In 1999, alongside Natalie Depraz and Pierre Vermersch, Francisco J. Varela
proposed a description of the structural dynamics of becoming aware. This account proceeds through the method of phenomenological reduction (or épochè). For Varela, the emergence of a unified cognitive moment relied upon dynamic links between functionally specialized regions of the brain. We propose an investigative methodology to explore the neural correlates of the phenomenological reduction that is based on evidence of dynamic and flexible coupling between the frontoparietal control network and the default mode
network. This coupling might provide a mechanism to account for the three stages of the reduction: (1) suspension of habitual thought and judgment (metacognition via frontoparietal control network activation); (2) conversion of attention from exterior (dorsal attention network coupling) to interior (default mode network coupling) cognition; and (3) letting go, or a receptivity towards experience (frontoparietal network decoupling).

Ishan Walpola

McGill University, Montreal Neurological Institute