Temporo-spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC) – Bridging the gap of neuronal activity and phenomenal states

Georg Northoff, Federico Zilio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Consciousness and its neural mechanisms remain a mystery. Current neuroscientific theories focus predominantly on the external input/stimulus and the associated stimulus-related activity during conscious contents. Despite all progress, we encounter two gaps: (i) a gap between spontaneous and stimulus-related activity; (ii) a gap between neuronal and phenomenal features. A novel, different, and unique approach, Temporo-spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC) aims to bridge both gaps. The TTC focuses on the brain's spontaneous activity and how its spatial topography and temporal dynamic shape stimulus-related activity and resurface in the corresponding spatial and temporal features of consciousness, i.e., ‘common currency’. The TTC introduces four temporo-spatial mechanisms: expansion, globalization, alignment, and nestedness. These are associated with distinct dimensions of consciousness including phenomenal content, access, form/structure, and level/state, respectively. Following up on the first introduction of the TTC in 2017, we review updates, further develop these temporo-spatial mechanisms, and postulate specific neurophenomenal hypotheses. We conclude that the TTC offers a viable approach for (i) linking spontaneous and stimulus-related activity in conscious states; (ii) determining specific neuronal and neurophenomenal mechanisms for the distinct dimensions of consciousness; (iii) an integrative and unifying framework of different neuroscientific theories of consciousness; and (iv) offers novel empirically grounded conceptual assumptions about the biological and ontological nature of consciousness and its relation to the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113788
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 29 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Consciousness
  • Neurophenomenal mechanisms
  • Spatiotemporal neuroscience
  • Spontaneous activity
  • Temporo-spatial dynamics
  • Theories of consciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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