The Division of Labor for Internal-External Information Processing : An Extended Theory of Global Workspace about Consciousness

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Theory of Consciousness
Deposited by: 
Xiaolan Song
Date of Issue: 
Xiaolan Song, Xiaowei Tang
Event Dates: 
19-22 June 2008
Event Location: 
Event Title: 
12th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciou
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
Number of Pages: 
Global Workspace Theory and Global Neuronal Workspace Hypothesis are two theories about the mechanism of consciousness. The former, proposed by Bernard J. Baars, constructed a structure named “Global workspace”. It actualized the function of integrating and coordinating of specialized networks which otherwise operated autonomously. The latter, raised by Stanislas Dehaene, advanced a neuronal model of the global workspace and made a successful computer simulation. Both of them were supported by many experimental results. The Default Mode Network Hypothesis was proposed based on the findings that a relatively steady brain network decrease it’s activity in attention and working memory tasks comparing with that in resting state, and that the spontaneous activities in these areas are highly correlated. These findings indicated that an organized brain network is active when the information from environment is not processed consciously. As evidence, the experiences of mind wandering also remind us that our brain is never at rest even during resting state. Although there are internal elements such as inner speech or visual imagery in Global Workspace Theory, Baars and Dehaene haven’t distinguished the internal and external information processing in consciousness. Considering the phenomenon that we drop into daydreaming, mind wandering or popping out of other mental events constantly, and that there exists an relatively steady brain network which is active in resting state whereas prohibitive in external tasks, we here combine Global (Neuronal) Workspace Theory and Default Mode Network Hypothesis, and put forward an Extended Theory of Global Workspace about consciousness. We suggest that the brain processes information from external environment and internal representations in an organized way. We propose that, 1) The attention resource can be devoted into processing internal as well as external ; 2) The processing of external and internal information are two states of an unified system of consciousness, and the ongoing internal processing such as mind wandering has its adaptive meaning; 3) The brain is a self-organized system that guarantee the division of labor between external and internal information processing; 4) The Default Mode Network can be integrated into the Global Workspace, and so the Global workspace is extended.
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