neuronal assemblies & consciousness
A remarkable study suggests that consciousness results when a signficiant number of neurons, already assembled in neural columns, respond to external stimuli to create a conscious state.
“Assemblies can be formed anytime and anywhere within the association areas. Thus, consciousness is spatially multiple. However, at a single time, only one assembly is large enough to create the conditions necessary to initiate a conscious state. So, only one consciousness is realized at any one time.”
A fascinating article Cortical Association Areas and Neuronal Assemblies discusses the theory of neuronal assembly as introduced by Susan Greenfield, examining how it accounts for dreaming as well as for the unbidden intrusion of images or thoughts into consciousness.
Background: Susan Greenfield’s discussion of neuronal assemblies, plasticity, and the “Rosetta Stone” of consciousness. Early research, investigating a definition of the brain as a computer-like network, where neural networks become potent through continuous exposure to similar information display, postulates the thalamo-cortical system as the most probable locus of human consciousness. (see Newman and Baars on the thalamo-cortical system)