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Visceral inputs, brain dynamics and subjectivity

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Abstract: The human brain at rest is not a closed system: it receives inputs from visceral organs, in particular the heart and the stomach. Those two organs contain pacemaker cells generating rhythmic electrical activity, and constantly send information that is potentially relayed up to the neocortex. In this talk, I propose that such visceral inputs constrain spontaneous brain dynamics, and will present evidence showing the impact of the gastric basal rhythm on resting-state brain dynamics in both fMRI and MEG data. I also propose that the monitoring of visceral signals in the central nervous system creates a self-centered referential from which subjectivity, defined as the first-person perspective intrinsic to any conscious experience, can develop. I will present experimental evidence compatible with this hypothesis: neural responses to heartbeats in the default-mode network predict conscious vision and carry information about the self during spontaneous thoughts.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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