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The Brain's Representational PowerOn Consciousness and the Integration of Modalities$
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Cyriel M.A. Pennartz

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262029315

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262029315.001.0001

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Structure and Function of Brain Systems for Conscious and Nonconscious Representation

Structure and Function of Brain Systems for Conscious and Nonconscious Representation

(p.131) 6 Structure and Function of Brain Systems for Conscious and Nonconscious Representation
The Brain's Representational Power

Cyriel M. A. Pennartz

The MIT Press

Given the limitations of current models, this chapter takes us back to the structure and functioning of brain regions themselves, focussing first on on systems considered important for understanding consciousness from a representational viewpoint: corticothalamic systems, cerebellum, basal ganglia, and hypothalamus. It examines whether systems for processing different sensory modalities share common grounds, thereby offering clues about shared requirements for conscious representation. Both at the level of local circuits and area-to-area connectivity, differences between systems are considerable, making it hard to extract such requirements. Turning to subcortical regions such as the cerebellum, basal ganglia and hypothalamus, it is noted that they also harbor sensing and information-processing principles that have been previously considered essential for conscious representation (e.g., recurrency, statistical dependence, complexity). Departing from the concept of conscious experience as multimodal, situational representation, it is arguably important to frame-shift from a “columnar” and strictly hierarchical view of the neocortex to a more “horizontal” view that emphasizes the unique reverberatory and recursive properties of the cortical network. This paves the way for exploring whether such properties may support construction of higher aggregate (multi-area) forms of representation from lower-level forms operating at the level of single neurons and within-area groups of neurons.

Keywords:   Basal ganglia, Cerebellum, Corticothalamic systems, Cortical column, Cortical hierarchy; Hypothalamus, Neuroanatomy, Recurrency

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