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ConsciousnessCreeping up on the hard problem$
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Jeffrey Gray

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198520917

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198520917.001.0001

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The neural correlate of consciousness

The neural correlate of consciousness

(p.181) Chapter 13 The neural correlate of consciousness

Jeffrey Gray

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the neural correlate of consciousness (NCC), a phrase coined by Francis Crick, which describes the neural activity that is proximal to any particular form of conscious experience. Crick's particular interest lies in the NCC of specifically visual awareness. He asks the question: what is the proximal activity underlying the visual qualia of colour, motion, shape, etc.? This emphasis on vision is driven, not theoretically, but practically, since so much more is known about this sense, both psychologically and physiologically, than any of the others. However, there is no reason to think that a solution found for the NCC of vision would be inapplicable in principle to the other senses, though the details, of course, might differ considerably. Note that this concept of the NCC specifically for vision is incompatible with the notion of a single Cartesian Theatre for all conscious experience considered in Chapter 11. Crick's approach implies, in contrast, that there will be multiple foci of neural activity, each proximal to a different type of qualia. However, it further implies that only some forms of neural activity can serve as NCCs. In particular, NCCs should be found in perceptual systems (since one is consciously aware of percepts) but not in systems whose operation does not figure in conscious awareness (ones, for example, that control pupillary dilation or walking).

Keywords:   consciousness, conscious experience, Francis Crick, neural correlate

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