Friday, July 22, 2005

Roll over the neural correlates

In our lab meeting Thursday I discussed the concept of the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). Proposed in a series of papers by Francis Crick and Christof Koch, NCC has become the central issue in the scientific study of consciousness.
NCC is good in terms of providing lots of stuff to do. With the advancement of the brain activity measurement we are beginning to work out the detailed mapping between the brain's physical activities and our mental activities. There will be things to do for the next 10 to 20 years, at least.
On the other hand, just studying the neural correlates seems like an easy way out, with the heavy stone of the hard problem of consciousness left unturned. The very fact that you can do lots of things along a particular conceptual line is a testimony that it involves much of easy stuff.
In the discussion, I pointed out that the neural correlates as it stands today in neuroscience is not really pursued with logical rigor and relentless will to go to the finish line. The very concept of neural correlates is full of internal problems, which, if examined in detail and logical rigidity, would reveal some astonishing and non-trivial conclusions about the physical foundations of mentality.
Therefore, it is not wise to treat the neural correlates in a light-hearted manner. We need to take the neural correlates seriously.

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