Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2011Peer reviewed

Intention and Attention in Consciousness Dynamics and Evolution

Liljenström, Hans


All through the history of the universe there is an apparent tendency for increasing complexity, with the organization of matter in evermore elaborate and interactive systems. The living world in general, and the human brain in particular, provides the highest complexity known. Presumably, the neural system with its complex dynamics has evolved to cope with the complex dynamics of the environment, where it is embedded. The evolution of a nervous system constitutes a major transition in biological evolution and allows for an increasing capacity for information storage and processing. Neural knowledge processing, cognition, shows the same principal features as non-neural adaptive processes. Similarly, consciousness might appear, to different degrees, at different stages in evolution. Both cognition and consciousness seem to depend critically on the organization and complexity of the organism. Different states of consciousness can apparently be associated with different levels of neural activity, in particular with different oscillatory modes at the mesoscopic level of cortical networks. Transitions between such modes could also be related to transitions between different states of consciousness. For example, a transition from an awake to an anaesthetized state, or sleep, is accompanied by a transition from high frequency oscillations to low frequency oscillations in the cortical neurodynamics. In this article, I will briefly discuss some general aspects on the evolution of the nervous system and its complex neurodynamics, which provides organisms with ever increasing capacity for complex behaviour, cognition and consciousness. Consciousness and cognition apparently evolve through interaction with the environment, where the organism is embedded. Such exploration of the environment requires both attention and intention. I will discuss these dual and complementary aspects of consciousness, and their effects as perception and action. Finally, I will speculate on consciousness related to life, and how it may be regarded as a driving force in the exploration of our world


Attention; intention; free will; neurodynamics; cortical networks; EEG; evolution

Published in

Journal of Cosmology
2011, Volume: 14, pages: 4848-4858