Poster Session A, Saturday, March 23, 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
A Cellular and Attentional Network Approach to the Neuroscience of Consciousness
Gonzalo Munevar1; 1Lawrence Technological University
The purpose of this poster is to propose an approach to the neuroscience of consciousness based on the integrated results of cellular and network studies of attention. Consciousness occurs when, say, a sensory input activates an attention network to the point that the network successfully inhibits other, potentially competing, attention networks. This process can be observed, for example, in the integration of bottom-up salience and top-down selection in the intraparietal sulcus. At different levels, salience will depend on a context that may include not only goals but long-term episodic memories, intuitive cognition and a whole host of other brain functions and regions. Within that context, some brain phenomena will be experienced as being greatly relevant at that particular time, and command attention. The resulting attention network will include those brain functions and regions that contribute to the creation of the context. Studies show that, at the cellular level, neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin may lead to significant changes in cognitive function, including the contents of consciousness, for they may affect firing rates of both excitatory and inhibitory neurons. The results of Reynolds’ experiments, for example, can be understood in terms of competing neuronal populations that often end in a “winner take all.” Different modalities are less likely to so compete (e.g. watching a scene while listening to music). Affecting the variability of firing rates reduces noise and improves information, which is crucial to consciousness also. Claims of consciousness without attention involve mistaken interpretations of experiments.
Topic Area: ATTENTION: Other