Aug 2, 2023

Global Workspace Theory (GWT) and Prefrontal Cortex: Recent Developments

Posted by in category: neuroscience

In this work, we provide a brief overview of Global Workspace Theory (GWT), along with recent developments and clarifications of modern neuroscientific evidence. GWT started in the 1980s as a purely psychological theory of conscious cognition, and has become a prominent approach in scientific studies of consciousness (Mashour et al., 2020). Based on today’s far more detailed understanding of the brain, GWT has adapted to new waves of evidence. The brain-based version of GWT is called Global Workspace Dynamics (GWD) (Baars et al., 2013; Baars and Geld, 2019) precisely because the cortex is viewed as a “unified oscillatory machine” (Steriade, 1999). GWT therefore joins other theories in viewing consciousness as the product of highly integrated and widespread cortico-thalamic (C-T) activity, following a long trail of evidence (Dehaene et al., 1998).

Here we aim to clarify some empirical questions that have been raised, and review evidence that the prefrontal and posterior regions support dynamic global workspace functions, in agreement with several other authors. Static, gross anatomical divisions are superseded by the dynamical connectome of cortex.

We aim to correct the following misunderstandings. In a recent paper, Raccah et al. (2021) claimed that the prefrontal cortex (PfC) is not causally involved in enabling consciousness, based on a review of intracranial electrical stimulation (iES) experiments. We will show that Raccah et al.’s claim that the prefrontal cortex (PfC) does not support consciousness is incorrect.

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