Cellular mechanisms of conscious processing
Jaan Aru, Mototaka Suzuki, Matthew E Larkum
Recent breakthroughs in neurobiology indicate that the time is ripe to understand how cellular-level mechanisms are related to conscious experience. Here, we highlight the biophysical properties of pyramidal cells, which allow them to act as gates that control the evolution of global activation patterns. In conscious states, this cellular mechanism enables complex sustained dynamics within the thalamocortical system, whereas during unconscious states, such signal propagation is prohibited. We suggest that the hallmark of conscious processing is the flexible integration of bottom-up and top-down data streams at the cellular level. This cellular integration mechanism provides the foundation for Dendritic Information Theory, a novel neurobiological theory of consciousness.