Tononi on integration and consciousness

consciousnessIntegration and consciousness

Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that consciousness in the brain relates to the amount of integration required of particular brain regions or neurons. Thus there is much more integration in the cortex than the cerebellum, with the latter not being implicated in any conscious processing . Tononi has calculated an information integration quantity labelled as ‘phi’, which is seen as the threshold for consciousness.

This idea appears compatible with other aspects of the brain. For instance the quite sophisticated dorsal stream related to physical movements is unconscious, whereas systems such as the ventral stream leading to the inferior temporal region are involved in conscious representation, with this region also projecting forward to the conscious evaluations of the orbitofrontal. The distinction between unconscious and conscious processing in apparently similar systems relying on the same types of neurons suggests the existence of some form of trigger or threshold for consciousness.

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