By Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi
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Extra resources for A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination
There is also often a conscious fringe, which has to do with feelings of familiarity, of being right or wrong, of being satisfied or not. There can be, as well, all those refined discriminations that are the essence of culture and art. Finally, conscious experience varies in its intensity; the global level of alertness can range from relaxed slumbering to the hypervigilant state of the fighter pilot in action, and sensory perception can be more or less vivid. There is the well-known ability, called attention, to select or differentially amplify certain conscious experiences to the exclusion of others.
The unity of conscious experience is closely associated with the coherence of perceptual events. 2). In these cases, we cannot be aware of two mutually incoherent scenes or objects at the same time because our conscious states are not only unified, but are internally coherent in the sense that the occurrence of a certain perceptual state precludes the simultaneous occurrence of another one. This requirement that conscious states be coherent is also seen with ambiguous words. We know that the word mean can mean both average and lowly, yet at any given time we are conscious of only one of its meanings, depending on the context.
This functional segregation is seen at many different spatial scales. For example, the back of the thalamocortical system is roughly devoted to perception, while the front is devoted to action and planning. Most of these cortical areas are assembled as maps: Neighboring neurons from one area connect with neighboring neurons in another. Different cerebral cortical areas and their associated thalamic nuclei are also specialized; some areas deal with visual stimuli, for instance, while others deal with acoustic stimuli and still others with tactile stimuli.