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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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Levels of Representational Organization

Levels of Representational Organization

(p.265) 10 Levels of Representational Organization
The Brain's Representational Power

Cyriel M. A. Pennartz

The MIT Press

This chapter explores whether the "Explanatory Gap"-the discrepancy that exists when comparing a phenomenal sensation to a neural spike-train correlate-can be approached via the concept that neural and phenomenal phenomena are situated at different representational levels. It is argued that David Marr’s multilevel notion of mind–brain organization can be modified to accommodate the functional and representational demands applying to conscious brain systems proposed earlier. This account ranges from the single-neuron level to functional ensembles and, hence, to unimodal meta-networks and the higher level of multimodal meta-networks. No saltatory transitions in neural-to-mental activity exist between levels. The relationships between levels is described as noncausal, with higher-level phenomena corresponding to, and supervening on, lower-level phenomena. Higher-level representational entities have no independent access to lower-level processing: what is experienced at a higher level as having meaningful content cannot be directly unmasked by the same subject as being merely “neural” at a lower level. In this view meaning, situated at a high level, arises from groups of symbols coded by ensembles, in a way that allows ontogenetically developing brain systems to make arbitrary representational choices within constraints defined by spatiotemporal consistencies in sensory input.

Keywords:   Causal interaction, Ensemble, Meta-network, Multi-level organization, Neural coding, Symbolic representation, Temporal consistency, Wall Street banker

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