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A neurofunctional model of consciousness: Its neurophysiological and cognitive bases

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Abstract

Interest in the causal relation between consciousness and the underlying neuronal activity has grown in recent decades. Numerous experimental studies have been carried out on the brain structures and networks underlying consciousness in animal models, in patients with brain damage and with very precise functional neuroimaging. In spite of the great multitude of findings, there is no theoretical proposal that integrates this knowledge under a coherent theoretical framework based on the evidence obtained. Existing theories offer a dismembered view of consciousness, since they pose causal explanations that do not include a global functional perspective of the interaction of the different brain networks involved in consciousness. This work offers a theoretical framework that integrates the empirical knowledge, generated in recent decades, into a neurofunctional model of consciousness. This model represents consciousness as an epiphenomenon resulting from the sequential activation of different neural loops that are formed by specific brain structures and networks which receive feedback from their own operations in order to reconfigure their own functional states and the entire system. The ascending reticular activating system, the thalamocortical networks and the cortico-cortical networks sustain cognitive processes that are differentiated, although highly dependent and fundamental for the final experience of consciousness. All these systems form a single physiological space where the individual can deploy different cognitive skills that allow the emergence of complex behaviours such as language, thought and social cognition.

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León-Domínguez, U., & León-Carrión, J. (2019). A neurofunctional model of consciousness: Its neurophysiological and cognitive bases. Revista de Neurologia, 69(4), 159–166. https://doi.org/10.33588/rn.6904.2019072

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