The Interstitial Pathways as the Substrate of Consciousness: A New Synthesis

Journal Article


This paper considers three classes of analyses of the nature of consciousness: abstract the‐ ories of the functional organization of consciousness, and concrete proposals as to the neural sub‐ strate of consciousness, while providing a rationale for contesting non‐neural and transcendental conceptualizations of consciousness. It indicates that abstract theories of the dynamic core of con‐ sciousness have no force unless they are grounded in the physiology of the brain, since the organi‐ zation of dynamic systems, such as the Sun, could equally well qualify as conscious under such theories. In reviewing the wealth of studies of human consciousness since the mid‐20th century, it concludes that many proposals for the particular neural substrate of consciousness are insufficient in various respects, but that the results can be integrated into a novel scheme that consciousness extends through a subcortical network of interlaminar structures from the brainstem to the claus‐ trum. This interstitial structure has both the specificity and the extended connectivity to account for the array of reportable conscious experiences.





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