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Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Syst. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2019.00043

Coupling the state and contents of consciousness

  • 1University of Tartu, Estonia
  • 2Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
  • 3NeuroCure, Charité Medical University of Berlin, Germany

One fundamental feature of consciousness is that the contents of consciousness depend on the state of consciousness. Here we propose an answer to why this is so: both the state and the contents of consciousness depend on the activity of cortical layer 5 pyramidal neurons. These neurons affect both cortical and thalamic processing, hence coupling the cortico-cortical and thalamo-cortical loops with each other. Functionally this coupling corresponds to the coupling between the state and the contents of consciousness. Together the cortico-cortical and thalamo-cortical loops form a thalamo-cortical broadcasting system, where the layer 5 pyramidal cells are the central elements. This perspective makes one quite specific prediction: cortical processing that does not include layer 5 pyramidal neurons will be unconscious. More generally, the present perspective suggests that layer 5 pyramidal neurons have a central role in the mechanisms underlying consciousness.

Keywords: Consciousness, Thalamus, Pyramidal neurons, unconscious processing, state of consciousness, Dendrites

Received: 29 Mar 2019; Accepted: 13 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Igor Timofeev, Laval University, Canada

Reviewed by:

Francisco Clasca, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
Marco Atzori, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Mexico  

Copyright: © 2019 Aru, Suzuki, Rutiku, Larkum and Bachmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jaan Aru, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia,