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Archived Comments for: A thalamic reticular networking model of consciousness

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  1. Llinas; epistemic gap

    Steven Ravett Brown, U of Rochester

    3 April 2010

    First, this is an old, old, hypothesis. I'm disappointed not to see a single citation or mention of Llinas, who was one of the first to propose it, and who investigated it quite thoroughly (And largely unconvincingly. See my third comment. Llinas never resolved this, although he was aware of the issue.).

    Second, to call consciousness a "mental" state which is capable of "awareness", where the latter is a "mental" state which is "conscious" is egregious and vicious circularity. If you can't define it, why try? Just say you can't.

    Third, the author is evidently unfamiliar with or does not understand the "epistemic gap" (Levine's term) or so-called "hard problem" (a more casual label). This is central to any issue regarding consciousness, and was not even mentioned in this paper. If the author is not concerned with it, that should at least be stated. It's perfectly valid to say that the paper is concerned only with behavioral testing of a particular neural hypothesis related to conscious states, but in a paper which claims to set out a "model of consciousness", one should at least nod to this issue.

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  2. BKMin, Ramon-y-Cajal and Pierre Janet

    Paul Brown, The Pierre Janet Centre

    25 May 2011

    BK Min’s interesting article, ‘A thalamic reticular networking model of consciousness’ (Theor Biol Med Model, 2010; 7: 10) advances a model of consciousness that has its roots in the work of Ramon y Cajal. It is fascinating to speculate how the face of neuropsychiatry might have advanced, if Cajal had exchanged ideas with his French contemporary, the psychiatrist Pierre Janet! For at the same time that Cajal was making his wide-ranging neuro-anatomical discoveries, Janet was making comparable discoveries in the phenomenology, and psychopathology of consciousness. Essentially, Janet contemporaneously developed a synthesis-dissociation model of consciousness without suggesting its possible neuroanatomical basis.

    Janet, some five years Cajal’s junior, qualified in medicine a decade- and-a-half later, in Paris. They shared an involvement with ancient universities, yet in every other way one could not imagine two more distinct milieux. It was Ramón y Cajal who crossed the frontier between Spain and France; we have no evidence that Janet did so. Cajal became a corresponding member of the Society of Biology of Paris (1887). Cajàl was awarded the Fauvelle Prize of 1,500 francs of the Society of Biology of Paris (1896). The Moscow Prize of 5,000 francs, established by the Congress of Moscow (1897) to reward medical works which, published during the latter three years, have rendered the greatest services to science and humanity was awarded to Ramon y Cajàl by the International Congress of Medicine in Paris (1900). In 1906 he was elected an Associate Member of the Academy of Medicine, Paris. During that period, Janet was working at the Salpétrière, first under the neurologist, Charcot, and then under his successor, Raymond. Yet we have no evidence that Janet and Cajal ever met, and there is no reference to Cajal in Janet’s oeuvre. That is a pity, because Cajal’s concepts of the thalamo-cortical basis of consciousness would have wedded readily with Janet’s.

    In my own explorations into the neuroanatomical basis of consciousness, I find it useful to link consciousness with the agency and identity of the self. I hypothesize that thalamic substrates are responsible for switches between states of consciousness and corresponding self states, while cortical substrates are responsible for the finer variations of consciousness within each of those self states. The basal ganglia regulate self states via mechanisms of reinforcement, and the brainstem regulates levels of consciousness in the waking-sleep cycle. The cerebellum is the temporal modulator alongside these scalar controls, namely cortical, thalamic, basal ganglia and brainstem. I believe that the next step is to link anatomical studies with those of Janet and his present day neuropsychiatric successors.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Dr Paul Brown
    The Pierre Janet Centre
    Kfar Vradim, Israel

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