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  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

9 - Autonoetic consciousness

from Part II - Cognitive and neurosciences



The term ‘consciousness’ and its possible cerebral representation are discussed in this chapter. A direct relation between consciousness, especially autonoetic consciousness, and memory - the episodic memory system - is outlined. Episodic memory is defined as the context-embedded memory system which allows mental travelling in time - into both the future and the past. The development and lifelong stability of a controlled, self-generated and self-reflected mental framework which allows us to evaluate past episodes and to anticipate the framework of ones happening in the future constitutes the basis for an integrated - autonoetically conscious - personality. Evidence for the importance of certain brain structures - particularly of the right hemispheric prefrontal and anterior temporal cortex - in processing autonoetic consciousness is provided and patients with impaired consciousness and impaired episodic memory (including patients with schizophrenia) are described, both neuropsychologically and with respect to their neural metabolism, as measured by functional imaging techniques. Stress and trauma situations with which the individual is insufficiently able to cope, but also conditions of psychic or physical deprivation or alteration (sleep deprivation, drug abuse, hormonal changes) influence the neural system and may thereby weaken the episodic memory system and affect autonoetic consciousness. It is speculated that especially portions of the inferior prefrontal and the anterior temporal cortex (predominantly of the right hemisphere) control autonoetic consciousness.

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