Jul 11, 2010, 08:58 AM
I am wondering about where science currently suggests the "root" or primary areas of the brain related to conscious activity reside. I am aware there are detailed studies relating to the visual regions of the brain, however such knowledge tied to general thought and conscious decisions don't seem so clear. Any and all information is appreciated.
Aug 06, 2010, 12:17 AM
It is generally accepted that the neocortex is the source of our intelligence and awareness.
There is a theory that attempts to explain how the neocortex could be said to be aware. It is called the Hierarchical Temporal Memory model and it was developed by Jeff Hawkins. Though the concept of hierarchies in the cortex is probably not unique Jeff attempts to marry it with the concept of memory prediction.
We can see this theory in action if we recognize some of the vital components of the neocortex and the brain for providing awareness.
Without our hippocampus we cannot retain memories and without our thalamus we are essentially brain dead.
The thalamus being the part which connects the cortex to the brain stem makes this obviously important to the function of the brain as the cortex does nearly all of the thinking in the brain but the hippocampus seems almost extraneous being a sliver of brain tissue at the cusp of the neocortex as it cups over the brain stem.
Jeff Hawkins' theory describes the neocortex as a functional hierarchy where new information flows up the hierarchy until it reaches the top and then gets stored as it goes back down over time in the form of memories. Each hemisphere of the cortex I presume has it's own hierarchy converging from the thalamus into the hippocampus which is the highest tier of the hierarchy. This would explain why without the hippocampus the brain cannot form new memories.
Thus these two pieces of the brain which are vital to consciousness are theoretically explained, not in terms of themselves and consciousness but in terms of the entire brain as a hierarchy that supports consciousness. Without those parts the brain doesn't work but those parts alone cannot explain the functioning of the entire cortex to be aware.