Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Institut des sciences cognitives

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Optional satellite workshop on Measuring Consciousness



I. Inaugural Day: Turing, Dennett & Damasio (Friday June 29)


Dan Dennett (Tufts) A Phenomenal Confusion About Access and Consciousnessabstract  video  pdf -- discussion thread (comments invited)  


Mark Mitton - Mind & Magic


Turing Film 1: Alan Turing: Code-Breaker



Antonio Damasio (USC) Feelings and Sentienceabstract (video delayed - will be uploaded later)  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --



II. Felt Function (Saturday June 30)


Joseph Ledoux (NYU) The Perplexing Relationship Between Emotions and Consciousnessabstract   -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Jorge Armony (McGill) Neural Bases of Emotionabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- (video not available)

Fernando Cervero (McGill) Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Painabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Phillip Jackson (Laval) The Brain Response to the Pain of Others: Fleeing Versus Caringabstract  discussion thread (comments invited)  video

Catherine Tallon-Baudry (CNRS) Is Consciousness an Executive Function?abstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --   video

Turing Film 2: Le modele Turing (langue francaise)


David Edelman (NSI) The Octopus as a Possible Invertebrate Model for Consciousness Studiesabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- view video + PDF simultaneously for talks + figures





III. Turing Testing Know-How (Sunday July 1)


Stevan Harnad (UQaM) How/Why Explaining the Causal Role of Consciousness is Hardabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Inman Harvey (Sussex, UK) No Hard Feelings: Why Would An Evolved Robot Care?abstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Ioannis Rekleitis (McGill) Three Basic Questions in Robotics: New Directionsabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Dario Floreano (Lausanne, Switz.) Evolution of Adaptive Behavior in Autonomous Robotsabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video


Turing Film 3: The Strange Life and Death of Dr. Turing  (part 1, part 2)



James Clark (McGill) Attention: Doing and Feelingabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Michael Graziano (Princeton) Consciousness and the Attention Schemaabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --   video





IV. High-Level Know-How (Monday July 2)


John Campbell (Berkeley) What does Visual Experience Have to do with Visual Science?abstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Patrick Haggard (UCL, UK) Volition and Agency: What is it, and What is it For?abstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

David Freedman (U Chicago) Brain Mechanisms of Visual Categorization and Decision-Makingabstract  -- discussion thread  (comments invited) --  video

Shimon Edelman (Cornell) Being in Timeabstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Wayne Sossin (McGill) Aplysia: If We Understand the Cellular Mechanisms Underlying Sensation and Learning, What Do We Need Consciousness for?abstract  -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video







[Tuesday July 3: Day Off]



V. What's Feeling For Anyway? (Wednesday July 4)


Bernard Baars (NSI) The biological basis of conscious experience: Global workspace dynamics in the brainabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Ezequiel Morsella (SFSU) The Primary Function of Consciousness in the Brainabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Roy Baumeister (FSU) The Why, What and How of Consciousnessabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Bjorn Merker (Sweden) The Brain's Need for Sensory Consciousness: From Probabilities to Perceptsabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Paul Cisek (U Montreal) The Vanishing Central Executive: Distributed Neural Mechanisms for Decision-Makingabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Michael Shadlen (HHMI) Consciousness as a Decision to Engageabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video





VI. Feelings and Firings (Thursday July 5)


Wolf Singer (MPI, Germany) Consciousness: Unity in Time Rather Than Space?abstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) --  video

Erik Cook (McGill) Are Neural Fluctuations in Cortex Causally Linked to Visual Perception?abstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Bjorn Brembs (FU Berlin, Germany) Behavioral Freedom and Decision-Making in Flies: Evolutionary precursor of "Free Will"?abstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Julio Martinez (McGill) Voluntary Attention and Working Memory in The Primate Brain: Recording from Single Cellsabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Christopher Pack (McGill)  Vision During Unconsciousnessabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Barbara Finlay (Cornell) Continuities/Discontinuities in Vertebrate Brain Evolution and Cognitive Capacities: Implications for Consciousness?abstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video





VII. Doing Things Because You Feel Like It (Friday July 6)


Gary Comstock (NCSU) Feeling Mattersabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

David Rosenthal (CUNY Grad)  Does Consciousness Have any Utility?abstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video

Mark Balaguer (Cal State) A Scientifically Reputable Version of Indeterministic Libertarian Free Willabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video-pt1 video-pt2


Adrian Ward (Harvard) Mind Blanking: When the Stream of Consciousness Runs Dryabstract -- discussion thread (comments invited) -- video




(afternoon off)



VIII. Consciousness and Causality (Saturday July 7)


Simon Baron-Cohen (Cambridge UK) Evolution of Empathyabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Alfred Mele (FSU) Do Conscious Decisions Ever Play a Role in Action Production?abstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video


Hakwan Lau (Columbia) How to study the functions of subjective awareness?abstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Luiz Pessoa (U Maryland) Cognitive-Emotional Interactionsabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Marthe Kiley-Worthington (EEREC, France) Comparing Elephant and Equine Mental Traits, Subjectivity and Consciousnessabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Axel Cleermans (ULB, Belgium) Consciousness and Learningabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video





IX. Evolutionary Advantages of Felt Functions (Sunday July 8)


Stefano Mancuso (LINV, Italy) Evolution of Plant Intelligenceabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- TED video  -- canceled

Gualtiero Piccinini (UMO, St Louis) Is Consciousness a Spandrel?abstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Malcolm MacIver (Northwestern) Sensory and Motor Spaces and the Emergence of Multiple Futuresabstract --  discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Jennifer Mather (Lethbridge) Evolutionary Pressures and Cephalopod Consciousnessabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video


Turing Film 4: Alan Turing: Code-Breaker and AI Pioneer (Jack Copeland)




Eva Jablonka (TAU, Israel) Evolutionary Origins of Experiencingabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video





X. Measuring Consciousness (Monday July 9)


Alain Ptito (McGill) Neural Mechanisms of Blindsight after Hemispherectomy: Tapping into the Unconsciousabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Amir Shmuel (McGill) Neurophysiological and hemodynamic measurements of spontaneous activity and functional connectivityabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Gilles Plourde (McGill) General Anesthetics for the Study Consciousnessabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video

Amir Raz (McGill) Hypnosis as Experimental Tool to Study Metacognition, Causality and Volitionabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video not available


XI. Closing Conference (same day)


John Searle (Berkeley) Consciousness and Causalityabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video






XII. Satellite Workshop on Measuring Consciousness (Tuesday-Thursday, July 10-12)


1. Functional connectivity using neuroimaging (organizer: Sarah Lippe, U. Montreal) (July 10 am)

2. Transcranial stimulation (organizer: Hugo Theoret, U. Montreal) (July 10 pm)

3. Magnetoencephalography  (2) (organizers: Sylvain Baillet, U McGill & Pierre Jolicoeur, U Montreal) (July 11am,pm)

4. Informational correlates of consciousness using Bubbles (organizer: Frederic Gosselin, U Montreal) (July 12 am)




abstract Dan Dennett A Phenomenal Confusion About Access and Consciousness

    Abstract: Many researchers on consciousness have adopted Ned Block's purported distinction between "access" consciousness and 'phenomenal' consciousness (Block, 1995, 2005, 2007), but in spite of its evident appeal, it is not a defensible distinction. Earlier critiques (Dennett, 1994, 1995, Cohen and Dennett, 2012) have not deterred those who favor the distinction, but perhaps one more exposition of the problems will break through.


    Block, N. (2005) Two neural correlates of consciousness. Trends Cogn. Sci. 9, 46–52 7

    Block, N. (1995) On a confusion about the function of consciousness. Behav. Brain Sci. 18, 227–287

    Block, N. (2007) Consciousness, accessibility, and the mesh between psychology and neuroscience. Behav. Brain Sci. 30, 481–499

    Cohen and Dennett  2012, "Consciousness cannot be separated from function," Michael A. Cohen and Daniel C. Dennett, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, August 2011, Vol. 15, No. 8, pp. 358-64.

    Dennett, 1994, 'Get Real,' Philosophical Topics, special double issue on Dennett's philosophy.

    Dennett, 1995, 'The Path Not Taken,' commentary on Block 1995, Behavioral and Brain Sciences



abstract Antonio Damasio Feelings and Sentience

Abstract: Reflection on relevant research findings, new and old, has changed my views on two issues: the origin and nature of feelings and the mechanisms behind the construction of the self. The goal of this talk is to consider how the human brain needs to be structured and how it needs to operate in order for conscious minds to emerge.


Damasio, Antonio (2012) Self Comes to Mind Constructing the Conscious Brain. Pantheon Books

Damasio, Antonio; Thomas J. Grabowski, Hanna Damasio, Daniel Tranel (2012) Persistence of Feelings and Sentience after Bilateral Damage of the Insula. Cerebral Cortex.

Damasio, Antonio (2011) Neural Basis of Emotions. Scholarpedia

Damasio, Antonio; Thomas J. Grabowski, Antoine Bechara, Hanna Damasio,

Laura L.B. Ponto, Josef Parvizi and Richard D. Hichwa (2000) Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions. nature neuroscience 3 (10): 1049-1056



abstract Joseph Ledoux The Perplexing Relationship Between Emotions and Consciousness

Abstract: I propose a re-conceptualization of key phenomena important in the study of emotion—those phenomena that reflect functions and circuits related to survival, and that are shared by humans and other animals. The approach shifts the focus from questions about whether emotions that humans consciously feel are also present in other animals, and toward questions about the extent to which circuits and corresponding functions that are present in other animals (survival circuits and functions) are also present in humans. Survival circuit functions are not causally related to emotional feelings but obviously contribute to these, at least indirectly. The survival circuit concept integrates ideas about emotion, motivation, reinforcement, and arousal in the effort to understand how organisms survive and thrive by detecting and responding to challenges and opportunities in daily life.


LeDoux J. (2012) Rethinking the emotional brain. Neuron 73(4): 653-76.  (PDF will be provided)


abstract Jorge Armony Neural Bases of Emotion

Abstract: In this talk I will describe the main neural systems and mechanisms involved in the processing of emotional information, highlighting the similarities and differences between species (rats, monkeys and humans). In addition, I will briefly present findings and controversies regarding the interactions between emotion and other cognitive processes, such as attention and awareness.


Sergerie, K., Chochol, C.,&  Armony, J.L. (2008). The role of the amygdala in emotional processing: A quantitative meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies. Neuroscience&  Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(4), 811-830.

Armony, J.L.&  LeDoux, J.E. (2010). Emotional responses to auditory stimuli. In A. Palmer&  A. Rees (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: The Auditory Brain (pp. 479-505). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press

Vuilleumier, P.,&  Pourtois, G. (2007). Distributed and interactive brain mechanisms during emotion face perception: evidence from functional neuroimaging. Neuropsychologia, 45(1), 174-194.



abstract Fernando Cervero Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Pain

    Abstract: Pain is a sensory and emotional experience that in humans also has a strong cognitive component. We can identify the elementary neurobiological mechanisms at cellular and molecular level that mediate injury-related responses of the nervous system, yet the link between these mechanisms and the conscious perception of pain remains elusive. The challenge is precisely to identify this link.


    Cervero, Fernando (2012) Understanding Pain: Exploring the Perception of Pain. MIT Press



abstract Phillip Jackson The Brain Response to the Pain of Others: Fleeing Versus Caring

Abstract: The subjective nature of pain makes its communication from one person who is suffering to another who is observing quite a challenge. Accurate perception of others' pain relies on different behavioral and neurophysiological mechanisms, which can vary depending on individual, relational and contextual factors. This talk will discuss evidence showing how the perception of pain in other individuals is related to patterns of brain response similar to thosefound when people are in pain. While this 'shared representation' of pain, which can automatically trigger an aversive response in the observer leading to avoidance, has likely played a key role in the species' survival, we posit that other regulatory mechanisms can override this response to allow for concern and prosocial behaviour to emerge towards the person in pain. This conscious act of empathy has no doubt contributed to our social nature.


Decety, J. & Jackson, P.L. (2006). A social neuroscience perspective on empathy. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 15, 54-58

Voisin, J.I.A., Mercier, C., Canizales, D.L., Marcoux, L.-A. & Jackson, P.L. (2011). I am touched by your pain: Limb-specific modulation of the cortical response to a tactile stimulation during pain observation. The Journal of Pain, 12(11), 1182-1189.  

Coll, M.P., Gregoire, M., Latimer, M., Eugene, F., & Jackson, P.L. (2011). Perception of pain in others: implication for caregivers. Pain Management, 1(3), 257-265.



abstract Catherine Tallon-Baudry Is Consciousness an Executive Function?

Abstract: In many theories and experiments, consciousness is conceived as an executive function, that distributes precise and detailed information guiding behavior.  Indeed, the neural mechanisms correlated with consciousness share a number of similarities with those involved in executive functions such as attention, memory and control, e.g. amplification and selection, engagement of fronto-parietal regions, oscillatory synchrony. This apparent similarity has been challenged by a number of experimental evidence showing partial or full dissociations between the neural correlates of consciousness and the neural correlates of other cognitive functions. Those results suggests that, from a neural point of view, consciousness may be less executive than previously thought. The current brain-as-a-computer metaphor, with neural mechanisms designed to support goal-oriented behavior, may therefore be an insufficient framework to understand the biological mechanisms underlying consciousness.


Catherine Tallon-Baudry, C. (2011) On the Neural Mechanisms Subserving Consciousness and Attention Frontiers in Psychology 2: 397.



abstract David Edelman The Octopus as a Possible Invertebrate Model for Consciousness Studies

    Abstract: Among all invertebrates, the coleoid cephalopods—that group of molluscs which includes octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish—have by far the largest and most elaborate nervous systems. In addition, these animals have eyes that in many ways resemble those of vertebrates, albeit with some notable differences (e.g., one type of photoreceptor, no retinal ganglia). Moreover, the coleoid cephalopods—particularly the octopus—appear to be capable of both seeing moving objects such as predators and prey at reasonably great distances and executing a variety of adaptive behaviors in response to what they see. Such observations suggest: 1) the presence of relatively sophisticated visual processing, i.e., neural circuitry that can support dense visual input; 2) the possible specialization of sub-modal visual areas in the central brain, perhaps analogous to the vertebrate case; and 3) spatiotemporal properties of memory that would necessarily involve rapid integration of visual information into a dynamic 'scene.'

    Here, I will argue that, on neuroanatomical, neurophysiological, and behavioral grounds, the octopus in particular represents an excellent model for investigating the possibility of conscious states in an invertebrate. In making this argument, I will: 1) lay out a working definition for consciousness that may be extended beyond the vertebrate case; 2) describe structural and functional properties which may be the sine qua non of sensory consciousness; 3) suggest evolutionary trends (e.g., the emergence of complex vision) that may have set the stage for the advent of conscious states in a variety of phyla; and 4) discuss my ongoing work and offer a 'roadmap' for additional experiments that could lead to a robust methodology for the explicit investigation of sensory consciousness in these, and perhaps other, invertebrates


    Identifying Hallmarks of Consciousness in Non-Mammalian Species

      Criteria for consciousness in humans and other mammals

      Animal consciousness: a synthetic approach

      Gerald Edelman "Wider than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness"

      Hochner, Shomrat & Fiorito (2006) The Octopus: A Model for a Comparative Analysis of the Evolution of Learning and Memory Mechanisms Biol. Bull. 210: 308–317

      Borrelli L, Fiorito G (2008) Behavioral analysis of learning and memory in Cephalopods. In: Menzel R, Byrne J, editors. Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference. UK: Elsevier. pp. 605–627. (PDF will be provided)



abstract Stevan Harnad How/Why Explaining the Causal Role of Consciousness is Hard

Abstract: There are two things that cognitive science needs to explain: (1) How and why organisms can do all the things they can do and (2) how and why organisms feel. Explaining doing -- Turing's problem -- has been dubbed the "easy" problem (though it's no easier than other problems in biological science, and we're nowhere near solving it). Explaining feeling has been dubbed the "hard" problem. The reason it is hard is that feeling keeps on turning out to be superfluous in any causal explanation of doing.


Harnad, Stevan (1995) Why and How We Are Not Zombies. Journal of Consciousness Studies 1:164-167.

Harnad, S. (2000) Correlation vs. Causality: How/Why the Mind/Body Problem Is Hard. Journal of Consciousness Studies 7(4): 54-61.

Harnad, S. (2008) The Annotation Game: On Turing (1950) on Computing, Machinery and Intelligence. In: Epstein, Robert & Peters, Grace (Eds.) Parsing the Turing Test: Philosophical and Methodological Issues in the Quest for the Thinking Computer. Springer

Harnad, S. (2011) Minds, Brains and Turing. Consciousness Online 3.   

Harnad, S. (2011) Doing, Feeling, Meaning And Explaining. In: On the Human.

Turing, A. M. (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind 49:433-460.  



abstract Inman Harvey No Hard Feelings: Why Would An Evolved Robot Care?

    Abstract: When studying cognition and consciousness, there are three possible strategies: one can introspect in an armchair, one can observe natural cognition in the wild, or one can synthesise artificial cognition in the lab. Some strands of Artificial Life pursue the third strategy, and Evolutionary Robotics opens up a particular new approach. Whereas most attempts at building AI systems rely heavily on designs produced through introspection -- and therefore reflect the current fads and intellectual biases of the moment -- the evolutionary approach can start from the assumption that we humans are  likely to be hopeless at designing cognitive systems anything like ourselves. After all, one would not expect a nematode worm with just 300 neurons to have much insight into its own cognitive apparatus.

    The evolutionary method does not need the designer, the Watchmaker with insight. But it does need clear operational tests for what will count as cognition -- goal-seeking, learning, memory, awareness (in various objective senses of that word), communicating. We can evolve systems with many such cognitive abilities; so far to a rather limited extent with proofs of concept, but with no reason to expect any barriers in principle to achieving any behaviours that can be operationally and objectively defined. Of course, there are no operational tests to distinguish a so-called zombie from its human counterpart that has feelings, so this seems to leave unresolved the question of whether an evolved robot could indeed have subjective feelings.

    Harnad (2011) laid out one version of this issue in a paper entitled "Doing, Feeling, Meaning and Explaining'", suggesting that the Doing (that can be verified operationally) is the Easy part; whereas the Feeling, and probably by extension the Meaning are the ineffable and Hard parts. In contrast, I shall be focussing on the Explaining, and pointing out that different kinds of explanations are needed for different jobs. In particular the concept of awareness, or consciousness, has a whole range of different meanings that need different kinds of explanation. Many of these meanings can indeed be operationally and objectively defined, and hence we should be able to build or evolve robots with these properties. But one crucial sense is subjective rather than objective, and cannot be treated in similar fashion. This is a linguistic issue to be dissolved rather than a technical problem to be solved.


    Harvey, I., (2002): Evolving Robot Consciousness: The Easy Problems and the Rest. In Evolving Consciousness, J.H. Fetzer (ed.), Advances in Consciousness Research Series, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 205 -219.

    Harvey, I., (2000): Robotics: Philosophy of Mind using a Screwdriver

In Evolutionary Robotics: From Intelligent Robots to Artificial Life, Vol. III, T. Gomi (ed), AAI Books, Ontario, Canada, 2000. pp. 207-230. ISBN 0-9698872-3-X.

    Harvey, I., Di Paolo, E., Wood, R., Quinn, M, and E. A., Tuci, (2005).   Evolutionary Robotics: A new scientific tool for studying cognition Artificial Life, 11(1-2), pp. 79-98.

    Harvey, I., (2005):  Evolution and the Origins of the Rational Paper presented at Cognition, Evolution and Rationality: Cognitive Science for the 21st Century. Oporto, September 2002.  In: Zilhhao, Antonio (ed.), Cognition, Evolution, and Rationality. London, Routledge, 2005. Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Science. ISBN 0415362601.



abstract Ioannis Rekleitis Three Basic Questions in Robotics: New Directions

      Abstract: Three basic questions have generated most of the robotics research interest to date: Where am I? (Localization) What does the world look like? (Mapping)  How to go from A to B? (Path planning)

    I will examine several answers, identifying common themes. Where? and what? concern understanding the world and the robot's place in it: the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) problems. Localization generalizes to knowing about oneself, while mapping generalizes to knowledge representation, touching several fields. Solutions are based on both parametric and sample based strategies. Path planning is interesting, both theoretically and experimentally. I will review analytical solutions and randomized strategies from a historical perspective together with examples of current systems.

    Until recently robotics was trying to understand the world. Current and future research is more concerned with changing it. The problem of manipulating and grasping has gained prominence in the last few years. In the past, robots were concerned with moving through the environment, avoiding contact, and constructing models. Today, robots approach objects, use contact, and moderate forces to understand and modify the world.


    Dupuis, E; R L'Archeveque, P Allard, I Rekleitis and E Martin (2005) Toward Fully Autonomous Robotics Operation Framework.In:  Ayanna Howard and Eddie Tunstel (eds.) Intelligence for Space Robotics TSI Press, pp 217-234,

    Rekleitis, IM, Dudek, G & Evangelos M (2001) Multi-Robot Collaboration for Robust Exploration. Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence 31: 7-40



abstract Dario Floreano Evolution of Adaptive Behavior in Autonomous Robots

    Abstract: A spectacular demonstration of the power of natural selection comes from experiments in the field of evolutionary robotics, where scientists have conduct- ed experimental evolution with robots. Evolutionary robotics has also been advocated as a method to automatically generate control systems that are comparatively simpler or more efficient than those engineered with other design methods because the space of solutions explored by evolution can be larger and less constrained than that explored by conventional engineering methods. In this talk I will examine key experiments that illustrate how, for example, robots whose genes are translated into simple neural networks can evolve the ability to navigate, escape predators, coadapt brains and body morphologies, and cooperate. We present mostly -- but not only -- experimental results performed in our laboratory, which satisfy the following criteria. First, the experiments were at least partly carried out with real robots, allowing us to present a video showing the behaviours of the evolved robots. Second, the robot's neural networks had a simple architecture with no synaptic plasticity, no ontogenetic development, and no detailed modelling of ion channels and spike transmission. Third, the genomes were directly mapped into the neural network (i.e., no gene-to-gene interaction, time-dependent dynamics, or ontogenetic plasticity). By limiting our analysis to these studies we are able to highlight the strength of the process of Darwinian selection in comparable simple systems exposed to different environmental conditions.


    D. Floreano and L. Keller (2010) Evolution of Adaptive Behaviour in Robots by Means of Darwinian Selection, in PLOS Biology, vol. 8, num. 1, p. e100029.

    Harvey I, Di Paolo E, Wood R, Quinn M, Tuci E (2005) Evolutionary robotics: a new scientific tool for studying cognition. Artif Life 11: 79-98.



abstract James Clark Attention: Doing and Feeling

    Abstract: Humans perceive the world in an active fashion, and process only a limited subset of the sensory data available to them. Attention selection mechanisms decide on which parts of the sensory stream to focus on. This lecture will consider two threads linking attention and consciousness. The first is the finding that the contents of consciousness (feeling) depend strongly on what is being attended to, as indicated by the "Change Blindness" phenomenon. The other thread is the connection between motor activity (doing) and attention, as espoused by Rizzolati's "Pre-Motor" Theory of Attention, and embodied consciousness theories, such as O'Regan's Sensorimotor Contingency Theory. The implications of the role of attention on consciousness for the Robotic Turing Test will be discussed.


    Rensink, R.A., O'Regan, J.K., and Clark, J.J., ``To See or Not to See: The Need for Attention to Perceive Changes in Scenes.'', Psychological Science, Vol 8, pp 368-373. 1997.

    Clark, J.J., "Spatial Attention and Latencies of Saccadic Eye Movements", Vision Research, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp 583-600, 1999

    Jie, L. and Clark, J.J., "Video Game Design Using an Eye Movement Dependent Model of Visual Attention'', ACM Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communications, and Applications, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp 22:1-16, 2008

    Rizzolatti, G. (1983), "Mechanisms of selective attention in mammals'', in Advances in Vertebrate Neuroethology, Ewart, J.P., Capranica, R.R., and Ingle, D.J., (eds.), Plenum, New York, pp 261-297

J. K. O'Regan and A. Noe. A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24:939-1031, 2001.



abstract Michael Graziano Consciousness and the Attention Schema

    Abstract: One possible explanation of awareness is that it is a construct of the social perceptual machinery. Humans have specialized neuronal machinery that allows us to be socially intelligent. The primary role for this machinery is to construct models of other people--minds thereby gaining some ability to predict the behavior of other individuals. In the present hypothesis, specific cortical machinery, notably in the superior temporal sulcus and the temporo-parietal junction, is used to build the construct of awareness and attribute it to other people. The same cortical machinery, in this hypothesis, is also used to attribute awareness to oneself. Damage to this cortical machinery can lead to disruptions in consciousness such as hemispatial neglect. In this theory, the value of the construct of awareness, and the value of attributing it to a person, is to gain a useful predictive model of that person--attentional processing. Attention is a style of information processing in the brain in which neuronal signals compete. One interrelated set of signals rises in strength at the expense of others, and thereby dominates the control of behavior. Awareness, in the present hypothesis, is a construct, a useful schema, that models the dynamics and essential properties of attention. To be aware of X is to construct a model of one--attentional focus on X. A brain concludes it is aware of X, and assigns a high degree of certainty to that conclusion, and reports that conclusion, because of an informational model that depicts awareness of X.


    Graziano MSA and Kastner S (2011) Human consciousness and its relationship to social neuroscience: A novel hypothesis. Cognitive Neuroscience, 2: 98-113.



abstract John Campbell What does Visual Experience Have to do with Visual Science?

    Abstract: The epistemic role of consciousness in sensory experience. Classically, vision science assumed we do not need to appeal to notions relating to sensory awareness to explain how it is that perception generates knowledge of our surroundings.  Sensory experience has often been seen as an epiphenomenon in the generation of knowledge.  This is not the view of ordinary common-sense.  Ordinarily, we take that it is only because we have sensory experience that we can know what the objects and properties around us are.  But where would a role for sensory experience fit in an account of the production of knowledge?  I approach this question by looking at the contrast Huang and Pashler (2007) draw between the roles of visible properties in selecting and in accessing regions or objects in the visual field.  I use this to articulate an account of the way in which an externalist account of perceptual experience relates to a classical account of visual computation.


    Huang and Pashler, 2007, 'A Boolean Map Theory of Visual Attention', Psych. Review 114, 599-631.

    Campbell, John, 2011, 'Visual Attention and the Epistemic Role of Consciousness', in Mole, Smithies and Wu (eds.), Attention:  Philosophical and Psychological Essays (Oxford:  OUP), 321-343. [PDF will be provided]



abstract Patrick Haggard Volition and Agency: What is it, and What is it For?

      Abstract: Voluntary actions are often defined as actions that are internally-generated, rather than directly triggered by an external stimulus.  The capacity for voluntary action gives control of human behaviour a 'freedom from immediacy' (Mike Shadlen's term), that other animals may lack.  But voluntary actions are also characterised by a special relation with conscious thought.  On a classical, rationalist model, we consciously deliberate, form conscious intentions, and these drive our actions.  The crucial link in this chain is the transition from mind to body, when an intentions-in-action is transformed to a motor command, and a bodily movement.  I will discuss a number of studies of this process.  First, I will consider whether the experience of being about to act is a direct readout of ongoing neural preparation, or a retrospective narrative to explain our actions post hoc.  I will then ask the same questions about sense of agency - i.e., the feeling that our actions cause events in the outside world.  Both prospective and retrospective components are shown to exist.  The retrospective component presumably aims at providing a coherent and description of our own behaviour and self-consciousness.  The prospective component is harder to account for, and I will consider two possible functions.  First, being aware of what we are about to do just before we do it might contribute to the control or veto of action. Second, it might improve complex instrumental learning.  Both accounts suffer from the normal difficulties of ascribing causal roles to consciousness, and the existence of prospective aspects of intention and agency cannot save concepts of 'conscious free will'.  Finally, I will consider the implications of recent work on action awareness for moral and legal responsibility.


      Haggard P (2008).  Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 934-946.

    Chambon V, Wenke D, Fleming D, Prinz W & Haggard P. (in press).  An online neural substrate for sense of agency.  Cerebral Cortex, in press



abstract David Freedman Brain Mechanisms of Visual Categorization and Decision-Making

      Abstract: We have a remarkable ability to recognize the behavioral significance, or category membership of a wide range of visual stimuli. While much is known about how simple visual features (such as color, orientation and direction of motion) are processed in early stages of the visual system, much less is known about how the brain learns and recognizes categorical information that gives meaning to incoming stimuli. This talk will review a series of neurophysiological and behavioral experiments aimed at understanding the neuronal representations underlying visual categorization. We have found that the activity of individual neurons in both the posterior parietal and lateral prefrontal cortices can reflect the learned category membership of visual stimuli, and that these two areas play distinct roles in category-based decision making.


    Freedman D.J. and Assad J.A. Experience-Dependent Representation of Visual Categories in Parietal Cortex. Nature, 443: 85-88, 2006.

    Swaminathan S.K. and Freedman D.J. Preferential encoding of visual categories in parietal cortex compared to prefrontal cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 15: 315-320, 2012.

    Freedman D.J. and Assad J.A. A Proposed Common Neural Mechanisms for Categorization and Perceptual Decisions. Nature Neuroscience, 14:143-146, 2011.

    Freedman D.J., Riesenhuber M., Poggio T., and Miller E.K. A Comparison of Primate Prefrontal and Inferior Temporal Cortices During Visual Categorization. Journal of Neuroscience, 23: 5235-5246, 2003.



abstract Shimon Edelman Being in Time

Abstract: Philosophical and computational considerations, along with neurobiological data, suggest that phenomenal experience is holistic in the sense that it emerges from the dynamics of the entire brain. On this account, your experience of the page in front of you (say) is predicated upon coordinated activity, not just of visual areas alone, but of the rest of your brain as well. Experience thus must be inherently temporally extended, if only because coordination requires time. What is the nature of this coordination and how much time does it take for experience to emerge? Lessons from the science of parallel distributed computation suggest that putting experience -- or, for that matter, any other collective action such as decision making -- on hold until after all of the brain's constituents have had a chance to reach a consensus about it is a recipe for permanent functional paralysis.  To understand why the brain does not have to wait for long (let alone indefinitely) to figure out what experience it is having, we must note that coordination, like experience that emerges, is an ongoing endogenous process modulated by input, rather than a transient ripple in an otherwise quiescent medium. Thus, the input-influenced present turn of the system's trajectory through the activation space -- the embodiment of experience -- is shaped collectively by the system's history, which likely possesses a variety of natural time scales amenable to empirical investigation.


     Fekete, T., and S. Edelman, Towards a computational theory of experience, Consciousness and Cognition 20, 807-827 (2011).

      Edelman, S., and T. Fekete, Being in Time, extended abstract for the poster presented at the 15th meeting of the Association for Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC15), June 2011, Kyoto, Japan.



abstract Wayne Sossin Aplysia: If We Understand the Cellular Mechanisms Underlying Sensation and Learning, What Do We Need Consciousness for?

      Abstract: Aplysia is a model system for defining the relationship between neuronal plasticity and behavior. Indeed, many of the circuits underlying Aplysia's simple behaviors are understood, as well as how the animal can change those circuits after experience. Moreover, it is beginning to be understood how biogenic amine and neuropeptide pathways can activate or inhibit distinct motor programs to bias the animals decisions on what to do. I will explore, given the limited number of neurons in Aplysia, whether the additional pathways are present that would lead to the complex feedback systems that are probably required for consciousness.


    Sossin WS. Defining memories by their distinct molecular traces. Trends Neurosci. 2008 Apr;31(4):170-5. Epub 2008 Mar 10.  

    Cropper. Neurosignals.  2004 Jan-Apr;13(1-2):70-86. Feeding neural networks in the mollusc Aplysia.






    Rosen .

    Science.  2001 Nov 2;294(5544):1030-8. The molecular biology of memory storage: a dialogue between genes and synapses.

    Feeding behavior of Aplysia: a model system for comparing cellular mechanisms of classical and operant conditioning.  Baxter DA, Byrne JH. Learn Mem. 2006 Nov-Dec;13(6):669-80. Review.



abstract Bernard Baars The biological basis of conscious experience: Global workspace dynamics in the brain

    Abstract: Some philosophers maintain that consciousness as subjective experience has no biological function. However, conscious brain events seem very different from unconscious ones. For example, the cortex and thalamus support the reportable qualitative contents of consciousness. Subcortical structures like the cerebellum do not. Likewise, attended sensory stimuli are typically reportable as conscious, while accurate memory traces of the same stimuli are not reportable, unless they are specifically recalled.  Like other major adaptations, conscious and unconscious brain events have distinctive biological pros and cons. These involve information processing efficiency, metabolic costs, and behavioral pros and cons. The well-known momentary limited capacity of conscious contents is an example of an information processing cost, while the very large and energy-hungry corticothalamic system makes costly metabolic demands. Limited capacity can cause death and injury in humans and other animals, as in the case of traffic accidents and predation by ambush. Sleep is a state of high vulnerability among prey animals. We can begin to sketch out some of the biological costs and benefits of conscious states and their stream of reportable contents.


    Baars, B.J. & Gage, N.M. (2011) Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner's Guide. Elsevier/Academic Press. (See Chapter 8 for the brain basis of consciousness and attention.)

    Baars, B.J. (2012) The biological costs of consciousness. Nature Precedings.

    Edelman, G.M., J. Gally & B.J. Baars (2011) Biology of consciousness. Frontiers in Psychology. January, Vol. 2.

    Franklin, S., S. D� Mello, B. J. Baars & U. Ramamurthy (2011) Evolutionary Pressures for Perceptual Stability and Self as Guides to Machine Consciousness. Int Jnl Machine Consciousness.



abstract Ezequiel Morsella The Primary Function of Consciousness in the Brain

Abstract: Despite the challenges in unraveling how the nervous system gives rise to consciousness, a consensus has been growing that (a) consciousness is associated with only a subset of all nervous regions and processes, and (b) the primary function of consciousness is to integrate processes/information that would otherwise be independent (the integration consensus).  Recent research illuminates the subset of areas and processes that are most closely related to conscious processing.  These investigations reveal that consciousness serves to integrate only certain kinds of information/processes.  Many forms of integration can occur unconsciously.  The peculiar form of integration associated with consciousness involves a form of information broadcasting that is intimately related to what is casually referred to as 'voluntary' action and to the skeletal muscle output system.  All these developments are synthesized in Supramodular Interaction Theory (SIT).  During this lecture, I will review evidence for the integration consensus, SIT, and other notable contemporary reductionistic approaches.


    Morsella, E. (2005). The function of phenomenal states: Supramodular interaction theory. Psychological Review, 112, 1000-1021. LINK:



abstract Roy Baumeister The Why, What and How of Consciousness

    Abstract: Consciousness is a distinguishing trait of human experience, but does it cause behavior or serve other useful functions? Recent critiques, especially from studies of automatic processes and brain functions, have suggested that it is inefficient and ineffective for controlling action and unnecessary for perceiving the environment. This talk reviews experimental studies on how manipulations of conscious thought cause changes in behavior. It draws new conclusions about what conscious thought can and cannot do -- and what it can do better than unconscious processes. It goes on to argue that the core functions of conscious thought are for relating to the social and cultural environment.


      Baumeister, Roy F. , E. J. Masicampo, and Kathleen D. Vohs (2011)

Do Conscious Thoughts Cause Behavior? Annual Review of Psychology 62: 331-361

      Baumeister, Roy F. and E. J. Masicampo (2010) Conscious Thought Is for Facilitating Social and Cultural Interactions: How Mental Simulations Serve the Animal–Culture Interface

Psychological Review 117(3) 945–971



abstract Bjorn Merker The Brain's Need for Sensory Consciousness: From Probabilities to Percepts

      Abstract: Some years ago I suggested that consciousness pays its way in the functional economy of the brain by unlocking the savings hidden in the mutual dependencies among target selection, action selection and motivational ranking through multi-objective constraint satisfaction among them (Merker 2007, p. 70). This would place consciousness at a late stage in the brain's operations, suggesting a subcortical implementation of key mechanisms of consciousness in sites of global convergence in midbrain and diencephalon. No doubt our cortical machinery is the source of much of our conscious contents, but that does not mean that the cortex also must be the site where those contents become conscious. Recent information-theoretic analyses of the probabilistic data format of cortical operations point to the utility of collapsing cortical probability density distributions to estimate form in extracortical locations (Ma et al. 2006). I propose that this essential step in neural operations is implemented in a subcortical "global best estimate buffer" whose contents - alone among neural activities - are conscious. They are so not by virtue of anything being "added" to them in order to "make them conscious," but as a direct consequence of the format they must adhere to in order to provide a global best estimate within the narrow time constraints of inter-saccadic intervals. That format directly matches the global format of our phenomenal experience, which in its sensory aspects is that of naive realism.


      Ma, W.J., Beck, J.M., Latham, P.E. & Pouget, A. 2006. Bayesian inference with probabilistic population codes. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 1432-1438.

      Merker, B. 2007. Consciousness without a cerebral cortex: A challenge for neuroscience and medicine. Target article, peer commentary and author--response. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 63: 134.



abstract Paul Cisek The Vanishing Central Executive: Distributed Neural Mechanisms for Decision-Making

      Abstract: Modern theories of the brain describe it as a series of information processing stages for perceiving and representing the world, thinking about it, and then acting upon it. However, this intuitively appealing and influential view is not well-supported by neurophysiological data. Sensory, cognitive, and motor functions appear distributed through diverse brain regions and often mixed within the activity of individual neurons. As an alternative, I will describe a model based on theories from ethology, which suggests that behavior involves a continuous competition between potential ways to interact with the world. I will present recent results supporting some of the key predictions of this alternative way of looking at how the brain implements behavior, focusing on neurophysiological studies of decisions between actions.


      Cisek, P. (1999) Beyond the computer metaphor: Behaviour as interaction. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 6(11-12): 125-142.

      Cisek, P. and Kalaska, J.F. (2010) Neural mechanisms for interacting with a world full of action choices. Annual Review of Neuroscience. 33: 269-298.



abstract Michael Shadlen Consciousness as a Decision to Engage

      Abstract: Consciousness encompasses a variety of functions and properties, such as awakening, awareness, and subjective aspects of both perception and volition (e.g., qualia and authorship, respectively). It remains to be seen whether these diverse functions are related to one another through common neural mechanisms, and if so how. Here, we advance the thesis that the neural mechanisms that give rise to conscious states share features with neural mechanisms that underlie simpler forms of decisions. The neurobiology of decision-making provides detailed insight into how the brain deliberates and reasons from evidence to make choices. The underlying mechanisms, mainly studied in animals, could support a variety of complex cognitive functions that probably operate independently of many aspects of consciousness. For example, many complex decisions in humans rely upon wakefulness but not upon awareness or authorship. In animal studies, decisions are typically embodied: they can be described as selection among possible actions. By substituting 'circuits' for 'actions' in the preceding phrase, we generalize from 'deciding to do' to 'deciding to consider' or, more generally, 'deciding to decide to. . . .' This is an appealing notion from the perspective of brain evolution, because it allows us to recognize ideation as an elaboration of a simpler sensory-motor design. We propose that many of the functions of consciousness are simply ways of engaging the environment. Thus consciousness might be mediated by (non-conscious) decisions to engage, as in awakening, or to engage in a certain way, as when attaching narrative to action. Although the neural mechanisms underlying 'decisions to engage' are unknown, they are likely to involve intralaminar (and matrix) thalamus and processes that 'decide' to turn other circuits on. This idea invites an analogy between the functions of brain regions that project to matrix thalamus, including the 'default system', and the role of parietal cortex in perceptual decisions. While highly speculative, we think 'decision to engage' provides a biologically plausible and computationally coherent hypothesis about the neural correlates of consciousness.  (From Shadlen & Kiani 2011)


      Shadlen MN, Roskies AL. 2012. The Neurobiology of Decision-Making and Responsibility: Reconciling Mechanism and Mindedness. Frontiers in Neuroscience 6

      Shadlen MN, Kiani R. 2011. Consciousness as a decision to engage. In Characterizing Consciousness: From Cognition to the Clinic? Research and Perspectives in Neurosciences, ed. S Dehaene, Y Christen, pp. 27-46. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag

      Shadlen MN, Kiani R, Hanks TD, Churchland AK. 2008. Neurobiology of Decision Making: An Intentional Framework. In Better Than Conscious?: Decision Making, the Human Mind, and Implications for Institutions, ed. C Engel, W Singer, pp. 71-102. Cambridge: MIT Press

      Gold J, Shadlen MN. 2007. The neural basis of decision making. Annu Rev Neurosci 30:535-74

      Kiani R, Shadlen MN. 2009. Representation of confidence associated with a decision by neurons in the parietal cortex. Science 324:759-64

      Yang T, Shadlen MN. 2007. Probabilistic reasoning by neurons. Nature 447:1075-80

      Shadlen MN, Movshon JA. 1999. Synchrony unbound: a critical evaluation of the temporal binding hypothesis. Neuron 24:67-77



abstract Wolf Singer Consciousness: Unity in Time Rather Than Space?

      Abstract: The search for neuronal correlates of consciousness (NCC) often relies on comparisons between neuronal activation patterns associated with conscious and non-conscious processing, respectively, of physically identical stimuli. This strategy is known as the subtraction method and thought to isolate neuronal processes specific for conscious experience. However, this approach does not allow one to clearly separate the NCC proper from processes that just permit access to consciousness such as fluctuations in excitability at early stages or from processes that follow conscious experience such as storage of perceived items in working memory and response preparation. This problem can be reduced but not eliminated by considering the precise temporal sequence of events, using methods that capture brain activity with high temporal resolution such as time frequency analysis and event related potentials extracted from EEG or MEG signals.

    Applying these methods we find as an early NCC a brief burst of oscillatory activity in the beta/gamma frequency range that occurs about 180 ms after stimulus presentation and is synchronized across a widely distributed network of cortical areas. This suggests as NCC not the activation of a particular, higher order cortical area but a dynamic state that is characterized by the coherent activation of a widely distributed network. This agrees with Baars and Dehaene's hypothesis of a work space and also with Sherrington's view that the unity of conscious experience does not require convergence in space (anatomical convergence) but results from coherence in time (temporal convergence, phase coherence). Indications for a special role of precisely synchronized oscillatory responses in the high frequency range have been obtained previously in animal experiments, using the paradigm of binocular rivalry.


      Fries, P., Roelfsema, P.R., Engel, A.K., Koenig, P., and Singer, W. (1997) Synchronization of oscillatory responses in visual cortex correlates with perception in interocular rivalry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of America. 94(23), 12699-12704

      Singer, W. (1998) Consciousness and the structure of neuronal representations. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 353: 1829-1840

      Engel, A.K., P. Fries, P.Koenig, M. Brecht, and W. Singer (1999) Temporal binding, binocular rivalry, and consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 8: 128-151 

      Engel, A.K., P. Fries, P. Koenig, M. Brecht, and W. Singer (1999) Concluding Commentary. Does time help to understand consciousness? Consciousness and Cognition 8: 260-268 

      Melloni, L., C. Molina, M. Pena, D. Torres, W. Singer, and E. Rodriguez (2007) Synchronization of neural activity across cortical areas correlates with conscious perception. The Journal of Neuroscience 27(11): 2858-2865

      Melloni, L. and W. Singer (2010) Distinct characteristics of conscious experience are met by large-scale neuronal synchronization. In: E. Perry, D. Collerton, F. LeBeau and H. Ashton (Eds.). New Horizons in the Neuroscience of Consciousness. Advances in Consciousness Research 79. John Benjamins, B.V., Amsterdam 2010, 17-28

      Aru, J., T. Bachmann, W. Singer and L. Melloni (2012) Distilling the neural correlates of consciousness. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 36(2): 737-746



abstract Erik Cook  Are Neural Fluctuations in Cortex Causally Linked to Visual Perception?

      Abstract: Our perception fluctuates when we view images at the threshold of our visual capabilities.  It has been widely shown that fluctuations in visual cortical activity are correlated with fluctuations in perception.  The source of these neural fluctuations, however, is not clear.  Are they causal, such as bottom-up sensory noise, that directly influences perception? Or are these fluctuations non-causal, such as top-down attentional modulation, that produce correlations between sensory neural activity and perception when no functional link actually exists between the two?  In this presentation, I will present accumulating evidence that both causal and non-causal processes are responsible for this functional link and that careful electrophysiological observations can distinguish between these two sources of neural fluctuations.


      Smith, J.E., Zhan, C.A. and Cook, E.P.  The functional link between area MT neural fluctuations and detection of a brief motion stimulus.  Journal of Neuroscience 31: 13458 - 68, 2011.



abstract Bjorn Brembs Behavioral Freedom and Decision-Making in Flies: Evolutionary precursor of "Free Will"?

Abstract: The collaborative actions of chance and necessity make up the foundation of evolutionary success: the deterministic rules of selection act upon the stochastic genetic variation to bring about adaptive change. Genetics studies both the variability of genomes and the almost faithful transmission of genetic information from generation to generation. The same concerted action of chance and necessity underlies bacterial chemotaxis: Escherichia coli uses straight runs and random tumbles to orient in odor plumes. In both instances, we understand both the mechanisms underlying the generation of variability and those of the the deterministic components. The behavior of organisms with nervous systems also employs this powerful combination when at first different behaviors are tried out in a new situation until the desired goal is achieved. Subsequent encounters with the same situation then lead to the successful behavior increasingly quickly. While we understand the deterministic selection processes ('reinforcement') leading to the reliable production of the behavior comparatively well, we know next to nothing about how the behavioral variability is generated that provides the substrate for these selection processes to act upon. Mutation, sexual recombination, jumping genes or horizontal gene transfer are crucial not only for evolution to take place, these fundamentally stochastic processes also make evolution principally unpredictable. Analogously, the processes by which brains generate variable and sometimes genuinely new behaviors are crucial for brains to generate adaptive behavioral choice and make brains principally unpredictable. It is this unpredictability which forms the evolutionary basis for behavioral freedom, a candidate for the evolutionary precursor to what we today call 'free will' in humans.


      Brembs 2010 Towards a scientific concept of free will as a biological trait: spontaneous actions and decision-making in invertebrates. Proc Roy Soc B

      Brembs (2008) The Importance of Being Active J. Neurogenetics

      Grobstein, Variability in Brain Function and Behavior

      Miller, Protean Primates: The Evolution of Adaptive Unpredictability

in Competition and Courtship

      Raichle, Two views of brain function

      Doyle, Free will: it's a normal biological property, not a gift or a mystery.



abstract Julio Martinez Voluntary Attention and Working Memory in The Primate Brain: Recording from Single Cells

      Abstract: Neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) of primates respond to visual stimuli and are selective for attributes such as location, object identity and motion direction (Zaksas and Pasternak, 2006). Furthermore, this selectivity persists when stimuli are removed and their attributes maintained in working memory. Previous studies have suggested that some dlPFC neurons preferentially represent the current sensory input, while others represent the contents of working memory (Fuster, 2000; Pasternak and Greenle, 2005). To investigate this issue we recorded the spiking activity of 155 dlPFC neurons from two rhesus monkeys while they performed different tasks in which they compared the motion direction of a sample random-dot pattern to that of a subsequent test pattern. In the Memory task, the sample and test presentations were separated by a delay period during which the monkey was required to remember the sample direction. In the No-memory task, the sample remained present during the entire trial, thus eliminating the working memory requirement. For each of the two tasks, the ability of each neuron to represent the motion direction of the sample during the delay period was quantified using signal detection theory. In approximately half of the direction-selective neurons, representations were stronger when the sample remained present (No-memory task) than when it was remembered (Memory task). Interestingly, in the remaining neurons, the sample direction was more strongly encoded when it was remembered than when it remained perceptually available. This suggests that while the former neurons preferentially encode sensory input, the latter may serve a specific role in working memory maintenance. The ability of the entire population of recorded neurons to represent the sample direction was quantified using a linear discriminant analysis. In both tasks classification performance remained well above chance throughout the entire delay period. These results demonstrate that in the dlPFC the strength of visual representations during working memory is temporally robust and comparable to that of representations driven by sensory input.


Fuster JM. Memory networks in the prefrontal cortex. Prog Brain Res.

2000;122:309-16. Review

Zaksas D, Pasternak T. Directional signals in the prefrontal cortex and in

area MT during a working memory for visual motion task. J Neurosci. 2006


Pasternak T, Greenlee MW. Working memory in primate sensory systems. Nat Rev

Neurosci. 2005 Feb;6(2):97-107. Review. Erratum in: Nat Rev Neurosci. 2005




abstract Christopher Pack  Vision During Unconsciousness

      Abstract: Visual perception is closely associated with consciousness, and an important part of visual perception is the ability to infer the properties of objects from time-varying changes in retinal stimulation. Two key properties that are of obvious behavioral relevance are their identity and their velocity relative to the observer. In this presentation I will review old results that show how certain kinds of anesthetics impair the ability of individual neurons in the visual cortex to extract important physical quantities from retinal input. I will then present more recent work that provides a computational account of how these neurons integrate their inputs so as to become selective for important stimulus properties. Finally, I will show how the same computations appear to be at work in visual cortical regions that are responsible for different functions, including the estimation of object identity and velocity.


    Mineault, P.J., Khawaja, F.A., Butts, D.A., and Pack, C.C. (2012) Hierarchical processing of complex motion along the primate dorsal visual pathway. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 109, E972-980.

      Pack, C.C., Berezovskii, V.K., and Born, R.T. (2001) Dynamic properties of neurons in cortical area MT in alert and anaesthetized macaque monkeys. Nature, 414, 905-908.



abstract Barbara Finlay Continuities/Discontinuities in Vertebrate Brain Evolution and Cognitive Capacities: Implications for Consciousness?

      Abstract: Comparing the evolution of consciousness and its contents to the structural evolution of the brain often runs aground on basic misunderstandings about brain scaling.  Because the neocortex appears 'oversize'� in humans, for example, the presumption that the cortex must be the structure critical to multiple aspects of human cognition and consciousness is ubiquitous.  Demonstration that humans have exactly the relative volume of cortex expected for a primate of our brain size demands explicit discussion of when discontinuities in awareness should be proposed when no structural discontinuities exist.  When developmental homologies between vertebrate brain parts are established, and the allometries of neurons and networks are well described, true 'discontinuities'� in brain structure prove to be very rare.  Yet, there are occasional substantial reorganizations of brain connectivity that may shed light on the contents of consciousness.  The reorganization of viscerosensory representation in insular cortex in large primates may enable basic changes in the perception and communication of pain and distress, a phenomenon I will term 'the pain of altruism'�.


      Syal, S. and Finlay, B.L. (2011) Thinking outside the cortex: Social motivation in the evolution and development of language. Developmental Science  14:  417-430 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.00997.x

      Charvet, C.J. and Finlay B.L. (2011) Embracing covariation in brain evolution: Large brains, extended development and flexible primate social systems.  In Evolution of the Primate Brain: From Neuron to Behavior, in M.A.Hofman & D. Falk, eds., Progress in Brain Research  195: 71-87.  [PDF will be provided]



abstract Gary Comstock Feeling Matters

    Abstract: What scientific experiments, if any, are we justified in performing on animals in order to answer philosophical questions such as the distribution of complex feelings across species? Would researchers, for example, be justified in inducing behavioral signs of depression in monkeys if they thought the results could help to resolve the metaphysical question, whether nonhumans have the capacity to feel, for example, the social anxiety that results from thinking that others think you are worthless?  To make progress on this issue, I proceed in three steps. First, I review the case for thinking that cynomulgus monkeys experience social-stress induced depression, a higher order mental state some humans find worse than death. Second, I introduce and rebut three objections to the idea that we can legitimately attribute this feeling to monkeys. Third, I conclude by outlining an invasive experiment that might help to settle the Distribution Question and I ask whether it would be humane to carry it out.


    Call, J. & Tomasello, M., 2008. Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? 30 years later. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(5), pp.187-192.   

    Lerner, Y. et al., 2011. Topographic mapping of a hierarchy of temporal receptive windows using a narrated story. The Journal of neuroscience - the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(8), pp.2906-2915.

    Penn, D.C., Holyoak, K.J. & Povinelli, D.J., 2008. Darwin's Mistake: Explaining the Discontinuity Between Human and Nonhuman Minds. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31(02), pp.109-130.

    Shively, C.A. et al., 2005. Social stress-associated depression in adult female cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Biological Psychology, 69(1), pp.67-84. 

    Stewart, M.E. et al., 2006. Presentation of Depression in Autism and Asperger Syndrome A Review. Autism, 10(1), pp.103'116. 

    Willard, S.L. & Shively, C.A., 2011. Modeling depression in adult female cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). American Journal of Primatology, 73, pp.1-15.



abstract David Rosenthal Does Consciousness Have any Utility?

      Abstract: It is plain that an individual's being conscious and an individual's being conscious of various things are both crucial for successful functioning.  But it is far less clear how it might also be useful for a person's psychological states to occur consciously, as against those states occurring but without being conscious.  I'll restrict attention here to cognitive and desiderative states, though similar considerations apply to perceiving, sensing, and feeling; like cognition and volition, all these states are useful; the question is whether any additional utility is conferred by any of these states' occurring consciously, and I'll offer reasons to think not.  It has been held that cognitive and volitional states' being conscious enhances processes of rational thought and planning, intentional action, executive function, and the correction of complex reasoning.  I examine  these and related proposals in the light of empirical findings and theoretical considerations, and conclude that there is little reason to think that any additional utility results from these states' occurring consciously.

      If so, we cannot rely on evolutionary adaptation to explain why such states so often occur consciously in humans and likely many other animals.  Elsewhere (Consciousness and Mind, Clarendon, 2005) I have briefly sketched an alternative explanation, on which cognitive and desiderative states come to be conscious as a byproduct of other useful psychological developments, some involving language.  But there is still no significant utility that these states' being conscious adds to the utility of those other developments.


      Rosenthal, D "Consciousness and Its Function" Neuropsychologia, 46, 3 (2008): 829-840.



abstractMark Balaguer A Scientifically Reputable Version of Indeterministic Libertarian Free Will

    Abstract: In this paper, I defend libertarianism (i.e., the view that humans have libertarian free will) against philosophical and scientific objections.  The main philosophical objection is sometimes called the Mind argument, or the luck objection; in responding to this objection, I argue that there's a certain subset of our decisions that have the following property: if they are undetermined in the right way, then they are libertarian free.  This conclusion turns the traditional Mind argument upside-down; if my argument is cogent, then it shows that the question of whether we possess libertarian free will reduces to an empirical question about whether certain of our decisions are undetermined in the right way.  Finally, in the second half of the paper, I respond to a few scientific objections to libertarianism, arguing that we do not have any good empirical reasons to doubt the hypothesis that our decisions are undetermined in the right way.  Now, it seems clear that we also don't have any good reason to believe this hypothesis, and so my overall conclusion is that the question of whether we possess libertarian free will is an open empirical question.


    Balaguer, M. Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem, MIT Press, 2010.

    Balaguer, M. "Why There are no Good Arguments for any Interesting Version of Determinism," Synthese, vol. 168 (2009), pp. 1-21.,top

    Balaguer, M. "A Coherent, Naturalistic, and Plausible Formulation of Libertarian Free Will," Nous, vol. 38 (September 2004), pp. 379-406.,%20Naturalistic,%20and%20Plausible%20Formulation%20of%20Libertarian%20Free%20Will.pdf#view=FitH,top



abstract Adrian Ward Mind Blanking: When the Stream of Consciousness Runs Dry

Abstract: Is it possible for the mind to be blank? Conscious thought is central to human experience, and this centrality has led many to propose that the stream of consciousness is uninterrupted - that 'thought is�without breach, crack, or division' (James, 1892). We propose that these presumptions of omnipresence are premature, and explore the phenomenon of 'mind-blanking,' a mental state defined by a lack of conscious thought. Using experimental evidence from several studies, we present the case that (1) mind-blanking is a distinct mental state, distinguishable from both stimulus-dependent thought and other stimulus-independent mental states such as mind-wandering; (2) mind-blanking is subject to ironic effects of mental control, such that attempts to suppress blanking result in more blanking than if suppression had never been attempted; and (3) mind-blanking is subject to ego depletion effects, such that ego-depleting activities result in higher incidences of blanking during a subsequent free thought period.


Blackmore, S. (2002) There is no stream of consciousness. ournal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 9, number 5-6

Jonathan W. Schooler (2002) Re-representing consciousness: dissociations between experience and meta- consciousness. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.6 No.8



abstract Simon Baron-Cohen Evolution of Empathy

      Abstract: Empathy is the drive to identify another person's thoughts and feelings and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion. Empathy comes by degrees, with individual differences evident in the traditional bell curve. We now know quite a lot about which parts of the brain are used when we empathize and how empathy develops in children. We also know that early experience affects empathy, but so does biology: hormones in the womb, and specific genes. There are several ways in which one can lose one's empathy, clearly seen in psychiatric conditions such as the personality disorders, including the psychopath. We discuss how people with autism and psychopaths show opposite empathy profiles. Finally, the discovery that there may be 'genes for empathy' implies that empathy may be the result of our evolution. 


      Baron-Cohen, S, (2011) Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty. Penguin/Basic Books.

    Baron-Cohen, S (2003) The Essential Difference: men, women, and the extreme male brain. Penguin/Basic Books

    Baron-Cohen, S (2009) Autism and Asperger Syndrome: The Facts. Oxford University Press.

    Simon Baron-Cohen and Sally Wheelwright The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol. 34, No. 2, April 2004



abstract Alfred Mele Do Conscious Decisions Ever Play a Role in Action Production?

      Abstract: I will discuss some alleged evidence (from Libet, for example) that conscious intentions never play a role in producing corresponding actions and some alleged evidence (from studies of implementation intentions) that they sometimes do play this role.  I then take up the question whether conscious reasoning ever plays a role in the production of intentions and actions.  I set the stage for my discussion by rehearsing a familiar scientific argument for the claim that free will is an illusion.


      Mele: Intentional action: Controversies, data, and core hypotheses

      Mele/Cushman: Intentional Action, Folk Judgments, and Stories: Sorting Things Out 7.pdf

      Mele: Effective Intentions (Oxford University Press, 2009) chapters 3, 4, and 7

      Mele: Free will: Action theory meets neuroscience

      Mele: Real Self-Deception



abstract Hakwan Lau How to study the functions of subjective awareness?

      Abstract: I give some examples of subliminal priming studies suggesting that subjective awareness may not be as functionally powerful as we might think. However these studies as well as most others in the field suffer from a methodological problem: in rendering stimuli unconscious we substantially lower the relevant signal strength, so subliminal priming effects are invariably weak. It is a problem for a whole field to rely on weak effects because null results are hard to interpret and positive results are subject to selection and publication bias. So I propose a new approach to address this problem. The key is to keep signal strength / perceptual sensitivity constant while manipulating subjective awareness, and to see how that affects cognitive functions. This is hard to achieve but I show preliminary data demonstrating how this could be done.


      Unconscious activation of the cognitive control system in the human prefrontal cortex. Lau HC, Passingham RE. J Neurosci. 2007 May 23;27(21):5805-11.

      Empirical support for higher-order theories of conscious awareness

Hakwan Lau and David Rosenthal

      Attention to Intention

      Subliminal stimuli in the near absence of attention influence top-down cognitive control.

Rahnev DA, Huang E, Lau H. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2012

      Does response interference depend on the subjective visibility of flanker distractors?

Maniscalco B, Bang JW, Iravani L, Camps-Febrer F, Lau H. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2012

      Attention induces conservative subjective biases in visual perception. Rahnev D, Maniscalco B, Graves T, Huang E, de Lange FP, Lau H. Nat Neurosci. 2011 Oct 23;14(12):1513-5

      Direct injection of noise to the visual cortex decreases accuracy but increases decision confidence. Rahnev DA, Maniscalco B, Luber B, Lau H, Lisanby SH. J Neurophysiol. 2012 Mar;107(6):1556-63.



abstract Luiz Pessoa Cognitive-Emotional Interactions

      Abstract: The current view of brain organization supports the notion that there is a considerable degree of functional specialization and that many regions can be conceptualized as either 'affective' or 'cognitive'. Popular examples are the amygdala in the domain of emotion and the lateral prefrontal cortex in cognition. This prevalent view is problematic for a number of reasons. It will be argued that complex cognitive-emotional behaviors have their basis in networks of brain areas, none of which should be conceptualized as specifically affective or cognitive. Central to cognitive-emotional interactions are brain areas with a high degree of connectivity called hubs, which are critical for regulating the flow and integration of information between regions. To illustrate cognitive-emotional processing, I will discuss a series of studies that have investigated interactions between emotion and perception, and emotion and executive function. In the final part of my talk, I will address the following question: What is the relationship between emotion and consciousness? I will discuss how large-scale interactions are critical for both emotion-cognition and consciousness, suggesting that the study of these interactions is needed for advancing our understanding of their relationship.


    Pessoa, L. On the relationship between emotion and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2008. Feb;9(2):148-58.

    Tsuchiya N, Adolphs R. Emotion and consciousness. Trends Cogn Sci, 2007 Apr;11(4):158-67

    Thompson, E. & Varela, F. J. Radical embodiment:  neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends Cogn. Sci. 5, 418–425 (2001).



abstract Marthe Kiley-Worthington Comparing Elephant and Equine Mental Traits,

Subjectivity and Consciousness

      Abstract: A combination of both reviewed scientific knowledge and knowledge gathered from philosophy of mind, critically assessed anecdotes & centuries of folk knowledge concerning the cognition of other mammals (Conditional Anthropomorphism) is proposed as a rational method to begin to outline these species subjectivity & consciousness. This paper briefly examines mammalian similarities and species differences in bodies & behaviour ( sensations, feelings, emotions learning, ecological and social knowledge, rationality, dreaming & imagination, awareness of self, theory of mind & comprehension of human language) , their  probable resulting mental attitudes, subjectivity and type of consciousness. Such an approach allows a greater understanding of another species consciousness, and can, perhaps, enrich our own.


    A comparative study of equine and elephant mental attributes leading to an acceptance of their subjectivity and consciousness . M.Kiley-Worthington. Journal of  Consciousness Exploration & Research  Jan 2011 vol 2 p 10-50.

    Behavioural Problems of Farm Animals.;jsessionid=446799673DE05414208BBBB4C817B7AA

    Animals in circuses and zoos: Chiron's world



abstract Axel Cleermans Consciousness and Learning

      Abstract: Here, starting from the fact that neural activity is intrinsically unconscious, I suggest that consciousness arises as a result of the brain's continuous attempts at predicting not only the consequences of action on the world and on other agents, but also the consequences of activity in one cerebral region on activity in other regions. By this account, the brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity to itself, so developing systems of metarepresentations that characterize and qualify their target representations. Such re-representations form the basis of conscious experience, and also subtend successful control of action. In a sense thus, this is the enactive perspective, but turned both inwards and further outwards. Consciousness amounts to 'signal detection on the mind'; it is the brain's (non-conceptual, embodied, implicit) theory about itself. By this hypothesis, which I call the "radical plasticity thesis", consciousness critically depends on a cognitive system's ability to learn about (1) the effects of its actions on the environment, (2) the effects of its actions on other agents, and on (3) the effects of activity in one cerebral region on other cerebral regions.


      Cleeremans, A. (2011). The Radical Plasticity Thesis: How the brain learns to be conscious. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 1-12.

      Timmermans, B., Schilbach, L., Pasquali, A., & Cleeremans, A. (2012).

Higher-order thoughts in action: Consciousness as an unconscious redescription process Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B

      Pasquali, A., Timmermans, B., & Cleeremans, A.(2010).

Know thyself: Metacognitive networks and measures of consciousness

Cognition, 117 182-190



abstract Stefano Mancuso Evolution of Plant Intelligence

      Abstract: Intelligent behavior is a complex adaptive phenomenon that has evolved to enable organisms to deal with variable environmental circumstances. Maximizing fitness requires skill in foraging for necessary resources (food) in competitive circumstances and is probably the activity in which intelligent behavior is most easily seen. Biologists suggest that intelligence encompasses the characteristics of detailed sensory perception, information processing, learning, memory, choice, optimisation of resource sequestration with minimal outlay, self-recognition, and foresight by predictive modeling. All these properties are concerned with a capacity for problem solving in recurrent and novel situations. I will review the evidence that individual plant species exhibit all of these intelligent behavioral capabilities but do so through phenotypic plasticity, not movement. Furthermore it is in the competitive foraging for resources that most of these intelligent attributes have been detected. Plants should therefore be regarded as prototypical intelligent organisms, a concept that has considerable consequences for investigations of whole plant communication, computation and signal transduction.

    It should not be surprising that neuronal computation is not limited to animal brains but is used also by bacteria and plants. It is generally assumed that brains and neurons represent late evolutionary achievements which are present only in more advanced animals. But recent data suggest that our understanding of bacteria, unicellular eukaryotic organisms, plants, brains and neurons, rooted in Aristotelian philosophy is flawed. Neural aspects of biological systems are obvious already in bacteria and unicellular biological units such as sexual gametes and diverse unicellular eukaryotic organisms. Altogether, processes and activities thought to represent evolutionarily 'recent' specializations of the nervous system may be ancient and fundamental cell survival processes.


      Mindless mastery - Nature 2002

      Aspects of Plant Intelligence - Annals pf Botany 2003

      Plant intelligence - Naturwissenschaften 2005

      Green plants as intelligent organisms - TRENDS in Plant Science 2005

      Plant Neurobiology as a Paradigm Shift Not Only in the Plant Sciences

      Plant neurobiology: no brain, no gain? - TRENDS in Plant Science 2007

      Response to Alpi et al.: Plant neurobiology: the gain is more than the name - TRENDS in Plant Science 2007

      Response to Alpi et al.: Plant neurobiology - all metaphors have value - TRENDS in Plant Science 2007

      Reflections on 'plant neurobiology' - BioSystems 2008

      Plant neurobiology: from sensory biology, via plant communication, to social plant behavior - Cognitive Process 2009

      Spatiotemporal dynamics of the electrical network activity in the root apex - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2009

      Deep evolutionary origins of neurobiology - Communicative & Integrative Biology 2009



abstract Gualtiero Piccinini Is Consciousness a Spandrel?

      Abstract: Assigning a biological function to phenomenal consciousness appears to be needed to explain its evolutionary origin. For evolution by natural selection operates on organisms' traits based on the functions they fulfill. And yet identifying the function(s) of phenomenal consciousness has proven difficult. Some have proposed that the function of phenomenal consciousness is facilitating mental processes such as learning or reasoning. But mental processes such as learning and reasoning seem to be possible in the absence of phenomenal consciousness. It is difficult to pinpoint in what way phenomenal consciousness enhances such processes. In this paper, we explore a possibility that has been neglected to date. Perhaps phenomenal consciousness is a spandrel, that is, a byproduct of other traits that has no functions of its own. If so, then phenomenal consciousness has an evolutionary explanation even though it fulfills no biological function.


      S. J. Gould and R. C. Lewontin (1979), 'The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme,' Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 205, 581-598.



abstract Malcolm MacIver Sensory and Motor Spaces and the Emergence of Multiple Futures

      Abstract: Back in our watery days as fish, we lived in a medium that was inherently unfriendly to seeing things very far away. The technical way this is measured is the "attenuation length" of light through the medium. After light travels the attenuation length through a medium, about 63% of the light is blocked. The attenuation length of light in water is on the order of tens of meters. For a beast of a meter or two in length, which moves at a rate of about a body length or two per second, that's a pretty short horizon of time and space. In just a few seconds, you'll reach the edge of where you were able to see. If you're down in the depths at all, or in less clear water, you may reach the edge of your perceptual horizon in about a second. In this talk, I'll explore the quantification of sensory and motor spaces, developed through our work on the weakly electric fish, a popular model system of sensory neurobiology. I discuss the relationship between behavioral control and the relative size of these spaces. Finally, I'll discuss whether emergence on to land, where the attenuation length of light is essentially infinite, may have been a key step in producing favorable conditions for the evolution of the ability to plan over multiple possible futures.


      Why Did Consciousness Evolve, and How Can We Modify It?

      Neuroethology From Morphological Computation to Planning

      Omnidirectional Sensory and Motor Volumes in Electric Fish



abstract Jennifer Mather Evolutionary Pressures and Cephalopod Consciousness

      Abstract: On the face of it, cephalopods are unlikely candidates for consciousness, even at a primary level.  They stem from slow, simple molluscan ancestors, but during evolution they have lost the protective shell.   Likely in the competition with bony fishes, they have instead developed a centralized brain, acute vision, complex control of arm movement and a stunning skin display system.  But unlike other non-human animals with well developed cognition, they are not social.  What would the evolutionary pressure be, then, for these animals to develop consciousness?  The answer may lie in the complexity of their near-shore marine environment.  Mobile cephalopods must search this environment to find prey, and octopuses do so with a saltatory search technique.   At the same time they are vulnerable to predators and have an array of defenses, from camouflage to false eye spots and ink release to flight, to avoid or react to them.  Yet they are mobile—octopuses move to a new home range every ten days or two weeks—so they cannot store information and responses to form automatic loops.  It may be this constant change and pressure to update that caused the cephalopods to develop a simple form of consciousness.


      Mather, J. A. (2008).  Cephalopod consciousness: Behavioral evidence.  Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 37-48

      Mather, J. A. (2010).  What might consciousness in cephalopods be like? Journal of Cosmology (special issue on consciousness)

      Philosophical background of attitudes toward and treatment of invertebrates

      Behavioural indicators of pain in crustacean decapods

      Pain and suffering in invertebrates?

      New evidence of animal consciousness

      [See also David Edelman reference list]



abstract Eva Jablonka Evolutionary Origins of Experiencing

      Abstract: An approach focused on the evolutionary transition to experiencing – to the first organisms with phenomenal consciousness – can enable the identification of  fundamental organizational principles involved in experiencing. Based on the heuristics of the origin-of-life research, we outline a parallel approach to experiencing, and suggest that just as function emerged with the transition to life, felt-needs emerged with the transition to experiencing. We argue that experiencing is a facet of open-ended associative learning in neural animals with a CNS, and that the evolution of associative learning was a key factor in the metazoan diversification during the Cambrian. It endowed animals with motivation and increased their discrimination powers on the basis of systemic reward systems. Tracking the molecular and neural correlates of associative learning as they emerged during evolutionary history may therefore shed light on the dynamics that underlie elementary forms of experiencing.


      Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka (2010) Experiencing: a Jamesian approach   Journal of Consciousness Studies 17:102-124.    

      Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka (2007) The Transition to Experiencing: I. Limited Learning and Limited Experiencing  Biological Theory. 2(3) 218–230.

      Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka (2007) The Transition to Experiencing: II. The Evolution of Associative Learning Based on Feelings. Biological Theory 2(3) 231–243

      Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka (2010) Associative learning: a factor in the Cambrian explosion. Journal of Theoretical Biology 266:11–20.



abstract Alain Ptito Neural Mechanisms of Blindsight after Hemispherectomy: Tapping into the Unconscious

      Abstract: Hemispherectomy subjects (Hs) have offered a unique opportunity to study the role that subcortical structures play in blindsight because the hemisphere contralateral to the blind field is absent or non-functional. We first showed Hs could detect and localize simple targets and moving gratings, discriminate grating velocity and differentiate forms in their blind field. We suggested a role of subcortical pathways i.e. the superior colliculi (SC), with the participation of the remaining hemisphere. We reported the existence of residual vision with awareness in the blind field and showed that Hs were insensitive to motion-in-depth in their hemianopic field and that some possess blindsight as shown by a spatial summation effect i.e. subjects only react to the stimulus presented in their intact field, without being aware that the simultaneous presentation of another stimulus in their blind field lowers their reaction time. We hypothesized that this indirect method to evaluate blindsight could involve subcortical mechanisms without requiring cortical processing, and without the subject's awareness. We then reported that the cellular integrity and metabolism of the ipsilateral SC in the vervet monkey are much less affected than those of the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) after neonatal hemispherectomy. We underlined the importance of controlling intraocular light scatter and published the first fMRI study on residual vision. We concluded that the SC are likely implicated in blindsight in Hs, and we recently utilized the color vision properties of collicular cells to demonstrate its involvement in the residual visual abilities of Hs. Since the primate SC does not receive retinal input from shortwave-sensitive (S-) cones involved in colour vision, consequently rendering them colour blind to blue yellow stimuli, we tested 3 Hs who had reliably shown blindsight. They demonstrated a spatial summation effect only to achromatic stimuli suggesting that their blindsight is colour-blind to blue/yellow stimuli and is not receiving input from retinal S-cones. We concluded that blindsight is likely mediated by the SC in Hs. We were the first to use Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) Tractography to investigate pulvinar connectivity in humans and SC connectivity in Hs with and without blindsight. We demonstrated the presence of projections from the ipsi- and contralesional SC to primary visual areas, visual association areas, precentral areas/FEF and the internal capsule of the remaining hemisphere in Hs with 'Type I' or 'attention-blindsight' and an absence of these connections in Hs without it. In another study using fMRI, we demonstrated in Hs that achromatic stimuli but not S-cone-isolating stimuli in the blind field of a subject with blindsight activated visual areas FEF/ V5 and that the cortical activation pattern was enhanced by achromatic stimuli only. We concluded that the human SC is blind to S-cone-isolating stimuli, and that blindsight is mediated by an S-cone-independent collicular pathway, at least in Hs.

      The SC is the main recipient of retinal projections in lower mammals with a phylogenetically older and more primitive visual system than humans. Similar but weaker retinocollicular projections also exist in humans. Although existing SC connections to the remaining cortical areas seem to play a pivotal role in unconscious vision, blindsight subjects remain unaware of the information processed in their blind visual field. One possibility for the lack of awareness may lie in the lack of synchronicity in cerebral activation. The human visual pathways process information simultaneously and yet are able to work independently of each other (as is the case following a circumscribed lesion in a visual cortical area). For conscious perception, however, a specific synchronized activation pattern of different cortical areas involving ventral, parietal and frontal visual areas is believed to be crucial. Our results indicate that Hs with 'Type I' or'attention blindsight' are able to enhance visual performance in their blind field, but remain unaware of visual processing presumably because they are unable to access a more complex synchronous cortical activation pattern involving higher top-down mechanisms necessary for conscious vision.


      Neural substrates of blindsight after hemispherectomy

      Unconscious vision: new insights into the neuronal correlate of blindsight using diffusion tractography

      Neural Substrates of Blindsight in Hemispherectomized Subjects.

      The nature of consciousness in the visually deprived brain



abstract Amir Shmuel Neurophysiological and hemodynamic measurements of spontaneous activity and functional connectivity

      Abstract: Recent functional MRI (fMRI) studies in humans have demonstrated large amplitude slow (< 0.1 Hz) fluctuations in the resting state. Importantly, these spontaneous fluctuations in the Blood-Oxygenation-Level-Dependent (BOLD) signal are often synchronized over distant parts of the brain, a phenomenon termed resting-state functional connectivity. Functional connectivity analysis identifies resting-state networks of areas that also coactivate in response to stimuli or tasks. In my talk, I'll first explore whether fMRI-measured spontaneous fluctuations reflect those seen in neurophysiological activity. I will then demonstrate that resting-state functional connectivity exists in a hierarchical manner in space. In addition to the commonly reported networks on the spatial scale of cortical areas, smaller networks can be observed at the resolution scales of sub-areas and cortical columns. I will conclude with hypotheses on the mechanisms involved, the role of spontaneous activity, and implications for clinical neuroscience.

<>        Carbonell F, Bellec P, Shmuel A. (2011) Neuronal Correlates of Spontaneous Fluctuations in fMRI Signals in Monkey Visual Cortex: Implications for Functional Connectivity at Rest. Brain Connect. 2011;1(6):496-510
        Shmuel A, Leopold DA (2008) Neuronal Correlates of Spontaneous Fluctuations in fMRI Signals in Monkey Visual Cortex: Implications for Functional Connectivity at Rest. Hum Brain Mapp. 2008 Jul;29(7):751-61

        Smith et al., 2009 Correspondence of the brain's functional architecture during activation and rest



abstract Gilles Plourde General Anesthetics for the Study Consciousness

    Abstract: Although general anesthetics have been used for more than 150 years and suppress consciousness in a predictable manner, their mechanisms of action are not fully elucidated. Numerous studies have been devoted to understanding how general anesthetics impair consciousness in human subjects using either functional brain imaging or electrophysiology. These studies have obvious relevance for the study of consciousness, particularly for consciousness as a waking state and in regard to self-awareness. They have revealed the critical involvement of the thalamus and offered evidence supporting the hypothesis that the anesthetized state is associated with loss of connectivity and attenuation neuronal oscillations in the high-gamma range. In this lecture, I will first review the aspect of the pharmacology of general anesthetic that are essential to appreciate the possibilities that these drugs offer to study consciousness as well as their limitations. In the second part, I will summarize the main findings that emerge from the literature.


    Alkire MT, Hudetz AG, Tononi G. Consciousness and anesthesia. Science 2008; 322: 876-80

    Franks NP. General anaesthesia: from molecular targets to neuronal pathways of sleep and arousal. Nat Rev Neurosci 2008; 9: 370-86

    Critical involvement of the thalamus and precuneus during restoration of consciousness with physostigmine in humans during propofol anaesthesia: a positron emission tomography study



abstract Amir Raz Hypnosis as Experimental Tool to Study Metacognition, Causality and Volition

      Abstract: An early form of psychotherapy, hypnosis has been tarnished by a checkered history: stage shows, movies and cartoons that perpetuate specious myths; and individuals who unabashedly write 'hypnotist' on their business cards. Hypnosis is in the twilight zone alongside a few other mind–body exemplars. Although scientists are still unraveling how hypnosis works, little is mystical about this powerful top-down process, which is an important tool in the armamentarium of the cognitive scientist seeking to unlock topical conundrums.  Philosophical research has revealed a great deal about three categories of behavior: conscious decision-making, authorship, and sense of control. However, little conclusive evidence regarding their interdependent nature has been found, due to the difficulties in separating their influences on tasks such as decision-making.


      Demacheva, I, M Ladouceur, E Steinberg, G Pogossova, A Raz (2012) The Applied Cognitive Psychology of Attention: A Step Closer to Understanding Magic Tricks. Applied Cognitive Psychology

      Raz, A. (2011). Does Neuroimaging of Suggestion Elucidate Hypnotic Trance? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 59(3), 363-377.

      Raz, A (2011) Hypnosis: a twilight zone of the top-down variety. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, December 2011, Vol. 15, No. 12

      Raz, A., & Whatley, B. (2009) Consciousness reduced: Will neuroscience confine the mind to the brain? PsycCRITIQUES - Contemporary Psychology, 54(39).

      Raz, A., & Zigman, P., (2009). Using Magic as a Vehicle to Elucidate Attention. In A. Finazzi AgrËœ et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. London: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

      Raz, A. (2009) Varieties of Attention: A Research-Magician's Perspective. In G. Bernston and J. Cacioppo (Eds.), Handbook of Neuroscience for the Behavioural Sciences (pp. 361-369). Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.



abstract John Searle Consciousness and Causality

            Abstract: How do neurobiological processes in the brain cause consciousness? I think this is the most important question in the biological sciences today. Two related questions: Where exactly is consciousness realized in the brain and how does it function causally in our behavior? We know consciousness happens and we know the brain does it. How does it work? How do we approach this problem scientifically? The standard way is to go through three steps. First, try to find the neurobiological correlate of consciousness. Second, try to test if the correlations are in fact causal. Do the neurobiological states cause consciousness? Third, try to formulate a theory. Why do these processes cause consciousness at all, and why do these specific processes cause these specific conscious states? One depressing feature of this entire research project is that it does not seem to be making much progress.


Mystery of consciousness  a book by me. NYRB book

The Problem of Consciousness:

How to study consciousness scientifically

Free Will as a Problem in Neurobiology,%20Language,%20and%20Political%20Power.pdf