Neural representations of the sense of self. | Academic Article individual record

The brain constructs representations of what is sensed and thought about in the form of nerve impulses that propagate in circuits and network assemblies (Circuit Impulse Patterns, CIPs). CIP representations of which humans are consciously aware occur in the context of a sense of self. Thus, research on mechanisms of consciousness might benefit from a focus on how a conscious sense of self is represented in brain. Like all senses, the sense of self must be contained in patterns of nerve impulses. Unlike the traditional senses that are registered by impulse flow in relatively simple, pauci-synaptic projection pathways, the sense of self is a system- level phenomenon that may be generated by impulse patterns in widely distributed complex and interacting circuits. The problem for researchers then is to identify the CIPs that are unique to conscious experience. Also likely to be of great relevance to constructing the representation of self are the coherence shifts in activity timing relations among the circuits. Consider that an embodied sense of self is generated and contained as unique combinatorial temporal patterns across multiple neurons in each circuit that contributes to constructing the sense of self. As with other kinds of CIPs, those representing the sense of self can be learned from experience, stored in memory, modified by subsequent experiences, and expressed in the form of decisions, choices, and commands. These CIPs are proposed here to be the actual physical basis for conscious thought and the sense of self. When active in wakefulness or dream states, the CIP representations of self act as an agent of the brain, metaphorically as an avatar. Because the selfhood CIP patterns may only have to represent the self and not directly represent the inner and outer worlds of embodied brain, the self representation should have more degrees of freedom than subconscious mind and may therefore have some capacity for a free-will mind of its own. S everal lines of evidence for this theory are reviewed. Suggested new research includes identifying distinct combinatorially coded impulse patterns and their temporal coherence shifts in defined circuitry, such as neocortical microcolumns. This task might be facilitated by identifying the micro-topography of field-potential oscillatory coherences among various regions and between different frequencies associated with specific conscious mentation. Other approaches can include identifying the changes in discrete conscious operations produced by focal trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.

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Klemm, W. R.
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