From Shorter to Longer Timescales: Converging Integrated Information Theory (IIT) with the Temporo-Spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC)

Georg Northoff, Federico Zilio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Time is a key element of consciousness as it includes multiple timescales from shorter to longer ones. This is reflected in our experience of various short-term phenomenal contents at discrete points in time as part of an ongoing, more continuous, and long-term ‘stream of conscious-ness.’ Can Integrated Information Theory (IIT) account for this multitude of timescales of conscious-ness? According to the theory, the relevant spatiotemporal scale for consciousness is the one in which the system reaches the maximum cause-effect power; IIT currently predicts that experience occurs on the order of short timescales, namely, between 100 and 300 ms (theta and alpha frequency range). This can well account for the integration of single inputs into a particular phenomenal con-tent. However, such short timescales leave open the temporal relation of specific phenomenal contents to others during the course of the ongoing time, that is, the stream of consciousness. For that purpose, we converge the IIT with the Temporo-spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC), which, as-suming a multitude of different timescales, can take into view the temporal integration of specific phenomenal contents with other phenomenal contents over time. On the neuronal side, this is de-tailed by considering those neuronal mechanisms driving the non-additive interaction of pre-stim-ulus activity with the input resulting in stimulus-related activity. Due to their non-additive interac-tion, the single input is not only integrated with others in the short-term timescales of 100–300 ms (alpha and theta frequencies) (as predicted by IIT) but, at the same time, also virtually expanded in its temporal (and spatial) features; this is related to the longer timescales (delta and slower frequen-cies) that are carried over from pre-stimulus to stimulus-related activity. Such a non-additive pre-stimulus-input interaction amounts to temporo-spatial expansion as a key mechanism of TTC for the constitution of phenomenal contents including their embedding or nesting within the ongoing temporal dynamic, i.e., the stream of consciousness. In conclusion, we propose converging the short-term integration of inputs postulated in IIT (100–300 ms as in the alpha and theta frequency range) with the longer timescales (in delta and slower frequencies) of temporo-spatial expansion in TTC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number270
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Contents of consciousness
  • Integrated information theory
  • Phenomenal content
  • Pre-stimulus activity
  • Resting state
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Task-related activity
  • Temporal inte-gration
  • Temporo-spatial theory of consciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'From Shorter to Longer Timescales: Converging Integrated Information Theory (IIT) with the Temporo-Spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this