Brain, Mind and Reality
Stockholm, Sweden, May 3-7, 2011
The nature of consciousness is the most interesting and important question we face. Consciousness is awareness, subjective experience of internal and external worlds, of understanding, feeling, meaning, sense of self and choice. Our views of reality, of the universe, of ourselves depend on consciousness. Consciousness defines our existence.
How the brain produces consciousness is an open question, as is its place in the universe. Most scientists and philosophers assume consciousness emerged during evolution as a by-product of complex computation among brain neurons, that neurons and synapses are fundamentally no different than bit states and switches in computers. However this neurocomputational view pays a price. It requires consciousness to be an after-the-fact illusion, merely along for the ride, a helpless spectator. Free will is deemed impossible.
Neurocomputation also precludes the possibility of non-local conscious phenomena, including oft-reported backward time effects, near-death and spiritual experiences, altered states and feelings of connection to a deeper reality. Accordingly, some believe that neurocomputation is incomplete, that consciousness is in some way intrinsic to the universe, in accord with not only ancient writings, but also modern physics, cosmology, non-locality and quantum brain biology. This view questions consciousness as a biological adaptation of evolution, and suggests consciousness has, in some sense, been here all along. Long considered ‘non-scientific’, such views have been bolstered in recent years by experimental evidence, and deserve to be aired and debated.
Such issues will be approached in this week-long conference. The ‘main course’ is the 5-day Plenary Program, held in the famous Aula Magna Hall, May 3-7, 2011. The Plenary Program, described below with a summary description of each session, will be preceded by two days of pre-conference activities.
On Sunday May 1 Pre-conference workshops on Synesthesia (sensory cross-over common among creative individuals), and Neural Correlates of Consciousness (brain activities, network architectures and testable predictions regarding consciousness) will be held. On Monday May 2 a special pre-conference workshop (9 am to 4 pm in the Aula Magna Hall) by the famed Deepak Chopra will address ‘Consciousness: The Ultimate Reality?’ Following the Chopra workshop, a Public Forum will take place Monday evening.
Public Forum: Science, Consciousness and Spirituality
5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, Aula Magna
Moderator: Mia-Marie Hammarlin, Lund University
Descriptions and teachings of spiritual phenomena have seemed irrational, pushing scientists toward atheism or dualism. However non-locality has entered brain biology, and end-of-life brain activity defies conventional explanations. Can quantum physics bridge science and spirituality?
5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Short talks
End-of-Life Conscious Experience, Peter Fenwick, Psychiatry, London
God and Quantum Mechanics, Ignacio Silva, Theology, Oxford
Quantum Physics and Eastern Philosophy, Tarja Kallio-Tamminen, Physics, Helsinki,
Consciousness and Ultimate Reality, Deepak Chopra, Physician, NY/California
6:00-6:30 pm, Panel/Commentary
Leonard Mlodinow, Physics, Pasadena; Lluis Oviedo, Franciscan Theologian, Rome; Paola Zizzi, Physics, Padua; Giorgio Innocenti, Neuroscientist, Karolinska; Menas Kafatos, Physics, Chapman University; Stuart Hameroff, Physician, Arizona
6:30-7:00 pm, Audience questions, General discussion
Toward a Science of Consciousness 2011
The conference opens Tuesday morning May 3, 2011. Plenary Sessions will be held in the famous Aula Magna, co-moderated by Swedish TV producer and host Annika Dopping, along with a scientist, e.g. Stuart Hameroff, Peter Fenwick and Lars-Göran Nilsson. Musical interludes by John Kluge.
TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011
Plenary 1, 8:30 am to 10:40 am
Brain Electromagnetic Fields and Consciousness
David McCormick, Yale
Endogenous Electric Fields Guide Cortical Network Activity
Sue Pockett, Auckland
E-M Field Theory of Consciousness: The Shape of Conscious Fields
Johnjoe McFadden, Surrey
The Continuous E-M Information (CEMI) Field Theory of Consciousness
Does consciousness derive from complex neuronal computation in the brain, as is generally assumed? Or is consciousness embedded in the brain’s electromagnetic field, the field associated with that computation? In recent years evidence has shown brain-generated E-M fields can feed back upon and regulate other brain activities. Neuroscientist Sue Pockett and biologist JohnJoe McFadden have each, separately, for many years argued for consciousness as identical to the brain’s complex electromagnetic field. Neuroscientist David McCormick has recently shown that the brain’s generated electromagnetic field can indeed feed back upon, and regulate neuronal activities, apparent evidence in support of Pockett and McFadden.
Plenary 2, 11:10am to 12:30 pm
Time and Consciousness I
Harald Atmanspacher, Freiberg
Temporal Nonlocality In Bistable Perception
Sara Gonzalez-Andino, Geneva
Backward Time Referral in the Amygdala of Primates
The famous Libet experiments and many others have long suggested backward time referral of conscious experience in the brain. Does backward referral require quantum physics? Can it salvage free will? Would it be an evolutionary advantage? Physicist Harald Atmanspacher considers temporal nonlocality, states of a system that are smeared out in time, in bistable perceptions such as the famous Necker cube. Neuroscientist/physicist Sara Gonzalez-Andino considers backward time referral in firings of neurons in the amygdala ‘fear center’ in primates.
Plenary 3, 2:00 pm to 4:10 pm
Deepak Chopra, The Chopra Foundation
Vedic Approaches to Consciousness and Reality
Leonard Mlodinow, Pasadena
The Grand Design of Our Universe
Paola Zizzi, Padua
Consciousness In The Early Universe
Three views of consciousness in the universe will be put forth. Following ancient Vedic philosophy, author and spiritualist Deepak Chopra maintains consciousness is primary, that consciousness is all there is. Physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow (e.g. Grand Design with Stephen Hawking) sees consciousness as epiphenomenal happenstance of this one particular universe among multitudes, as proposed in M-theory. Physicist Paola Zizzi will suggest consciousness came with the ‘Big Bang’, that consciousness is intrinsic to spacetime geometry, the fabric of reality.
Tuesday May 3 afternoon/evening; Concurrent Sessions 1-8, Opening Party
After the Tuesday Plenary program will be 8 Concurrent talk sessions, each on specific topics, 5 speakers per session, from 4:30 to 6:35 pm. Sessions and topics are (see program for speakers and locations): 1.Representation/Higher order theories; 2. Knowledge/Hard Problem; 3. Free will/Libet; 4. Synesthesia; 5 Neural Correlates of Consciousness I (NCC I); 6 Medicine I; 7. Quantum I; 8. Altered states I
Following Concurrent sessions 1-8, the Opening Welcome Party will take place in the Aula Magna Plaza. See full conference program for details.
Artistic and Technological Exhibits featuring interactive and expressive approaches to conscious experience will run throughout the conference in the Aula magna lobby, with a special Jol Thomson Installation in the Polstjanan room. Curators: Nancy Clark, Maureen Seaberg and Abi Behar Montefiore.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011
Plenary 4, 8:30 am to 10:40 am
Eric Wassermann, NIH
Transcranial Stimulation and Consciousness
Allan Snyder, Sydney
Accessing Beyond Conscious Awareness by Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation
William J Tyler, Virginia Tech Carilion Institute
Mechanical Waves and Consciousness
A new genre of noninvasive, inexpensive transcranial therapies applied at the scalp is safely able to modulate brain activities and regulate mental states. Studies of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) and transcranial ultrasound stimulation (TUS) aimed at learning, mood, brain injury, synaptic plasticity, entertainment and personal lifestyle will be discussed, as will their potential mechanisms of action. Eric Wasserman will discuss applications of TES and TMS, and Allan Snyder will describe his findings that TES can markedly enhance memory capability. William J Tyler will discuss mechanical signaling, i.e. ultrasound vibrations in the brain somehow connected to consciousness.
Plenary 5, 11:10am to 12:30 pm
Neural correlates of consciousness I
Rafi Malach, Weizmann Institue
Local Neuronal Ignitions and the Emergence of Perceptual Awareness
Dietmar Plenz, NIH
Neuronal Avalanches, Coherence Potentials, and Cooperativity
What specific neuronal activities are responsible for consciousness? Rafi Malach and Dietmar Plenz present converging evidence that consciousness is distinguished by highly coherent activities of large number of brain neurons acting in unison. How do these neurons interact and cooperate? How do their activities, and consciousness, relate to the E-M fields they generate? Why is coherence essential to consciousness?
Plenary 6, 2:00 pm to 4:10 pm
Consciousness and Reality II
Menas Kafatos, Chapman
Consciousness and the Universe: Non-local, Entangled, Complementary Reality
Tarja Kallio-Tamminem, Helsinki
Quantum Physics and Eastern philosophy
Paavo Pylkkanen, Skovde, Helsinki
Bohmian view of consciousness and reality
What is reality? Does consciousness occur strictly in the materialist realm of classical physics? Or does consciousness somehow involve the nonlocal weirdness of quantum mechanics? Does the conscious observer collapse the wave function? Or is consciousness the collapse itself? What is entanglement? Menas Kafatos describes what is known about the universe, and how strange it really is. Tarja Kallio-Tamminem finds similarities between quantum physics and Eastern spiritual traditions. Paavo Pylkkanen bridges the gap with the perspective of David Bohm.
Wednesday May 4 afternoon/evening Concurrent Sessions 9-16 and 17-24, Poster Session 1
After the Wednesday Plenary program will be Concurrent talk sessions 9-16, each on specific topics, 5 speakers per session, from 4:30 to 6:35 pm. Sessions and topics are (see program for speakers and locations): 9. Phenomenology/Content of Consciousness; 10. Panpsychism; 11. Time and Consciousness; 12. NCC II; 13. Medicine II; 14. Quantum II; 15. Religion and Consciousness; 16. Experiential I
From 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Concurrent sessions on specific themes 17-24 will be held (6 speakers each) on specific themes (see program for speakers and locations): 17. Language/Reporting; 18. AI/Computationalism; 19. Open; 20. Microtubules I; 21. Altered States II; 22. Integrative models I; 23. Experiential II: 24. Eastern Approaches I.
Poster Session 1 will also take place Wednesday 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm in the Aula Magna lobby. Posters will be grouped in the following categories : Philosophy, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science and Psychology, Physical and Biological Sciences, Experiential Approaches, Culture and Humanities.
THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2011
Plenary 7, 8:30 am to 10:40 am
Varieties of Religious Experience
Mario Beauregard, Montreal
Neuroscience of Transcendent Experiences