Consciousness and the Brain

Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York 10016, USA
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 4.38). 01/2006; 929(1):166 - 175. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb05715.x


The goal of this paper is to explore the basic assumption that large-scale, temporal coincidence of specific and nonspecific thalamic activity generates the functional states that characterize human cognition.

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Available from: Rodolfo R Llinás, Jan 22, 2015
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    • "they would interfere among each other, should the relevant information be encoded exclusively on the basis of neuronal oscillations (Fell and Axmacher, 2011). Rather, oscillations in the first place represent the reference timeframe for neuronal communication (Axmacher et al., 2006) and the nervous system likely utilises specific context-and information type-dependent coding strategies (Jermakowicz and Casagrande, 2007), leaving the question of cognitive representation and the " hard " problem of subjective awareness, open to discussion (Cook, 2008; Engel et al., 1999; Koch, 2004; Llinás and Ribary, 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Synchronisation has become one of the major scientific tools to explain biological order at many levels of organisation. In systems neuroscience, synchronised subthreshold and suprathreshold oscillatory neuronal activity within and between distributed neuronal assemblies is acknowledged as a fundamental mode of neuronal information processing. Coherent neuronal oscillations correlate with all basic cognitive functions, mediate local and long-range neuronal communication and affect synaptic plasticity. However, it remains unclear how the very fast and complex changes of functional neuronal connectivity necessary for cognition, as mediated by dynamic patterns of neuronal synchrony, could be explained exclusively based on the well-established synaptic mechanisms. A growing body of research indicates that the intraneuronal matrix, composed of cytoskeletal elements and their binding proteins, structurally and functionally connects the synapses within a neuron, modulates neurotransmission and memory consolidation, and is hypothesised to be involved in signal integration via electric signalling due to its charged surface. Theoretical modelling, as well as emerging experimental evidence indicate that neuronal cytoskeleton supports highly cooperative energy transport and information processing based on molecular coherence. We suggest that long-range coherent dynamics within the intra- and extracellular filamentous matrices could establish dynamic ordered states, capable of rapid modulations of functional neuronal connectivity via their interactions with neuronal membranes and synapses. Coherence may thus represent a common denominator of neurophysiological and biophysical approaches to brain information processing, operating at multiple levels of neuronal organisation, from which cognition may emerge as its cardinal manifestation.
    Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 03/2013; 111(1):8-29. DOI:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2012.08.006 · 2.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We adapt an information theory analysis of interacting cognitive biological and social modules to the problem of the global neuronal workspace, the new standard neuroscience paradigm for consciousness. Tunable punctuation emerges in a natural way, suggesting the possibility of fitting appropriate phase transition power law, and away from transition, generalized Onsager relation expressions, to observational data on conscious reaction. The development can be extended in a straightforward manner to include psychosocial stress, culture, or other cognitive modules which constitute a structured, embedding hierarchy of contextual constraints acting at a slower rate than neuronal function itself. This produces a 'biopsychosociocultural' model of individual consciousness that, while otherwise quite close to the standard treatment, meets compelling philosophical and other objections to brain-only descriptions.
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