The folks over at EDGE have an interesting new post about Stanislas Dehaene and his research into consciousness and the new hypothesis he has formulated around it. The talk occurred at an October 17 EDGE Reality Club meeting at The Hotel Ritz in Paris.
For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness. I am now happy to report that we have acquired a good working hypothesis.
The main thing Stanislas and his team noticed is that when neural activity in the brain exceeds a particular communications threshold across multiple brain areas, the brain enters a large-scale synchronous state and consciousness appears. The researchers have also devised an empirical test for the presence of consciousness and tested it on human patients in coma, vegitative state, and locked-in syndrome. So far, their test seems to reliably detect which patients have residual consciousness. For more, see the Cognitive Neuroimaging Research Unit.