A Blueprint for the Hard Problem of Consciousness

The Global Neuronal Workspace Theory and the Adaptive Resonance Theory

Author(s): Paulo J. Negro

Pp: 132-144 (13)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681087665119010020

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


The Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW) theory addresses how the brain enables the coherent self-sustaining states characteristic of conscious experiences. Corticocortical long-range fibers make information available for multiple brain networks through horizontal projections. These neurons are considered the distributed source of a Global Neuronal Workspace. The GNW differs from the IIT because it does not situate integrated information as the cause of consciousness. Instead, it points towards information-sharing mechanisms as the origin of consciousness. A recent update to the theory stresses the functional unity of cortex and thalamus. Information integrated by the cortico-thalamic (C-T) circuitry generates internal representations of the external space through the widespread synchronization of gamma oscillations. The theory also proposes mechanisms to generate abstract states of awareness not traditionally associated with qualia. The Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART) describes dynamic states that the brain amplifies and synchronizes during the matching processes between bottom-up and top-down streams of information. The ART predicts that qualia should emerge from the emergent relational properties of these interactions. High-level resonances that support qualia features are described as shrouds and presented as stable invariant dynamic states. As a net effect, free-energy, or uncertainty, decreases across hierarchical systems. The ART fits the concept of conscious experiences as the abstract realization of information by strange loops, connecting top-down and bottom-up information flows. ART shrouds are consistent with the manipulation of information as focal aspects of subjective experiences, such as the odor-objects. Matches between prediction and predictive-error create perceptual representations of the world that can support integrated, goal-directed adaptive behaviors of the organism.

Keywords: Adaptive Resonance Theory, Corticocortical Fibers, Corticothalamic Fibers, Cortico-Thalamic Core, Cognitive Heuristics, Cross-Frequency Coupling, Feelings of Knowing, Focal Aspects of Subjective Experiences, Free-Energy Reduction, Global Neuronal Workspace Theory, Higher Order Representationism, Predictive-Error, Primitives, Reentrant Signaling, Shroud-Resonances, Stability- Plasticity Problem, Thalamus, Top-Down and Bottom-Up Interaction, Winner- Take-All Coalitions.

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