Niina Salminen-Vaparanta

Cognitive and neural processes generating visual consciousness

 

The question of how specific neural processes generate subjective experiNiina Salminen-Vaparanta.jpgence of
seeing, or visual consciousness, is still a conundrum for science.
In the empirical consciousness studies, the goal is to find which brain regions and neural processes are necessary and sufficient to generate consciousness. A few models have been introduced on the neural basis and the conceptual structure of consciousness. In the current project, I will focus on two of them.

 According to the famous model, contents of working memory correlate with consciousness and the neural representations of these contents are distributed broadly in the brain (The Global Workspace Theory), that is, when the specific long distance neuronal connections are activated, consciousness emerges. In contrast, the Recurrent Processing Theory states that visual consciousness is generated via recurrent cortical processing in the ventral stream areas. Although there is empirical evidence for both of these theories, there are only a few studies that have directly compared these models.

To solve what kind of model is the most fitting for explaining the neural processes underlying visual consciousness, we will test the hypotheses based on these conflicting models by applying high density electrophysiological recordings (EEG, ERP), fMRI-navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and theoretical discussion. By completing the planned studies we will be able to advance the understanding as to the time course and cognitive and neural processes that are directly involved in the generation of visual consciousness.

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