About this Research Topic
During the last three decades, our understanding of the brain processes and networks that underlie consciousness and attention has significantly improved. Many studies in perception science have employed sophisticated experimental paradigms to dissociate conscious perception from attention and have shown that these mental faculties are supported by distinct (albeit strictly intertwined) brain processes. The contents of phenomenal consciousness are thought to be associated with the activity of multiple synchronized networks consisting of distributed cortical and subcortical regions. In turn, attention is supported by fronto-parietal networks and can provide focal awareness of specific features of reality.
Cases of consciousness without attention and of attention without consciousness have been examined in rigorous experimental contexts. There is therefore no doubt that these two mental processes can be dissociated. In altered mental states such as in people with psychiatric and neurological conditions, or under the influence of psychedelics, percepts can be experienced in the absence of sense-datum. However, there is still little understanding about the interplay of higher-order faculties in people affected by brain disorders (both psychiatric and neurological), such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as in other conditions that produce altered states of consciousness, such as hypnosis, hallucinations, etc. Perhaps, it would be more correct to refer to these cases as ‘altered states of attention’ rather than ‘altered states of consciousness’, but a systematic set of investigations, exploring this topic is needed, as well as a clear appraisal of the theoretical implications of the consciousness/attention dissociation.
The scope of this Research Topic is to investigate the interplay between consciousness and attention in different contexts, especially with regard to abnormal and/or pathological conditions of experience.
We are interested in any kind of contribution, ranging from reviews to meta-analyses to experimental studies. The list below suggests some potential themes to be addressed:
• Attention and consciousness in schizophrenic patients;
• Attention and consciousness in epilepsy;
• Attention and consciousness in neurodegenerative diseases;
• Attention and consciousness in chronic pain;
• Attention and consciousness during states of hypnosis, hallucinations, etc.;
• Attention and consciousness under psychedelic and substance influence;
• Appraisal of the theoretical implications of the consciousness/attention dissociation.
Keywords: Consciousness, Attention, Dissociation, Brain Network, Experience, Altered States
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