Concept

Neural correlates of consciousness

Summary
The neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) refer to the relationships between mental states and neural states and constitute the minimal set of neuronal events and mechanisms sufficient for a specific conscious percept. Neuroscientists use empirical approaches to discover neural correlates of subjective phenomena; that is, neural changes which necessarily and regularly correlate with a specific experience. The set should be minimal because, under the materialist assumption that the brain is sufficient to give rise to any given conscious experience, the question is which of its components are necessary to produce it. A science of consciousness must explain the exact relationship between subjective mental states and brain states, the nature of the relationship between the conscious mind and the electro-chemical interactions in the body (mind–body problem). Progress in neuropsychology and neurophilosophy has come from focusing on the body rather than the mind. In this context the neuronal correlates of consciousness may be viewed as its causes, and consciousness may be thought of as a state-dependent property of an undefined complex, adaptive, and highly interconnected biological system. Discovering and characterizing neural correlates does not offer a causal theory of consciousness that can explain how particular systems experience anything, the so-called hard problem of consciousness, but understanding the NCC may be a step toward a causal theory. Most neurobiologists propose that the variables giving rise to consciousness are to be found at the neuronal level, governed by classical physics. There are theories proposed of quantum consciousness based on quantum mechanics. There is an apparent redundancy and parallelism in neural networks so, while activity in one group of neurons may correlate with a percept in one case, a different population may mediate a related percept if the former population is lost or inactivated. It may be that every phenomenal, subjective state has a neural correlate.
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