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Indirect biological measures of consciousness from field studies of brains as dynamical systems


Consciousness fully supervenes when the 1.5 kgm mass of protoplasm in the head directs the body into material and social environments and engages in reciprocity. While consciousness is not susceptible to direct measurement, a limited form exercised in animals and pre-lingual children can be measured indirectly with biological assays of arousal, intention and attention. In this essay consciousness is viewed as operating simultaneously in a field at all levels ranging from subatomic to social. The relations and transpositions between levels require sophisticated mathematical treatments that are largely still to be devised. In anticipation of those developments the available experimental data are reviewed concerning the state variables in several levels that collectively constitute the substrate of biological consciousness. The basic metaphors are described that represent the neural machinery of transposition in consciousness. The processes are sketched by which spatiotemporal neural activity patterns emerge as fields that may represent the contents of consciousness. The results of dynamical analysis are discussed in terms serving to distinguish between the neural point processes dictated by the neuron doctrine vs. continuously variable neural fields generated by neural masses in cortex. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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