Abstract: The neural basis of consciousness is one of the most challenging and fundamental questions in science. Evidence from noninvasive functional neuroimaging studies has pointed to two distinct cortical systems that may mediate the ongoing stream of human consciousness, an internally directed system – default mode network (DMN) and an externally directed system – dorsal attention network (DAT). During Dr. Huang’s talk, he will present one of his recently published studies (Huang et al., 2020, Science Advances) entitled “Temporal Circuit of Macroscale Dynamic Brain Activity Supports Human Consciousness”. In this work, he and his colleagues examined how the two systems are regulated in the conscious brain, and how they are disrupted when consciousness is diminished. They developed a concept, the “temporal circuit”, characterized by a set of trajectories along which the dynamic brain activity occurs. The transitions between the DMN and DAT are embedded in the temporal circuit, where a balanced reciprocal accessibility of brain states is characteristic of consciousness. In contrast, an isolation of the DMN and DAT from the temporal circuit underlies unconsciousness of diverse etiologies. These findings provide new mechanistic understanding on the functional role of anti-correlated systems and consciousness. Next, Dr. Huang will discuss some ongoing and extended work on determining which brain region plays a key role in controlling the DMN-DAT transitions and in gating conscious access (i.e., the availability of consciously perceived information to cognitive processors).
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