Consciousness as Unitary

One model of consciousness is that it is unitary. Visual percepts (whether of colors, objects, faces, or movement) and other sense modalities (hearing, touching, emotional responses, motor plans, etc.) are all categories of a single thing—"consciousness." The point is that here, consciousness is being used as a high-level descriptor, in the same way that "car" is a high-level descriptor of wheels, chassis, engine, dashboard, and so on. The neurobiological ontology of unitary consciousness is at the level of "car" rather than "wheel." The unitary neural correlate converts different types of neural signals into percepts, remaining indifferent to the type of information it receives (see figure 14.1a). The unitary structure of consciousness has no implications for its neurobiology. The neural correlate could be localized to a single cortical or subcortical region, be distributed across a network, or represent a nonlocalized process, such as the synchronization of neuronal firing. The neural correlate is "on" when we are "conscious" and "off" when we are not "conscious."

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