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Current concepts of consciousness with some implications for anesthesia

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Summary and conclusions

The GW theory suggests that consciousness enables multiple networks to cooperate and compete in solving problems, such as retrieval of specific items from immediate memory. The overall function of consciousness is to provide widespread access, which in turn may serve functions of coordination and control. Consciousness is the gateway to the brain, enabling control even of single neurons and whole neuronal populations (Baars, 1988). None of these control functions become directly conscious, of course, but conscious feedback seems required to recruit control by prefrontal networks. In the metaphor of the theatre, it is as if each specialized audience member can decide locally whether or not to be driven by input from the bright spot on stage. Executive functions — the director behind the scenes — is also largely unconscious, often using the actor in the spotlight on the stage of working memory capacity to recruit and trigger specific functions.

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Correspondence to Bernard J. Baars.

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Baars, B.J. Current concepts of consciousness with some implications for anesthesia. Can J Anesth 50, R1–R6 (2003).

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  • Left Hemisphere
  • Work Memory Capacity
  • Bright Spot
  • Visual Imagery
  • Binocular Rivalry