TSC 2010 Pre-Conference Workshop

Session 3 Tuesday Morning, April 13 (9:00a-1:00p)       TCC - MARICOPA

Half Day, $75


Conscious contents trigger dynamic global broadcasting in the brain: A new wave of evidence


Bernard J. Baars, Katharine A. McGovern


Global workspace theory (GWT) is one of the most widespread hypotheses about the role of consciousness in the brain. (Baars, 1988, 2002; Baars & Gage, 2007). The most adventurous hypothesis in GWT is that conscious contents are widely distributed to unconscious functional networks in the brain. When the global broadcasting hypothesis was first advanced 20 years ago, the evidence for that was largely inferential, based almost entirely on psychological evidence. Now that we have many methods for observing the living brain we can actually see something very much like global broadcasting triggered by conscious (but not unconscious) visual events.

Here we present the latest developments in the global broadcasting hypothesis, including multiple sources of brain evidence suggesting that very high bandwidth broadcasting may occur via the hippocampal system, using theta and gamma oscillations for storage and retrieval. Brain imaging videos will be used to illustrate the nature of the evidence and theoretical models.  We present a “dynamic global workspace hypothesis” to bring the theory up to date. (Edelman & Tononi, 2000; Freeman, 2009; Hameroff, 2009; Izhikevich & Edelman, 2008) 

Workshop participants will explore both First-Person and Third-Person implications of global brain involvement in conscious experiences. 



Baars, Bernard J. (1988). A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baars, Bernard J. (2002). The conscious access hypothesis: origins and recent evidence. Trends in Cognitive Science, 6, 47–52.

Baars, B. J., & Stan Franklin. (2007). An architectural model of conscious and unconscious brain functions:  Global Workspace Theory and IDA. Neural Networks, 20, 955-961.

Baars, B.J. & Gage, N.M. (Eds.) (2007) Cognition, brain & consciousness: An introduction to cognitive neuroscience. Elsevier/Academic Press. 2nd edition in preparation.

Edelman, Gerald M., & Tononi, G. (2000). A Universe of Consciousness. New York: Basic Books.

Freeman, W. J. (2009). Vortices in brain activity: Their mechanism and significance for perception. Neural Networks, 22(5-6), 491-501.

Hameroff S. (2009) The "conscious pilot"-dendritic synchrony moves through the brain to mediate consciousness. J Biol Phys. 2009

Izhikevich, E. M., & Edelman, G. M. (2008). Large-Scale Model of Mammalian Thalamocortical Systems. PNAS, 105, 3593-3598.


Dr. Bernard J. Baars is former Senior Fellow at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego (currently Affiliated Fellow).  He also teaches Consciousness: The WebCourse for the Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona. Baars is interested in human language, human and animal consciousness, volition, and the brain basis of conscious and unconscious processes.  His books include A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness (1988, Cambridge), In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace  of the Mind (Oxford, 1997), and recently, Cognition, Brain  and Consciousness: An Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (2007,  with Nicole Gage, Elsevier/Academic Press). Baars has developed a theory of consciousness called Global Workspace Theory,  which is widely cited in philosophical and scientific sources. Baars co-founded the journal Consciousness & Cognition from  Academic Press/ Elsevier. He was founding President of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.

Dr. Katharine A. McGovern
is  Professor and Director of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. Her doctorate is in Experimental Cognitive Psychology from the  Center for Research in Human Learning at the University of Minnesota. Her interests are in the psychology of consciousness, intersubjectivity, mother-child attachment, emotion, and spiritual development. Her scholarly publications and presentations include work on the scientific study of consciousness including Global Workspace Theory, the relationship of consciousness, feelings and emotion, cognitive neuroscience, as well as Christian Mysticism and the Western contemplative tradition.