Neurobiological Mechanisms Underlying Qualia

J Integr Neurosci. 2007 Dec;6(4):523-40. doi: 10.1142/s0219635207001696.


This paper argues that mechanisms underlying consciousness and qualia are likely to arise from the information processing that takes place within the detailed micro-structure of the cerebral cortex. It looks at two key issues: how any information processing system can recognize its own activity; and secondly, how this behavior could lead to the subjective experience of qualia. In particular, it explores the pattern processing capabilities of attractor networks, and the way that they can attribute meaning to their input patterns and goes on to show how these capabilities can lead to self-recognition. The paper suggests that although feedforward processing of information can be effective without attractor behavior, when such behavior is initiated, it would lead to self-recognition in those networks involved. It also argues that attentional mechanisms are likely to play a key role in enabling attractor behavior to take place. The paper explores the ability of attractor networks to generate representations of the meaning they assign to input patterns. It goes on to show how the way that they interpret representations of their own activity could give rise to qualia. The paper includes an examination of some limited neurobiological evidence that supports the theory outlined.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neurobiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology