Semin Neurol 1997; 17(2): 95-103
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1040918
© 1997 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.

Some Neurophysiologic Aspects of Consciousness

Joseph E. Bogen
  • University of Southern California Los Angeles, University of California at Los Angeles; and Visiting Professor of Computation and Neural Science, California Institute of Technology Pasadena, California
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19. März 2008 (online)


An anatomico-physiologic approach to consciousness is facilitated by recognizing that the various meanings of consciousness have in common a crucial core C variously called subjectivity, awareness, consciousness-as-such, or consciousness per se. A sharp distinction is made between the property C and the contents of consciousness, partial loss of which is typical of cerebro-cortical lesions. The neuronal mechanism producing subjectivity also acts as an attention-action coordinator, hence must have specific connectivity requirements. These requirements are best met by the thalamic intralaminar nuclei (ILN). Whereas large lesions elsewhere leave C undisturbed, quite small bilateral lesions in ILN engender immediate unresponsiveness. This combination of anatomic and neurologic evidence is bolstered by a variety of physiologic evidence leading to the conclusion that further investigations of the ILN, and their interaction with lower centers as well as cerebral cortex, are most apt to yield a better understanding of consciousness.