A symposium will be held at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN):
Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Progress and Problems
The nature of consciousness is widely regarded as one of the great challenges in science. Over the past decade there has been substantive empirical and theoretical progress in this field. This symposium presents results from this recent surge in consciousness research.
Melanie Boly will review evidence of frequent dissociation between consciousness and responsiveness in patients with brain damage. She will present recent evidence that after ruling out confounds, the anatomical neural correlates of consciousness are primarily localized to a posterior cortical hot zone, rather than to a fronto-parietal network involved in task performance and report, and discuss the potential clinical applications of these findings.
Marcello Massimimi will describe the rationale and validation of the perturbational complexity index (PCI), a theory-driven empirical metric designed to gauge the brain’s capacity for integrated information. He will show how this index can be employed at the bedside to assess and stratify unresponsive patients, independently of sensory processing and motor/executive functions, and will highlight physiopathological implications.
Melanie Wilke will discuss how to disentangle conscious perception from decision making and visuomotor processes. Drawing conclusions from electrophysiological and fMRI experiments in monkeys and humans, she will address which signals and brain regions continue to correlate with conscious perception without the requirement of a behavioral report. She will also show consequences of parietal and thalamic pulvinar perturbations on conscious perception versus visuomotor decisions. Finally, she will discuss how to avoid or control for report-related confounds in future studies of conscious perception.
Cyriel Pennartz will focus on the theoretical delineation of requirements for animal brains capable of sustaining consciousness. Next, he will review recent advances in uncovering neuronal population correlates of visual stimulus detection, which is considered an important component of sensory awareness. Finally, he will zoom out from visual cortex to larger interconnected neural systems, probed with multi-area ensemble recordings to investigate changes in local and long-range functional connectivity across the sleep-wake cycle.