For the past 25 years the neuroscientist Christoph Koch and the philosopher David Chalmers have debated the existence of consciousness. Their long friendship and interest in the subject led them to conclude that research was necessary to detect signs of consciousness in the brain. Their bet, made twenty-five years ago, proved optimistic, but subsequent research has shown that the answer to this question is still to be found.
In their search for signs of consciousness, Koch and his colleague Francis Crick turned their attention to an area of the brain known as the claustrum. Stimulation of this area in patients with epilepsy caused impaired consciousness, but further research did not confirm significant changes in conscious thinking. This led the researchers to search for alternative hypotheses.
One such hypothesis is the integrated information theory (IIT), which suggests that signs of consciousness can be found in the posterior cortex. Another hypothesis is the global network workspace theory (GNWT), which sees consciousness in the prefrontal cortex.
However, recent research presented at the ASSC conference showed that neither of these theories is entirely consistent with the data. This means that both theories require revision and further research.
Neuroscientists from around the world continue to work to find answers to questions about the nature of consciousness. However, as a neuroscientist from the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics points out, the degree of revision for each theory may differ.
Consciousness remains one of the most enigmatic and complex problems in science. But it is precisely this complexity that has piqued the interest of scientists, philosophers, and society at large. The search for answers to this question continues, and perhaps in the future we will be able to better understand the nature of consciousness.