Aug 2, 2023

The Global Workspace Theory of Consciousness

Posted by in category: neuroscience

Global Workspace Theory (GWT) can be compared to a theater of mind, in which conscious contents resemble a bright spot on the stage of immediate memory, selected by a spotlight of attention under executive guidance. Only the bright spot is conscious; the rest of the theater is dark and unconscious. GWT has been implemented in a number of explicit and testable global workspace models (GWM’s). These specific GW models suggest that conscious experiences recruit widely distributed brain functions that are mostly unconscious (unreportable). A large body of new findings support that view. For example, brain experiments show that while unconscious visual stimuli evoke high activity in visual cortex, identical conscious stimuli reveal an additional spread of high brain activity to frontal and parietal lobes (Dehaene, 2001). Similar results have been found for hearing, touch, pain, and sensorimotor skills (Baars, 2002). The conscious waking state supports such fast, flexible, and widespread brain interactions, while unconscious states do not (Baars et al, 2004). These findings illustrate the ability of the GW framework to suggest novel and falsifiable hypotheses.

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