Sunday, 8 July 2012

X. Measuring Consciousness (Monday July 9)

Alain Ptito (McGill) Neural Mechanisms of Blindsight after Hemispherectomy: Tapping into the Unconscious
Amir Shmuel (McGill) Neurophysiological and hemodynamic measurements of spontaneous activity and functional connectivity
Gilles Plourde (McGill) General Anesthetics for the Study Consciousness
Amir Raz (McGill) Hypnosis as Experimental Tool to Study Metacognition, Causality and Volition
John Searle (Berkeley) Consciousness and Causalityabstract -- discussion thread (commentary invited) -- video (to come)


  1. Why consciousness? why life? why the universe?


      "The universe is not a biological trait, hence no adaptive function. Life is a precondition for adaptive function (though it's possible that the self-replicative property of genes is at the root of adaptive function). But feeling (consciousness), like feeding and flying, is a biological trait. Hence it is natural to ask what is its adaptive function (i.e. "why?")."

      "Actually it was not "why" for the adaptive function but rather why it appeared first? Any biological traits that appears and is maintained by natural selesction actually did not appeared because it was adaptive. A trait appears first by mere chance, exactly as life probably did and exactly as the universe probably did. I agree they are maintained because they appeared to be adative but they surely didn't appear because they were adaptive. There are all simply the result of purposeless events. So of course the universe is not biological but the universe is physical and life is a part of this physical universe. They all follow the same rules of physics and all emerged with no purposeful reasons.
      So why consciousness might not be on the purposeless events that appeared and never disapeared with no specific reason?"

      "Adaptive traits can start as random mutations, or, more often, and changes in existing developmental processes; they may already be there (because of some other, possibly expired adaptive function) and their newfound adaptiveness could be because of a new environmental change"

    2. These reflexions actually pose 2 different problems:

      1) The threshold between mere reflexes and self-consciousness:
      As everything biological nowadays, consciousness is the result of evolution. Nobody denies that, of course. But as a product of evolution it must have been preceeded by earlier forms of reactivity. Where then is the limit, the frontier between consciousness and simple motor or chemical reflexes ? As Dr. (or prof., apologies given) Sossen and Edelman exposed through their works, different types of "consciousness/reactivity" exist throughout the animal kingdom. The tough part is pinpointing the precise limit of each domain. Finding and defining precisely different types of animal consciousness/reactivity is a keypart of understanding our own consciousness. Just as the coelacanthe is at the hinge of underwater and overwater breathing (it actually has both gills and lungs), there must be animals stuck in an ecological niche where both consciousness and mere reflexes are still interwoven tightly. So research in that general direction is very important to consciousness studies.
      and 2) the adaptive advantage of consciousness:
      Even though consciousness might be a by-product of evolution, it has got to confer an advantage in certain niches over mere reflexes. As Bjorn Brembs exemplified through fishes’ C-start reflexes exploited by anacondas, motor reflexes are not enough to be a successful part of the food chain. The key to research in that area has then got to be finding which cognitive activities cannot be accomplished (or just not as effectively) without consciousness.


      Why consciousness? why life? why the universe?
      I remember the answer being 42.

      Ask google: "the answer to life the universe and everything" and see for yourself.


  2. Hi Pauline and Dr. Harnad (and everyone else reading this!),

    I thought it may be good to share this TED talk by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor:

    In her own way, she connects her brain, the consciousness and the universe(!) by relating her personal story about having a stroke in her left hemisphere. I found it truly interesting how the two hemispheres can be thought to have different personalities and even different consciousness-es!


    PS: I truly enjoyed the summer school and I would like to thank you and all of the volunteers, organizers that worked so hard to bring it to life! Thank you so much!

  3. Xavier Dery ‏@XavierDery

    Searl: "memory organizes consciousness" so many implications to these three words #TuringC

    4:25 PM - 9 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app

  4. Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays.