Being Conscious

The first option is that the states in question are those of being conscious and of not being conscious. The corresponding notion of an NCC will be that of a neural system whose state directly correlates with whether a subject is conscious or not. If the NCC is in a particular state, the subject will be conscious. If the NCC is not in that state, the subject will not be conscious.

This is perhaps the idea that first comes to mind when we think about an NCC. We might think about it as the "neural correlate of creature consciousness," where creature consciousness is the property a creature has when it is conscious, and lacks when it is not conscious.

Although this is an interesting notion, it does not seem to capture the sort of NCC that most work in the area is aimed at. As we'll see, most current work is aimed at something more specific. There are, however, some ideas that can be taken as aiming at this notion at least in part. For example, the ideas of Bogen (1995) about the intralaminar nucleus seem to be directed at least in part at this sort of NCC.

Examining current work, it's interesting to note that insofar as there is any consensus at all about the location of this sort of NCC, the dominant view seems to be that it should be in or around the thalamus, or at least that it should involve interactions between the thalamic and cortical systems in a central role. Penfield (1937) argued that "the indispensable substratum of consciousness'' lies outside the cerebral cortex, probably in the diencephalon (thalamus, hypothalamus, subthalamus, epithalamus). This theme has been taken up in recent years by Bogen, Newman and Baars (1993), and others.

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