Send to

Choose Destination
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1998 Nov 29;353(1377):1829-40.

Consciousness and the structure of neuronal representations.

Author information

Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.


The hypothesis is defended that brains expressing phenomenal awareness are capable of generating metarepresentations of their cognitive processes, these metarepresentations resulting from an iteration of self-similar cortical operations. Search for the neuronal substrate of awareness therefore converges with the search for the nature of neuronal representations. It is proposed that evolved brains use two complementary representational strategies. One consists of the generation of neurons responding selectively to a particular constellation of features and is based on selective recombination of inputs in hierarchically structured feedforward architectures. The other relies on the dynamic association of feature-specific cells into functionally coherent cell assemblies that, as a whole, represent the constellation of features defining a particular perceptual object. Arguments are presented that favour the notion that the metarepresentations supporting awareness are established in accordance with the second strategy. Experimental data are reviewed that are compatible with the hypothesis that evolved brains use assembly codes for the representation of contents and that these assemblies become organized through transient synchronization of the discharges of associated neurons. It is argued that central states favouring the formation of assembly-based representations are similar to those favouring awareness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center