Consciousness regained: Disentangling mechanisms, brain systems, and behavioral responses

Johan F. Storm, Mélanie Boly, Adenauer G. Casali, Marcello Massimini, Umberto Olcese, Cyriel M.A. Pennartz, Melanie Wilke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


How consciousness (experience) arises from and relates to material brain processes (the “mind-body problem”) has been pondered by thinkers for centuries, and is regarded as among the deepest unsolved problems in science, with wide-ranging theoretical, clinical, and ethical implications. Until the last few decades, this was largely seen as a philosophical topic, but not widely accepted in mainstream neuroscience. Since the 1980s, however, novel methods and theoretical advances have yielded remarkable results, opening up the field for scientific and clinical progress. Since a seminal paper by Crick and Koch (1998) claimed that a science of consciousness should first search for its neural correlates (NCC), a variety of correlates have been suggested, including both content-specific NCCs, determining particular phenomenal components within an experience, and the full NCC, the neural substrates supporting entire conscious experiences. In this review, we present recent progress on theoretical, experimental, and clinical issues. Specifically, we (1) review methodological advances that are important for dissociating conscious experience from related enabling and executive functions, (2) suggest how critically reconsideringtheroleof thefrontal cortexmayfurther delineateNCCs, (3) advocatetheneedfor general, objective, brain-basedmeasures of the capacity for consciousness that are independent of sensory processing and executive functions, and (4) show how animal studies can reveal population and network phenomena of relevance for understanding mechanisms of consciousness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10882-10893
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - Nov 8 2017


  • Brain complexity
  • Consciousness
  • Content-specific NCC
  • Functional connectivity
  • Neural correlates of consciousness
  • No-report paradigm
  • Perturbational complexity index
  • Unresponsive wakefulness
  • Vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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