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Consciousness, plasticity, and connectomics: the role of intersubjectivity in human cognition

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  • Micah Galen Allen
  • Gary Williams, Washington University, Dept of Philosophy, Neuroscience, & Psychology, United States
Consciousness is typically construed as being explainable purely in terms of either private, raw feels or higher-order, reflective representations. In contrast to this false dichotomy, we propose a new view of consciousness as an interactive, plastic phenomenon open to sociocultural influence. We take up our account of consciousness from the observation of radical cortical neuroplasticity in human development. Accordingly, we draw upon recent research on macroscopic neural networks, including the “default mode,” to illustrate cases in which an individual’s particular “connectome” is shaped by encultured social practices that depend upon and influence phenomenal and reflective consciousness. On our account, the dynamically interacting connectivity of these networks bring about important individual differences in conscious experience and determine what is “present” in consciousness. Further, we argue that the organization of the brain into discrete anti-correlated networks supports the phenomenological distinction of prereflective and reflective consciousness, but we emphasize that this finding must be interpreted in light of the dynamic, category-resistant nature of consciousness. Our account motivates philosophical and empirical hypotheses regarding the appropriate time-scale and function of neuroplastic adaptation, the relation of high and low-frequency neural activity to consciousness and cognitive plasticity, and the role of ritual social practices in neural development and cognitive function.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
ISSN1664-1078
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2011

    Research areas

  • connectomics, consciousness, intrinsic connectivity, cognitive neuroscience

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