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August 2017

Consciousness as Sequential Dynamics, Robustness, and Mental Disorders

Author Affiliations
  • 1BioCircuits Institute, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla
  • 2Grupo de Neurocomputación Biológica, Departmento de Ingeniería Informática, Escuela Politécnica Superior, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(8):771-772. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0273

Human behavior is a sequential process, and at least its mechanical side can be described by equations. A similar statement related to consciousness is not so evident. A common view is that consciousness is an intriguing but too complex phenomenon and thus a topic not ready for mathematical description. However, converging evidence from imaging and from perceptual and modeling experiments suggests that all components or modules of consciousness, such as autobiographic memory, attention, learning, and thought generation, are sequential processes. In such sequential processes, one pattern transiently prevails on the others. Mathematically, this can be described as a transition between the vicinity of different metastable states, ie, semiattractors formed within brain functional hierarchical networks through learning and development.1

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