A Conceptual Framework for Consciousness

4 aprile 2024
Orario di inizio 
Organizzato da: 
Dottorato in Cognitive and Brain Sciences, CIMeC
Alumni UniTrento
Comunità universitaria
Dipendenti UniTrento
Ingresso libero
Online su prenotazione
Email per prenotazione: 
Scadenza prenotazioni: 
4 gennaio 2024, 12:00
Matteo De Matola, Davide Mazzaccara, Elisa Pasquini
+39 0464 808617
Michael S. A. Graziano, Professor, Princeton University

Neuroscientists understand the basic principles of how the brain processes information. But how does it become subjectively aware of at least some of that information? What is consciousness? In my lab we are developing a theoretical and experimental approach to these questions that we call the Attention Schema theory (AST). The theory seeks to explain how an information-processing machine could act the way people do, insisting it has consciousness, describing consciousness in the ways that we do, and attributing similar properties to others. AST begins with attention, a mechanistic method of handling data. In the theory, the brain does more than use attention to enhance some signals at the expense of others. It also monitors attention. It constructs information – schematic information – about what attention is, what the consequences of attention are, and what its own attention is doing at any moment. Both descriptive and predictive, this “attention schema” is used to help control attention, much as the “body schema,” the brain’s internal model of the body, is used to help control the body. All introspective claims about ourselves derive from information encoded in the brain. The attention schema is the hypothesized source of our claim to have consciousness. Based on the incomplete, schematic information present in the attention schema, the brain concludes that it has a non-physical, subjective awareness. In AST, awareness is a caricature of attention. We implicitly model attention in a schematic, magicalist way, as a mental energy in people’s heads. Our deepest intuitions about conscious experience as a hard problem, or as an ineffable essence, may stem from the brain’s sloppy but functionally useful models of attention. This theory also lends itself directly to understanding artificial consciousness.