Consciousness CLEARS the Mind
A full understanding of consciouness requires that we identify the brain processes from which conscious experiences emerge. What are these processes, and what is their utility in supporting successful adaptive behaviors? Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART) predicted a functional link between processes of Consciousness, Learning, Expectation, Attention, Resonance, and Synchrony (CLEARS), includes the prediction that "all conscious states are resonant states." This connection clarifies how brain dynamics enable a behaving individual to autonomously adapt in real time to a rapidly changing world. The present article reviews theoretical considerations that predicted these functional links, how they work, and some of the rapidly growing body of behavioral and brain data that have provided support for these predictions. The article also summarizes ART models that predict functional roles for identified cells in laminar thalamocortical circuits, including the six layered neocortical circuits and their interactions with specific primary and higher-order specific thalamic nuclei and nonspecific nuclei. These prediction include explanations of how slow perceptual learning can occur more frequently in superficial cortical layers. ART traces these properties to the existence of intracortical feedback loops, and to reset mechanisms whereby thalamocortical mismatches use circuits such as the one from specific thalamic nuclei to nonspecific thalamic nuclei and then to layer 4 of neocortical areas via layers 1-to-5-to-6-to-4.