• Hallucinations: A Functional Network Model of How Sensory Representations Become Selected for Conscious Awareness in Schizophrenia

      Hare, Stephanie M (Frontiers Media S.A., 2021-11-23)
      Hallucinations are conscious perception-like experiences that are a common symptom of schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD). Current neuroscience evidence suggests several brain areas are involved in the generation of hallucinations including the sensory cortex, insula, putamen, and hippocampus. But how does activity in these regions give rise to aberrant conscious perceptions that seemingly invade ongoing conscious experience? Most existing models assume that sensory representations are sometimes spontaneously activated in the brain, and that these spontaneous activations somehow play a causal role in the generation of hallucinations. Yet, it remains unclear how these representations become selected for conscious processing. No existing theory of hallucinations has specified such a "selection mechanism." Global Workspace (GW) theorists argue that the brain's interconnected processors select relevant piece(s) of information for broadcasting to other brain processors, rendering the information accessible to consciousness; this process known as "ignition" is associated with synchronized activity across distributed cortical and subcortical brain regions. Yet, it remains unclear how certain information and representations become selected for conscious processing. While GW theorists maintain that attention plays an important role, they have not delineated a formal "selection mechanism." This paper specifies a selection mechanism based upon two central hypotheses: (1) a functional network called the "salience network" plays a critical role in selecting sensory representations for conscious broadcast to the GW in normal (healthy) perception; (2) sensory representations become abnormally selected for conscious broadcast to the GW (instead of being filtered out of consciousness) in individuals with SSD that experience hallucinations.