ASSC 17 Keynote Talks


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Friday, July 13th, 2013 -


Presidential Address (17:30-18:30):

Intrinsic Coupling Modes and Consciousness

Andreas K. Engel, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Physiology
Dep't of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

It has been proposed that functional coupling of neural signals may be involved in several processes indispensable for consciousness, including integration, selection and routing of relevant information. Evidence is accumulating that these processes are strongly determined by the intrinsic dynamics of the brain, reflected in specific coupling patterns that can also be observed in the absence of stimuli or tasks. The presentation will discuss recent studies on changes of such intrinsic coupling modes under anesthesia and in bistable stimulus paradigms. While the former suggest that intrinisic coupling modes may be important in regulating levels of consciousness, the latter demonstrate that they also predict changes in the contents of conscious states.



Saturday, July 13th, 2013 -


Keynote I (09:00-10:00):

Memories and Volitions: Insights from Single Neuron Recordings in the Human Brain

Itzhak Fried, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Neurosurgery
University of California, Los Angeles &
Tel-Aviv Medical Center and Tel-Aviv University

Single neuron recordings in neurosurgical patients provide a rare opportunity to examine the inner workings of the human mind in conscious subjects who can report their memories and volitions. Neuronal mechanisms in the medial temporal lobe, explicit at the single neuron level, underlie the transformation of external information to mental constructs, which will later be available for conscious processing. At the same time, neuronal mechanisms in the medial frontal lobe underlie the transformation of action programs into consciously recognized volitions. Together then these neuronal networks, accessed by single neuron recordings, provide important components of the stream of consciousness connecting past and future.


Keynote II (17:30-18:30):

Consciousness in Outer Space

Shaun Gallagher, Ph.D.
Dep’t of Philosophy
University of Memphis

I'll report on a neurophenomenological, simulation-based investigation into the aesthetic and spiritual experiences had by astronauts during space flight.  A team of researchers and I have conducted experiments in which we attempt to replicate such experiences using immersive mixed reality simulations.  I will detail some methodological issues that arise in the study, and I'll define two different concepts of immersion.  I will report preliminary results that correlate neurological (EEG and fNIR) and physiological (EKG) measures with events in the simulated environment, phenomenological reports defined across 38 categories of experience characterized broadly as feelings of awe and wonder, and psychological profiles measured by a battery of questionnaires. I'll conclude by exploring some philosophical issues connected with the specialized forms of consciousness under study.


Sunday, July 14th, 2013 -


Keynote III (09:00-10:00):  

Neural Network Dynamics for Attentional Selection 

Sabine Kastner, M.D., Ph.D.
Dep't of Psychology
Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Director, Neuroimaging Facility
Princeton University

Natural scenes are cluttered and contain many objects that cannot all be processed simultaneously due to capacity limitations of the visual system. Selective attention refers to a set of mechanisms that route behaviorally relevant information through large-scale cortical networks. I will discuss studies performed in two primate brain models, the human and the macaque monkey, using a variety of different techniques including fMRI, ECoG and single-cell physiology.  First, I will discuss how large-scale networks mediating perception and cognition can be identified using functional brain imaging. Second, I will discuss physiology studies revealing temporal dynamics in a distributed large-scale network that mediates the selection of behaviorally relevant information. Particularly, while there is evidence that populations of cortical neurons synchronize their activity to preferentially transmit information about attentional priorities, it is unclear how cortical synchrony across a network is accomplished. I will discuss the unique role of thalamo-cortical interactions in influencing cortical networks to optimize their communication.  These studies are complemented by ECoG recordings from human epilepsy patients using identical behavioral paradigms providing a mechanistic understanding of the coding principles that best predict behavior in both primate species. 


Keynote IV (17:30-18:30): 

Perceived Location: A New Measure of Attention 

Patrick Cavanagh, Ph.D.
Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception
Institut Neurosciences Cognition
Université Paris Descartes

How do we know where things are? The standard explanation for perceived position has always been that each neuron responds only to a particular location on the retina so, after correcting for movements of our eyes and head, there should really be no problem. However, perceived location can deviate dramatically from retinal location, showing that this simple explanation cannot be true. These deviations arise when the visual system predicts where targets should be and in this case we see the predicted, not the retinal location. We have found behavioral evidence of attention benefits at these predicted locations and we now show that when targets are moving, they are seen ahead of their actual retinal location because they are seen at their predicted next location. These results suggest that a core function of visual attention is to provide the position code for attended targets and the errors of prediction then allow us to use position perception as a new tool for studying attention. Evidence suggests that underlying both the attention and position representations are saccade maps acting as the “master map of locations” – for eye movements, for attention, and for perception. Interestingly, if the saccade system specifies perceived location, it reverses the usual assumption that action is guided by perception and suggests instead that perception is determined by action.