December 27, 2009

Toward a Science of Consciousness 2010

conferences — alice @ 1:34 am

socSecond Announcement and Call for Abstracts

Toward a Science of Consciousness, April 12-17, 2010
Tucson Convention Center, Tucson, Arizona

Abstract Submission Deadline December 31, 2009


Notification by January 10, 2010

Sponsored by The Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona

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November 9, 2009

Wired for Hunger: The Brain and Obesity

From the Dana Foundation:For most of human history, food was not readily available; storing energy helped ensure survival. Humans thus evolved to eat whenever food is at hand-a tendency that in the modern world may contribute to widespread obesity. Researchers are starting to determine the brain circuitry responsible for this default “eat” message. Marcelo Dietrich and Tamas Horvath tell the story of false starts and measured successes in obesity research. They propose that developing successful obesity therapy may require combining drug therapy with psychological or psychiatric approaches, as well as exercise. In the sidebar, they examine the opposite of obesity: anorexia nervosa.

Click here for the complete article.

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Consciousness: Two College-Level Webcourses

web resource — alice @ 10:45 pm



With Dr. Bernard J. Baars

Center for Consciousness Studies
The University of Arizona

See website for course outline and registration forms:

Brief Summary:

Both courses will run November 14, 2009 through February 7, 2010 with a Winter Break from December 20 to January 4.

You will receive weekly podcasts, pdf lectures, and Experiential Labs. We will meet in live Discussion Groups each weekend.

Consciousness: The WebCourse will have Discussion Groups each Saturday and Sunday morning from 10am -12 noon, Pacific Time. Course Members are invited to participate live for one or two hours.

If you cannot join us at those times, we will have an Asynchronous Discussion Group for you as well.

The Advanced Seminar will meet via the web on Sunday afternoons from 2-4 pm.

Dr. Baars will send you audio lectures (podcasts) each week of the 10-week term, along with written lectures. We will have Experiential Labs each week, to allow you to explore your own experiences in various interesting ways.

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October 25, 2009

Theta Rhythm and Memory Performance

In a recent study, Sebastian Guderian and colleagues examined the relation between theta oscillations and memory performance. During the study phase of this memory experiment, participants were presented with words and either performed a semantic or phonemic encoding task (there were two levels of processing used in this experiment). During the study phase, the researchers obtained whole-head MEG recordings. Later on during the test phase, the participants were given a free-recall test on the words that were presented to them during the study phase.

Interestingly, Guderian and colleagues found that amplitudes of theta oscillations that shortly preceded the presentation of the words were higher for those words that were later recalled during the free-recall test, compared to those words that were later forgotten.

Although past studies have shown that specific patterns of brain activity are associated with the encoding of items, this study by Guderian and colleagues is one of a handful of more recent studies that demonstrate pre-stimulus brain activity that is associated with later memory performance (another example is a study by Otten and colleagues).

Moreover, although semantic study tasks typically lead to better memory performance compared to phonemic tasks, the results of the study by Guederian and colleagues suggest that this study task benefit is not only statistically independent from the theta-related recall benefit, but that these benefits are additive.

Click here for the full paper.

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October 21, 2009

What Can Dance Teach Us about Learning?

cognitive neuroscience,memory — alice @ 9:19 pm

From the Dana Foundation: We might begin to learn a dance step when someone describes it to us, but we learn it better when we physically perform the steps as we observe and imitate an instructor doing them. Scott Grafton’s research sheds light on the brain’s action observation network, which fires up both when we perform an action and when we watch someone else perform it. Dr. Grafton contends that his and others’ findings highlight the importance of including physical learning in the classroom, to stimulate creativity, increase motivation and bolster social intelligence.

Click here for the complete article.

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October 17, 2009

Alpha Oscillations, Attention and Consciousness

One way to describe brain activity measured by EEG or MEG is by its frequency content. Frequencies can be categorized into one of the following ranges: low, middle and high. The low frequencies include the delta and theta ranges, whereas the middle frequency range consists of the alpha and beta ranges. The gamma wave belongs to the high frequency group.

Different cognitive functions have been associated with these different frequency ranges. Specifically, alpha oscillations have been associated with the inhibition of brain regions that are not required to perform a given task. However, in a past paper, Palva and Palva summarized an accumulating body of evidence that suggested that alpha oscillations play a much larger role in cognition by contributing to mechanisms of attention and consciousness. Click here for full access to the paper.

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October 9, 2009

1/f Scaling and Emergent Pattern Formation in Complex Systems

1/f scaling (or 1/f noise) refers to a scaling relation followed by fluctuations that have been widely observed in nature. 1/f fluctuations have been observed ubiquitously across different disciplines of science (e.g. chemistry, psychology, biology). In specific relation to cognitive neuroscience, 1/f scaling has been observed widely in fMRI measurement series and treated, generally, as noise to work around as opposed to an object of study. The challenge is that since 1/f fluctuations seem to be present throughout the brain, they do not help localize specific cognitive functions to specific areas of the brain. However, studies have shown that the appearance of 1/f fluctuations in fMRI measurements change as a function of cognitive variables.

Whereas some researchers argue that 1/f scaling is a byproduct of processes that are irrelevant to theories of cognition, others argue that 1/f fluctuations reflect a general and essential principle of emergent pattern formation in complex systems, including cognitive systems.

In a past study Kello, Beltz, Holden and Van Orden examined the relevance of 1/f scaling to cognitive function in four experiments using simple and choice response tasks. (For full access to the paper, click here.) The results of this study supported the emergent coordination argument and the researchers concluded that “the generality of 1/f scaling in cognitive performance is evidence that cognitive functions are universally formed as emergent patterns of physiological and behavioral activity”.

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October 5, 2009

Lucid Dreaming: A State of Consciousness with Features of Both Waking and Non-Lucid Dreaming

U. Voss, R. Holzmann, I. Tuin, J.A. Hobson
Article in Sleep

Study Objectives: The goal of the study was to seek physiological correlates of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a dissociated state with aspects of waking and dreaming combined in a way so as to suggest a specific alteration in brain physiology for which we now present preliminary but intriguing evidence. We show that the unusual combination of hallucinatory dream activity and wake-like reflective awareness and agentive control experienced in lucid dreams is paralleled by significant changes in electrophysiology.

Design: 19-channel EEG was recorded on up to 5 nights for each participant. Lucid episodes occurred as a result of pre-sleep autosuggestion.

Setting: Sleep laboratory of the Neurological Clinic, Frankfurt University.

Participants: Six student volunteers who had been trained to become lucid and to signal lucidity through a pattern of horizontal eye movements.

Measurements and Results: Results show lucid dreaming to have REM-like power in frequency bands delta and theta, and higher-than-REM activity in the gamma band, the between-states-difference peaking around 40 Hz. Power in the 40 Hz band is strongest in the frontal and frontolateral region. Overall coherence levels are similar in waking and lucid dreaming and significantly higher than in REM sleep, throughout the entire frequency spectrum analyzed. Regarding specific frequency bands, waking is characterized by high coherence in alpha, and lucid dreaming by increased delta and theta band coherence. In lucid dreaming, coherence is largest in frontolateral and frontal areas.

Conclusions: Our data show that lucid dreaming constitutes a hybrid state of consciousness with definable and measurable differences from waking and from REM sleep, particularly in frontal areas.

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Causal role of prefrontal cortex in the threshold for access to consciousness

attention,brain injury,perception — alice @ 12:36 am

A. Del Cul, S. Dehaene, P. Reyes, E. Bravo, A. Slachevsky
Article in Brain

What neural mechanisms support our conscious perception of briefly presented stimuli? Some theories of conscious access postulate a key role of topdown amplification loops involving prefrontal cortex (PFC). To test this issue, we measured the visual backward masking threshold in patients with focal prefrontal lesions, using both objective and subjective measures while controlling for putative attention deficits. In all conditions of temporal or spatial attention cueing, the threshold for access to consciousness was systematically shifted in patients, particular after a lesion of the left anterior PFC. The deficit affected subjective reports more than objective performance, and objective performance conditioned on subjective visibility was essentially normal. We conclude that PFC makes a causal contribution to conscious visual perception of masked stimuli, and outline a dual-route signal detection theory of objective and subjective decision making.

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October 4, 2009

Web-based Courses on Consciousness

web resource,workshop — alice @ 2:56 am

Center for Consciousness Studies


FALL 2009

Registration OPEN

November 14, 2009 to FEBRUARY 7, 2010




Both taught by Dr. Bernard J. Baars

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September 12, 2009


conferences — alice @ 1:00 pm

First Announcement and Call for Abstractssoc

April 12-17, 2010
Tucson Convention Center, Tucson, Arizona

Sponsored by:

The Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona

Click here for conference website.

The ninth biennial Tucson conference Toward a Science of Consciousness will take place April 12-17, 2010 at the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson conferences are known for rigorous, inter-disciplinary approaches to�understanding all aspects of the problem of conscious experience. As in previous conferences, the program will include Plenary and Keynote talks, Concurrent talks, Poster presentations, Art/Science demos and exhibits, Pre-Conference workshops, Side trips and Social events.

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July 29, 2009

Survey: Neuroscience in Economics and Marketing?

web resource — thomasr @ 1:08 am


We would like to invite you to take part to this survey. Your answers will help to gather information about the perceptions and thoughts about the use of brain science methods in non-medical settings.


Any information that you provide will be confidential. All participants will be anonymous such that no personal information concerning you or your company will be made public either during, or after the completion and release of this study. The questionnaire should take about 10 minutes of your time. If you wish to receive a summary of the results (that you can pass on to your home company) please indicate at the end of this questionnaire and include your e-mail address. We will not use this e-mail for other purposes than for sending you the summary.


My name is Matteo Bellisario, and I am completing my final report for my Master Degree in Strategic Market Creation at the Copenhagen Business School, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

My academic supervisor for this research is Dr. Thomas Z. Rams�y, head of the Decision Neuroscience Research Group at the Copenhagen Business School and Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance at Copenhagen University Hospital.

The results will be part of my Master Thesis, and may, if suitable, be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.


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May 19, 2009

Neuroscience Meets Psychoanalysis

books,memory,neuroscience,web resource — alice @ 1:29 am

From the Dana Foundation: Dr. Pierre Magistretti and Dr. Francois Ansermet spoke with Dana Foundation Chairman William Safire about their book, Biology of Freedom: Neural Plasticity, Experience, and the Unconscious, and the bridge between neuroscience and psychoanalysis. The event took place on November 14, 2007 at the Dana Center in Washington, DC. 

Click here for the audio archive.

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Learning, Arts, and the Brain: the Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition

From the Dana Foundation: The Dana Foundation released at a news conference on March 4, Learning, Arts, and the Brain, a three-year study at seven universities, which finds strong links between arts education and cognitive development. Speakers included Michael Gazzaniga, Ph.D., UC, Santa Barbara; Michael Posner, Ph.D., University of Oregon;  Elizabeth Spelke, Ph.D., Harvard University  and Brian Wandell, Ph.D., Stanford University.  Guy Mckhann, M.D., Johns Hopkins University gave a summary and Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts spoke of the study’s importance to the field of education.

Click here for the webcast archive.

Click here for the event transcript.

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May 3, 2009

Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic

bookreview,books — alice @ 11:46 pm


Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic


Reviewed by Alice Kim

From grade school onwards, I was taught that science follows a linear process.  The practice of science was equated to the scientific method.  During my undergraduate career I had the opportunity to get involved in research through independent research course projects, as well as summer student research programs.  Throughout these experiences I started to sense that there may be more to the practice of science than the scientific method that I was taught in school.  Now as a graduate student, I’m more aware of the ambiguity and passion that complements the objectivity and logic ingrained in the practice of science.  In his book Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic, Dr. Frederick Grinnell describes the practice of science, embracing the role of intuition and passion, as well as logic and objectivity, in the path to discovery.  Importantly, throughout his book Grinnell highlights the fact that scientists begin their work with particular interests and commitments.  He recognizes that the hegemonic views of society are not filtered out from the practice of science.  Instead, he emphasizes that the everyday practice of science seeks truth (small “t”) as we currently understand things, not Truth (capital “T”) that further experience cannot change.

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Understanding Consciousness, 2nd Edition

books,phenomenology,philosophy,theory — alice @ 10:51 pm


Authored by Max Velmans

Understanding Consciousness, 2nd Edition provides a unique survey and evaluation of consciousness studies, along with an original analysis of consciousness that combines scientific findings, philosophy and common sense. Building on the widely praised first edition, this new edition adds fresh research, and deepens the original analysis in a way that reflects some of the fundamental changes in the understanding of consciousness that have taken place over the last 10 years.

The book is divided into three parts; Part one surveys current theories of consciousness, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Part two reconstructs an understanding of consciousness from first principles, starting with its phenomenology, and leading to a closer examination of how conscious experience relates to the world described by physics and information processing in the brain. Finally, Part three deals with some of the fundamental issues such as what consciousness is and does, and how it fits into to the evolving universe. As the structure of the book moves from a basic overview of the field to a successively deeper analysis, it can be used both for those new to the subject and for more established researchers.

Understanding Consciousness tells a story with a beginning, middle and end in a way that integrates the philosophy of consciousness with the science. Overall, the book provides a unique perspective on how to address the problems of consciousness and as such, will be of great interest to psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and other professionals concerned with mind/body relationships, and all who are interested in this subject.

2009, 408 pp, paperback and hardback
ISBN: 978-0-415-42516-2

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April 17, 2009

Intuitions About Consciousness: Experimental Studies

cognition,theory of mind — alice @ 12:01 am

Joshua Knobe and Jesse Prinz
Article in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

When people are trying to determine whether an entity is capable of having certain kinds of mental states, they can think of it either from a functional standpoint or from a physical standpoint. We conducted a series of studies to determine how each of these standpoints impact people’s mental state ascriptions. The results point to a striking difference between two kinds of states-those that involve phenomenal consciousness and those that do not. Specifically, it appears that ascriptions of states that involve phenomenal consciousness show a special sort of sensitivity to purely physical factors.

Click here for the complete article.

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The Emergence of Consciousness in Phylogeny

comparative studies,evolution — alice @ 12:00 am

Michel Cabanac, Arnaud J. Cabanac, Andre Parent
Article in Behavioural Brain Research

The brains of animals show chemical, anatomical, and functional differences, such as dopamine production and structure of sleep, between Amniota and older groups. In addition, play behavior, capacity to acquire taste aversion, sensory pleasure in decision making, and expression of emotional tachycardia and fever started also to be displayed by Amniota, suggesting that the brain may have began to work differently in early Amniota than in Lissamphibia and earlier vertebrates. Thus we propose that emotion, and more broadly speaking consciousness, emerged in the evolutionary line among the early Amniota. We also propose that consciousness is characterized by a common mental pathway that uses pleasure, or its counterpart displeasure, as a means to optimize behavior.

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April 10, 2009

Falls, Faints, Fits and Funny Turns

neuroscience — alice @ 12:05 am

Roland D. Thijs, Bastiaan R. Bloem, J. Gert van Dijk
Article in Journal of Neurology

In this practically oriented review, we will outline the clinical approach of patients with falls due to an impairment or loss of consciousness. Following a set of definitions, we describe the salient clinical features of disorders leading to such falls. Among falls caused by true loss of consciousness, we separate the clinical characteristics of syncopal falls (due to reflex syncope, hypovolemia, orthostatic hypotension or cardiac syncope) from falls due to other causes of transient unconsciousness, such as seizures. With respect to falls caused by an apparent loss of consciousness, we discuss the presentation of cataplexy, drop attacks, and psychogenic falls. Particular emphasis will be laid upon crucial features obtained by history taking for distinguishing between the various conditions that cause or mimic a transient loss of consciousness.

Click here for a preview of the paper.

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Investigating the Awareness of Remembering

Ken A. Paller, Joel L.Voss, Carmen E. Westerberg
Article in Perspectives on Psychological Science

There is a marked lack of consensus concerning the best way to learn how conscious experiences arise. In this article, we advocate for scientific approaches that attempt to bring together four types of phenomena and their corresponding theoretical accounts: behavioral acts, cognitive events, neural events, and subjective experience. We propose that the key challenge is to comprehensively specify the relationships among these four facets of the problem of understanding consciousness without excluding any facet. Although other perspectives on consciousness can also be informative, combining these four perspectives could lead to significant progress in explaining a conscious experience such as remembering. We summarize some relevant findings from cognitive neuroscience investigations of the conscious experience of memory retrieval and of memory behaviors that transpire in the absence of the awareness of remembering. These examples illustrate suitable scientific strategies for making progress in understanding consciousness by developing and testing theories that connect the behavioral expression of recall and recognition, the requisite cognitive transactions, the neural events that make remembering possible, and the awareness of remembering.

Click here for the full paper.

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