Homing in on Consciousness in the Nervous System: An Action-Based Synthesis

Vol./ Issue: 
June 2015
57 [PDF]
Material Type: 
Theoretical paper

At the time of adding this item it is described as "Target Articles Under Commentary June 2015" and the version downloadable from the Gazzeley Labs repository states "Uncorrected Proof - Please Do Not Quote". (The quotations below are purely to indicate the relevance of the article.)

This is a major theoretical exercise outlining the "Passive Frame Theory" of consciousness. A key element in this is that consciousness is essentially geared to voluntary movement (though this is not in itself a new idea). The "long abstract" notes:

The theory proposes that the primary function of consciousness is well-circumscribed, serving the somatic nervous system. Inside this system, consciousness serves as a frame that constrains and directs skeletal muscle output, thereby yielding adaptive behavior. The mechanism by which consciousness achieves this is more counterintuitive, passive, and ‘low level’ than the kinds of functions that theorists have previously attributed to consciousness. [p2 of PDF]

Further on, the authors note:

Our approach is untraditional in several ways. First, instead of focusing on the relationship between consciousness and perception (which has been the dominant approach; Crick & Koch, 2003; Rosenbaum, 2005), we focus instead on the relationship between consciousness and overt action. Second, unlike traditional stimulus-response approaches, we ‘work backward’ from overt action to the underlying processes responsible for it (Sperry, 1952). Thus, from our untraditional, action-based approach, we subscribe to an uncommon theoretical position—that the nature of consciousness is best understood by examining the requirements of adaptive (efferent) action control rather than the needs of perceptual analysis. From this unconventional approach to consciousness, one can appreciate that the requirements of adaptive skeletomotor action reveal much about the nature of both the conscious field and the generation of conscious contents. [p5 of PDF]

There are extensive references.