Neural Plasticity and Consciousness
Hurley (Susan) & Noe (Alva)
Source: Biology and Philosophy, Volume 18, Number 1, January 2003, pp. 131-168(38)
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    We introduce a distinction between cortical dominance and cortical deference, and apply it to various examples of neural plasticity in which input is rerouted intermodally1 or intramodally2 to nonstandard cortical targets. In some cases but not others, cortical activity `defers' to the nonstandard sources of input. We ask why, consider some possible explanations, and propose a dynamic sensorimotor hypothesis. We believe that this distinction is important and worthy of further study, both philosophical and empirical, whether or not our hypothesis turns out to be correct. In particular, the question of how the distinction should be explained is linked to explanatory gap issues for consciousness. Comparative and absolute explanatory gaps should be distinguished: why does neural activity in a particular area of cortex have this qualitative expression rather than that, and why does it have any qualitative expression at all? We use the dominance/deference distinction to address the comparative gaps, both intermodal3 and intramodal4 (not the absolute gap). We do so not by inward scrutiny but rather by expanding our gaze to include relations between brain, body and environment.

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