Herbstakademie Wildbad Kreuth 2007 (14.8.07/Tsch)


Gerhard WERNER Austin (USA)

Episodes in Consciousness viewed as Brain State Space Transitions

In the framework of Dynamical Systems Theory and based on evidence for processes of consciousness being discontinuous, it is here proposed to consider episodes of conscious awareness in the light of non-equilibrium brain state space transitions. The relevant theoretical background is reviewed as are the known landmarks of brain network configurations, and their specificity for conveying oscillatory activity of certain frequencies. This raises the questions: what kind of state space transformations can such systems undergo, and could the relation between sensory-motor cognition and its conscious registration be of the same category of events as are exemplified by state transitions in non-equilibrium physical systems: the formation of a novel physical reality at the microscopic level, expressed at the macroscopic level by a different qualitative phenomenology ? Approaches for empirical validation of this view by suitably designed brain imaging studies, and for computational simulations of the proposed principle are discussed; the latter guided by the new directions in the Physics of complex systems, and based on the principle of Universality classes in place of the extant forms of reductionistic explanations.

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