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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Neurotypical subjective experience is caused by a hippocampal simulation

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We propose that the phenomenon known to neurologically intact people as ‘Subjective Experience’ is best understood as the activation of various sites in both extrinsic and intrinsic networks by a brand new episodic memory engram (i.e., a complex theta wave coding pattern originating from field CA1 of the hippocampus). Like a media news outlet, the hippocampal complex receives reportage from widely distributed structures around the brain and organizes and binds those reports together into a brand new episodic memory (i.e., a virtual‐reality, movie‐like, unified, contextualized, but vastly simplified summation of what just happened). This memory pattern is then ‘broadcast’ back to structures across the brain (via bidirectional pathways to and from the entorhinal cortex and perirhinal area) for error correction, to expedite predictive processing, and to inform sites in both extrinsic and intrinsic networks of one unified history. It is the cortical activation by the new episodic memory engram that gives rise to the event of experiencing. Because episodic memory is the only unified and contextualized representation of self‐in‐the‐world in the brain, and because it informs most of the major cortices about ‘what just happened,’ it is subjectively misinterpreted as the actual interaction of the body/mind with its environment. This misinterpretation offers insight into many of the distinct and mysterious features of neurotypical subjective experience and the pathologies of consciousness. WIREs Cogn Sci 2017, 8:e1412. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1412 This article is categorized under: Philosophy > Consciousness Neuroscience > Anatomy
In Daniel Dennett's Cartesian Theater thought experiment (1991), an inner ‘I’ or ‘consciousness’ is the witness of the multimodal movie of experience and uses that movie to decide and enact behavior. In contrast, the model we are proposing has no ‘conscious self,’ only the unified representation of pre‐memory self‐processes and body states. The multimodal movie of experience, including the representation of self, is generated in the HC for the sake of memory and for communicating one specific interpretation of reality with the rest of the brain.
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Hippocampal complex anatomy and data flow.
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