Location of Repository

Consciousness and the Prefrontal Parietal Network: Insights from Attention, Working Memory, and Chunking

By Daniel Bor and Anil K. Seth


Consciousness has of late become a “hot topic” in neuroscience. Empirical work has centered on identifying potential neural correlates of consciousness (NCCs), with a converging view that the prefrontal parietal network (PPN) is closely associated with this process. Theoretical work has primarily sought to explain how informational properties of this cortical network could account for phenomenal properties of consciousness. However, both empirical and theoretical research has given less focus to the psychological features that may account for the NCCs. The PPN has also been heavily linked with cognitive processes, such as attention. We describe how this literature is under-appreciated in consciousness science, in part due to the increasingly entrenched assumption of a strong dissociation between attention and consciousness. We argue instead that there is more common ground between attention and consciousness than is usually emphasized: although objects can under certain circumstances be attended to in the absence of conscious access, attention as a content selection and boosting mechanism is an important and necessary aspect of consciousness. Like attention, working memory and executive control involve the interlinking of multiple mental objects and have also been closely associated with the PPN. We propose that this set of cognitive functions, in concert with attention, make up the core psychological components of consciousness. One related process, chunking, exploits logical or mnemonic redundancies in a dataset so that it can be recoded and a given task optimized. Chunking has been shown to activate PPN particularly robustly, even compared with other cognitively demanding tasks, such as working memory or mental arithmetic. It is therefore possible that chunking, as a tool to detect useful patterns within an integrated set of intensely processed (attended) information, has a central role to play in consciousness. Following on from this, we suggest that a key evolutionary purpose of consciousness may be to provide innovative solutions to complex or novel problems

Topics: Psychology
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:3298966
Provided by: PubMed Central
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g... (external link)
  • Suggested articles



    1. (2012). 12Bor and Seth Consciousness, chunking, prefrontal parietal network
    2. (2012). 13Bor and Seth Consciousness, chunking, prefrontal parietal network R.
    3. (1988). A cognitive theory of consciousness.N e wY o r k ,N Y :
    4. (1981). A cortical network for directed attention and unilateral neglect.
    5. (2012). A shared cortical bottleneck underlying Attentional Blink andPsychologicalRefractoryPeriod.
    6. (2007). A theory of microconsciousness.
    7. (1990). A theory of visual attention.
    8. (1997). Abnormal temporaldynamicsof visualattentionin spatial neglect patients.
    9. (2007). Abstract coding of audiovisual speech: beyond sensory representation.
    10. (2011). accepted: 18
    11. (2006). Always returning: feedback andsensoryprocessinginvisualcortex and thalamus.
    12. (2007). An information theoretical approach to prefrontal executive function.
    13. and Osaka,N.(2011).Dissociableneural activations of conscious visibility and attention.
    14. andDesimone,R.(1998).Responses of neurons in inferior temporal cortex during memory-guided visual search.
    15. (2008). Attended but unseen: visual attention is not sufficient for visual awareness.
    16. (2004). Attention alters appearance.
    17. (2007). Attention and consciousness: two distinct brain processes.
    18. (2007). Attention attenuates metacontrast masking.
    19. (2006). Attention speeds binocular rivalry.
    20. (1994). Attention: the mechanisms of consciousness.
    21. (1999). Attentional effects on preattentive vision: spatial precues affect the detection of simple features.
    22. (1997). Attentional requirements in a ’preattentive’ feature search task.
    23. (2011). Biology of consciousness.
    24. (2003). Brain, conscious experience and the observing self.
    25. (2005). Causal connectivity of evolved neural networks during behavior.
    26. (2011). Causal density and integrated information as measures of conscious level.
    27. (2009). Causal role of prefrontal cortex in the threshold for access to consciousness.
    28. (2001). Cerebral mechanisms of word masking andunconsciousrepetitionpriming.
    29. (2001). Chunking mechanisms in human learning.
    30. (2006). Conscious awareness of flicker in humans involves frontal and parietal cortex.
    31. (2010). Conscious thought is for facilitating social and cultural interactions: how mental simulations serve the animal-culture interface.
    32. (2010). Consciousness and attention: On sufficiency and necessity.
    33. (2005). Consciousness and Mind.
    34. (2012). Consciousness and the prefrontal parietal network:insightsfromattention,working memory, and chunking. Front. Psychology 3:63. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00063 This article was submitted to Frontiers in Consciousness Research, a specialty of Frontiers
    35. (2008). Consciousness as integrated information: a provisional manifesto.
    36. (2007). Consciousness, accessibility, and the mesh between psychology and neuroscience.
    37. (2009). Converging intracranial markers of conscious access.
    38. (1999). Covariation of activity in visual and prefrontal cortex associated with subjective visual perception.
    39. (2010). Disrupting parietal function prolongs dominance durations in binocular rivalry.
    40. (2007). Dissociating speech perception and comprehension at reduced levels of awareness.
    41. (2010). Dissociation between memory accuracy and memory confi-dence following bilateral parietal lesions.
    42. (2009). Distributed and antagonistic contributions of ongoing activity fluctuations to auditory stimulus detection.
    43. (2010). Dynamic neuroplasticity after human prefrontal cortex damage.
    44. (2007). Dynamics of prefrontal and cingulate activity during a reward-based logical deduction task.
    45. E.(2007).Synchronizationof neural activity across cortical areas correlates with conscious perception.
    46. (2011). Empirical support for higher-order theories of conscious awareness.
    47. (2003). Encoding strategiesdissociateprefrontalactivity from working memory demand.
    48. (2006). EPS Mid-Career Award 2004: brain mechanisms of attention.
    49. (1995). Escape from linear time: prefrontal cortex and conscious experience,” in The New Cognitive Neurosciences,
    50. (2011). Experimental and theoreticalapproachestoconsciousprocessing.
    51. (2005). Eye-specific effects of binocular rivalry in the human lateral geniculate nucleus.
    52. (2006). Frontal lobe involvement in spatial span: Converging studies of normal and impaired function.
    53. (2007). Functional coupling of human prefrontal and premotorareasduringcognitivemanipulation.
    54. (2007). Fundamental componentsof attention.Annu.
    55. (2005). Global workspace theory of consciousness: toward a cognitive neuroscience of human experience.
    56. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events.
    57. (2010). How neurosciencewillchangeourviewonconsciousness.
    58. (2010). How rich is consciousness? The partial awareness hypothesis.
    59. (1998). Human brain activity during spontaneously reversing perception of ambiguous figures.
    60. (2010). Human Parietal Cortex StructurePredictsIndividualDifferences in Perceptual Rivalry.
    61. (2008). Integrated information in discrete dynamical systems: motivation and theoretical framework.
    62. (2000). Integration of diverse information in working memory within the frontal lobe.
    63. (2011). Integration without awareness: expanding the limits of unconscious processing.
    64. J.,Parker,A.,and vanEe,R.(2010).Attendingtoauditory signals slows visual alternations in binocular rivalry.
    65. (2009). Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and diffusion tensor imaging in coma survivors: promises and pitfalls.
    66. (2008). Measuring consciousness: relating behavioural and neurophysiological approaches.
    67. (1999). Metacontrast masking and attention.
    68. (2007). Models of Consciousness. Scholarpedia 2007.Available at: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/ Models_of_consciousness Seth,
    69. (1994). Motor sequence learning:astudywithpositronemission tomography.
    70. (2011). Natural-scene perception requires attention.
    71. (2003). Naturalizing consciousness: a theoretical framework.
    72. (2010). Network architecture of the longdistance pathways in the macaque brain.
    73. (2006). Neural correlates of crossmodal visual-tactile extinction and oftactileawarenessrevealedbyfMRI inaright-hemispherestrokepatient.
    74. (1998). Neural correlates of perceptual rivalry in the human brain.
    75. (2002). Neural correlates of spontaneous direction reversals in ambiguous apparent visual motion.
    76. (2007). Neural correlates of the contents of visual awareness in humans.
    77. (2006). Neural mechanisms of expert skills in visual working memory.
    78. (1995). Neural mechanisms of selective visualattention.Annu.Rev.Neurosci.
    79. (2009). Neurobiological theories of consciousness,”
    80. (2003). Neuroimaging studies of working memory: a meta-analysis.
    81. (2003). Non-spatially lateralized mechanisms in hemispatial neglect.
    82. (2006). observers and the neural correlate of visual consciousness.
    83. (2006). On making the right choice: the deliberation-without-attention effect.
    84. (2010). Opposing effects of attention and consciousness on afterimages.
    85. (2011). Oscillatory synchronization in large-scale cortical networks predicts perception.
    86. (1958). Perception and
    87. (2011). Practical measures of integrated information for time-series data.
    88. (2004). Prefrontal cortical involvement in verbal encoding strategies.
    89. (2002). Rapid natural scene categorization in the near absence of attention.
    90. (2007). Readout from iconic memory and selective spatial attentioninvolvesimilarneuralprocesses.
    91. (2010). Relating introspective accuracy to individualdifferencesinbrainstructure.
    92. (2000). Restoration of thalamocortical connectivity after recovery from persistent vegetative state.
    93. (2006). Right parietal cortex plays a critical role in change blindness.
    94. Riklund Åhlström,K.,andNyberg,L.(2004). Visual consciousness: dissociating the neural correlates of perceptual transitions from sustained perception with fMRI.
    95. (2010). Role of taskdirected attention in nonconscious and conscious response priming by formandcolor.J.Exp.Psychol.Hum.
    96. (1999). Spatial attention and neglect: parietal, frontal and cingulate contributions to the mental representation and attentional targeting of salient extrapersonal events.
    97. (2000). Spatial covert attention increases contrast sensitivity across the CSF: support for signal enhancement. Vision Res.
    98. (1996). Speed of processing in the human visual system.
    99. (1995). Superior parietal cortex activation during spatial attention shifts and visual feature conjunction.
    100. (2008). The attentional cost of inattentional blindness.
    101. (2007). The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex contributes to successful relational memory encoding.
    102. (2010). The grand challenge of consciousness.
    103. (2008). The neural correlates of consciousness:
    104. (2011). The primary visual cortex,and feedback to it, are not necessary for conscious vision.
    105. (2010). The relation between consciousness and attention: an empirical study using the priming paradigm.
    106. (2008). The role of gist in scene recognition.
    107. (2001). The role of spatial configuration in tests of working memory explored with functional neuroimaging.
    108. (2004). The role of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in visual change awareness.
    109. (2004). The superiority of HOP over HOT,”in Higher-Order TheoriesofConsciousness:AnAnthology,
    110. (2005). Theta burst stimulation of thehumanmotorcortex.Neuron 45,
    111. (2010). Theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation to the prefrontalcorteximpairsmetacognitive visual awareness.
    112. (2009). Think, blink or sleep on it? The impact of modes of thought on complex decision making.
    113. (2012). This is an open-access article distributed under thetermsoftheCreativeCommonsAttribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.
    114. (2006). TMS over right posterior parietal cortex induces neglect in a scenebased frame of reference.
    115. (1997). To see or not to see: The need for attention to perceive changes in scenes.
    116. (2001). Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: basic evidence and a workspaceframework.Cognition 79,
    117. (2006). Towards a true neural stance on consciousness.
    118. (2007). Training-induced functional activationchangesindual-taskprocessing: an FMRI study.
    119. (2002). Transient neural activity in human parietal cortex during spatial attention shifts.
    120. (2005). Traveling waves of activity in primary visual cortex during binocular rivalry.
    121. (2008). Ultra-rapid categorizationrequiresvisualattention:Scenes with multiple foreground objects.
    122. (2011). Unconscious intuition or conscious analysis? Critical questions for the Deliberation-Without-Attentionparadigm.Judgm.Decis.Mak.
    123. (2007). Unconscious word processing engages a distributed network of brain regions.
    124. (1995). Visual attention modulates metacontrast masking.
    125. (2009). Visual awareness, emotion, and gamma band synchronization.
    126. (1996). Visual neglect associated with frontal lobe infarction.
    127. (2004). Warning: attending to a mask may be hazardous to your perception.
    128. (2005). What in the world is consciousness?
    129. (1986). Willed and automatic control of behavior,”in Consciousness and SelfRegulation.AdvancesinResearchand Theory, eds
    130. (1974). Working memory,”

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.