Neuronal Synchronization, Attention Orienting, and Primary Consciousness
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How does the brain implement cognitive processes? Part of the answer is specialization of function in particular regions. But complex cognitive processes involved in attention, memory, and consciousness require the coordinated activity of several or many of these specialized regions. Moreover, the specialized regions often (always?) exhibit different functions depending on the particular subset of other regions with which they are interacting. Finally, because cognitive tasks vary dramatically over timescales of hundreds of milliseconds to seconds, the functionally relevant regional networks must form and dissolve over these short timescales, which are too short to accommodate mechanisms such as synaptic modification via spike-timing dependent plasticity. It has been suggested that oscillatory synchronization of neural activity provides a mechanism whereby networks of functionally specialized brain regions could function transiently on such timescales. This chapter begins to make the case that for attention and consciousness, at least, this mechanism is deeply involved in implementing the required functional networks. It also briefly considers the implications of the role of oscillatory neural synchronization in cognition for the global workspace.
KeywordsInferior Frontal Gyrus Gamma Band Binocular Rivalry Alpha Power Target Interval
This chapter and much of the research described were sponsored by Discovery Grant A9958 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. I thank the coauthors of the various papers emanating from the laboratories of myself and my collaborators whose results I describe here for their vital contributions to this research program.
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