Connecting Consciousness: The role of large scale brain networks in consciousness
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Conscious awareness is the unitary experience we have of knowing what is happening around us and what we think and feel about that. Although stimulus information is initially processed in unimodal sensory areas, our experiences are multimodal. This requires the integration of information between various specialised brain areas. Such integration is facilitated in a dynamic network in which distant specialised areas are functionally connected. The global workspace model incorporates such a dynamic network and predicts that conscious awareness arises when different pieces of information are united in a single workspace. This model is supported by other theories of information integration. Additionally, the architecture of the brain, with long-range axonal bundles, is well equipped to sustain such a global workspace. Furthermore, the synchronised firing of neural populations that has been found to be related to visual consciousness suggests a way of how different features can be integrated into one percept. When we bring all of this together, there is considerable evidence for a global network in the brain that comprises of long-distance interactions between unimodal and multimodal, as well as between frontal and parietal areas. This suggests that when information is integrated in a global workspace, conscious awareness can arise from this.