Volume 60, Issue 1, March 2020
Eric LaRock, Jeffrey Schwartz, Iliyan Ivanov, David Carreon
A Strong Emergence Hypothesis of Conscious Integration and Neural Rewiring
In this paper we discuss the two-system framework, examine its strengths, point out a fundamental weakness concerning the unity of conscious experience, and then propose a new hypothesis that avoids that weakness and other related concerns. According to our strong emergence hypothesis, what emerges are not merely mental properties in specialized, distributed neural areas, but also a new, irreducibly singular entity (i.e., an emergent self) that functions in a recurrent (or top-down) manner to integrate its mental properties and to rewire its brain. We argue that the former function is suggested, in part, by the effects of anesthetics on sensory integration, and that the latter function is suggested by evidence garnered from the neuroscience of mindfulness, constraint-induced movement therapy for stroke, and neuroimaging data surrounding mental illness. We then discuss how our strong emergence hypothesis relates to the description and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. Finally, potential objections are addressed.