious states. To understand these properties of consciousness and their neural substrates, a novel theory is developed that accounts at the same time for the integration and the differentiation of conscious experience. According to this theory, encapsulated in the dynamic core hypothesis, consciousness does not arise as a property of brain cells as such, but rather as a consequence of interactions of groups of neurons that are both functionally integrated and functionally specialized. The formulation of this theory has required the development of new theoretical concepts and measures, such as those for functional clustering and complexity, and the construction of large-scale computer models of brain function. A series of experiments using magnetoencephalography has shown that neural correlates of conscious experience involve distributed brain areas and are consistent with the notion of a dynamic core.

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