A recently proposed model of sensory processing suggests that perceptual experience is updated in discrete steps. We show that the data advanced to support discrete perception are in fact compatible with a continuous account of perception. Physiological and psychophysical constraints, moreover, as well as our awake-primate imaging data, imply that human neuronal networks cannot support discrete updates of perceptual content at the maximal update rates consistent with phenomenology. A more comprehensive approach to understanding the physiology of perception (and experience at (...) large) is therefore called for, and we briefly outline our take on the problem. (shrink)
A computational theory of consciousness should include a quantitative measure of consciousness, or MoC, that (i) would reveal to what extent a given system is conscious, (ii) would make it possible to compare not only different systems, but also the same system at different times, and (iii) would be graded, because so is consciousness. However, unless its design is properly constrained, such an MoC gives rise to what we call the boundary problem: an MoC that labels a system as conscious (...) will do so for some – perhaps most – of its subsystems, as well as for irrelevantly extended systems (e.g., the original system augmented with physical appendages that contribute nothing to the properties supposedly supporting consciousness), and for aggregates of individually conscious systems (e.g., groups of people). This problem suggests that the properties that are being measured are epiphenomenal to consciousness, or else it implies a bizarre proliferation of minds. We propose that a solution to the boundary problem can be found by identifying properties that are intrinsic or systemic: properties that clearly differentiate between systems whose existence is a matter of fact, as opposed to those whose existence is a matter of interpretation (in the eye of the beholder). We argue that if a putative MoC can be shown to be systemic, this ipso facto resolves any associated boundary issues. As test cases, we analyze two recent theories of consciousness in light of our definitions: the Integrated Information Theory and the Geometric Theory of consciousness. (shrink)
Perceptual experience can be explained by contextualized brain dynamics. An inner loop of ongoing activity within the brain produces dynamic patterns of synchronization and de- synchronization that are necessary, but not sufficient, for visual experience. This inner loop is controlled by evolution, development, socialization, learning, task and perception- action contingencies, which constitute an outer loop. This outer loop is sufficient, but not necessary, for visual experience. Jointly, the inner and outer loop may offer sufficient and necessary conditions for the emergence (...) of visual experience. This hypothesis has methodological, empirical, theoretical, and philosophical implications. (shrink)
We investigated the possible causes of perceptual switching in ambiguous figures. Ambiguous figures are a special class of visual stimuli that can give rise to at least two alternative interpretations. Because the figures themselves stay the same, these stimuli are particularly suitable to study the dynamic changes in our visual apparatus that enable us to see the world in different ways. Recent studies stress the importance of both low-level and high-level processes in switching. We show that these processes lead to (...) switching independently, and that, when they co-occur, they do not occur at exactly the same time.We take these results to indicate that perceptual switching is a radically multiply realizable process, in that various neurological states can instantiate it in a single individual from time to time. We reflect on the consequences of this conclusion for experiential realism, in particular the notion that embodiment misleads us in identifying psychological types. (shrink)
The ecological realist concept of information as environmental specification is discussed. It is argued that affordances in ecological realism could, in principle, rest on a notion of partial specification of environmental circumstances. For this aim, a notion of Gestalt quality as a hierarchical structure of affordances would have to be adopted. It is claimed that such an account could provide a promising way to deal with problems of intentionality in perception and action, awareness and problem solving.
Tsuda's article suggests several plausible concepts of neurodynamic representation and processing, with a thoughtful discussion of their neurobiological grounding and formal properties. However, Tsuda's theory leads to a holistic view of brain functions and to the controversial conclusion that the “binding problem” is a pseudo-problem. By contrast, we stress the role of chaotic patterns in solving the binding problem, in terms of flexible temporal coding of visual scenes through graded and intermittent synchrony.
Barlow's concept of the exploitation of environmental statistical regularities may be more plausibly related to brain mechanisms than Shepard's notion of internalisation. In our view, Barlow endorses a bottom-up approach to neural coding and processing, whereas we suggest that feedback interactions in the visual system, as well as chaotic correlation dynamics in the brain, are crucial in exploiting and assimilating environmental regularities. We also discuss the “conceptual tension” between Shepard's ideas of law internalisation and evolutionary adaptation. [Barlow; Shepard].
The attempt to provide a faithful mapping from distal shape space to proximal state space in terms of a higher order relationship defined over proximal similarity space stumbles on the context sensitivity of higher order relationships. Proportional analogy problems using quadruples of figures illustrate that for a number of interesting perceptual problems, the number of relevant dimensions cannot be reduced.
In the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness, participants have commonly been instructed to report their conscious content. This, it was claimed, risks confounding the neural correlates of consciousness with their preconditions, i.e., allocation of attention, and consequences, i.e., metacognitive reflection. Recently, the field has therefore been shifting towards no-report paradigms. No-report paradigms draw their validity from a direct comparison with no-report conditions. We analyze several examples of such comparisons and identify alternative interpretations of their results and/or methodological issues in all cases. (...) These go beyond the previous criticism that just removing the report is insufficient, because it does not prevent metacognitive reflection. The conscious mind is fickle. Without having much to do, it will turn inward and switch, or timeshare, between the stimuli on display and daydreaming or mind-wandering. Thus, rather than the NCC, no-report paradigms might be addressing the neural correlates of conscious disengagement. This observation reaffirms the conclusion that no-report paradigms are no less problematic than report paradigms. (shrink)