Concept Formation: 'Object' Attributes Dynamically Inhibited from Conscious Awareness

Allan Snyder, Terence Bossomaier, John Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


We advance a dominant neural strategy for facilitating conceptual thought. Concepts are groupings of "object" attributes. Once the brain learns such critical groupings, the "object" attributes are inhibited from conscious awareness. We see the whole, not the parts. The details are inhibited when the concept network is activated, ie. the inhibition is dynamic and can be switched on and off. Autism is suggested to be the state of retarded concept formation. Our model predicts the possibility of accessing nonconscious information by artificially disinhibiting (turning off) the inhibiting networks associated with concept formation, using transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS). For example, this opens the door for the restoration of perfect pitch, for recalling detail, for acquiring accent-free second languages beyond puberty, and even for enhancing creativity. The model further shows how unusual autistic savant skills as well as certain psychopathologies can be due respectively to privileged or inadvertent access to information that is normally inhibited from conscious awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-46
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Integrative Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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