Mind-Brain Lecture: Catherine Tallon-Baudry (Paris)
Consciousness, as described in the experimental literature, is a multi-faceted phenomenon, that impinges on other well-studied concepts such as attention and control. Do consciousness and attention refer to different aspects of the same core phenomenon, or do they correspond to distinct functions? One possibility to address this question is to examine the neural mechanisms underlying consciousness and attention. If consciousness and attention pertain to the same concept, they should rely on shared neural mechanisms. Conversely, if their underlying mechanisms are distinct, then consciousness and attention should be considered as distinct entities. I will present here a series of experiments in which both attention and consciousness were probed at the neural level, that point toward a neural dissociation between the two concepts. I will present a new hypothesis on the links between attention and consciousness, the cumulative influence model, in which attention and consciousness correspond to distinct neural mechanisms feeding a single decisional process leading to behavior, and show how that this model accounts for available neural and behavioral data. In this view, consciousness should not be considered as a top-level executive function but could rather be defined by its experiential properties.
Dr. Catherine Tallon-Baudry, Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives, INSERM-ENS U960, Paris