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Neural Netw. 2004 Jun-Jul;17(5-6):861-72.

Separate neural definitions of visual consciousness and visual attention; a case for phenomenal awareness.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. v.a.f.lamme@uva.nl

Abstract

What is the relation between visual attention and visual awareness? It is difficult to imagine being aware of something without attending to it, and by some, visual consciousness is simply equated to what is in the focus of attention. However, findings from psychological as well as from neurophysiological experiments argue strongly against equating attention and visual consciousness. From these experiments clearly separate neural definitions of visual attention and visual consciousness emerge. In the model proposed here, visual attention is defined as a convolution of sensori-motor processing with memory. Consciousness, however, is generated by recurrent activity between cortical areas. The extent to which these recurrent interactions involve areas in executive or mnemonic space depends on attention and determines whether a conscious report is possible about the sensory experience, not whether the sensory experience is there. This way, a strong case can be made for a pure non-cognitive form of seeing, independent of attentional selection, called phenomenal awareness. This can be dissociated from the reportable form, depending on attention, called access awareness. The hypothesis explains why attention and consciousness seem so intricately related, even though they are fully separate phenomena.

PMID:
15288903
DOI:
10.1016/j.neunet.2004.02.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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