Methodological Summary

We can use all this to sketch a general methodology for the NCC search. First, we need methods for determining the contents of conscious experience in a subject, presumably by indirect behavioral criteria or by first-person phenomenology. Second, we need methods to monitor neural states in a subject, and in particular to monitor neural representational contents. Then we need to perform experiments in a variety of situations to determine which neural systems correlate with conscious states and which do not. Experiments involving normal brain functioning with unusual inputs and limited brain stimulation are particularly crucial here. Direct conclusions cannot be drawn from systems with lesions, but such systems can sometimes serve as indirect evidence. We need to consider multiple hypotheses in order to narrow down a set of minimal neural systems that correlate with consciousness across all relevant scenarios. We may well find many different NCCs in different modalities, and different NCCs for background state and conscious contents, although it is not out of the question that there will be only a small number. If all goes well, we might expect eventually to isolate systems that correlate strongly with consciousness across any normally functioning brain.

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