Explicit Neural Representations, Recursive Neural Networks and Conscious Visual Perception


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Abstract

The fundamental question as to whether the neural correlates of any given conscious visual experience are expressed locally within a given cortical area or more globally within some widely distributed network remains unresolved. We inquire as to whether recursive processing—by which we mean the combined flow and integrated outcome of afferent and recurrent activity across a series of cortical areas—is essential for the emergence of conscious visual experience. If so, we further inquire as to whether such recursive processing is essential only for loops between extrastriate cortical areas explicitly representing experiences such as color or motion back to V1 or whether it is processing between still higher levels and the areas computing such explicit representations that is exclusively or additionally essential for visual experience. If recursive processing is not essential for the emergence of conscious visual experience, then it should also be possible to determine whether it is only the intracortical sensory processing within areas computing explicit sensory representations that is required for perceptual experience or whether it is the subsequent processing of the output of such areas within more anterior cortical regions that engenders perception. The present analysis suggests that the questions posed here may ultimately become experimentally resolvable. Whatever the outcome, the results will likely open new approaches to identify the neural correlates of conscious visual perception.

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