ASSC 18 Tutorials

                                                                            Wednesday July 16, 2014   

Morning Short-Course: Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness

  • Giulio Tononi (University of Wisconsin, USA)
  • Christof Koch (Allen Institute for Brain Science)
  • Naotsugu Tsuchiya (Monash University, Australia)
  • Masafumi Oizumi (Riken Brain Science Institute, Japan)
  • Larissa Albantakis (University of Wisconsin, USA)

Integrated information theory of consciousness (IIT) has recently attracted attention among consciousness researchers. The tutorial at ASSC17 was sold out, and many have asked for an in-depth presentation of the theory and its implications. We propose to: i) introduce the basic notions of IIT to a broad audience without requiring a mathematical background, and provide hands-on examples in which integrated information can be computed rigorously; ii) introduce measures of integrated information that can be applied to empirical data and discuss how they can be applied to evaluate the level of consciousness in wake, sleep, anesthesia, and disorders of consciousness; iii) discuss the problem of assessing the presence of consciousness in animals and machines, and how IIT can provide a principled approach; iv) demonstrate how integrated information grows in animals adapting to a complex environment, thereby shedding light on the evolution of consciousness; v) consider the explanatory, predictive, and inferential power of IIT; and vi) consider potential problems and future developments.


This event is sponsored by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function


                                      ---------------------- Tutorials ----------------------

TUTORIAL 1: “Olfactory Consciousness.”

  • Andreas Keller (The Rockerfeller University, USA)

The word "visual" appears 222 times in last year's ASSC Conference program book. The world "olfactory" appears only once. This is unfortunate because the olfactory system is much simpler and more primitive than the visual system, yet it is perfectly capable of processing information consciously. In many other fields of biology, studying simple model systems has been spectacularly successful in increasing our understanding of basic processes. There is no reason to believe that this would be any different in consciousness researchers. The goal of my proposed tutorial is to introduce consciousness researchers to olfaction as a simple, evolutionary conserved, and well-understood model system for consciousness research. I will point out some facts about visual consciousness that are often assumed to be true for all perceptual cosnciousness, although they depend on special adaptations in the visual system. I will also discuss several attempts to falsify or confirm theories of consciousness in the olfactory system. I am currently co-editing a Research Topic "Olfactory Consciousness across Disciplines" for Frontiers in Consciousness Research and some of the material presented will be based on the 15 contributions to this collection. 


SOLD OUT! - TUTORIAL 2: “Seeing what's not there and measuring it: Conscious perception without a stimulus."

  • Joel Pearson  (University of New South Wales, Australia)

Hallucinations, mental imagery, synaesthesia and many illusions can all create a wakeful conscious experience without a corresponding stimulus or sensory stimulation. Historically research into such dimensions of conscious experience has suffered criticism and lacked scientific traction due to the methodological constraints caused by the inherent private nature of such experiences. Accordingly, empirical consciousness research has tended to focus on the inverse situation: neural stimulation without consciousness awareness (Binocular rivalry, masking, continuous flash suppression). However, recently objective research methods have been introduced that allow a more direct investigation into the mechanisms and neural substrates of conscious experience that lacks a direct external cause. This tutorial will offer researchers at all levels an overview of pertinent methodological and conceptual issues and will cover:

  1. The range of new and old research and relevant methods.
  2. The theory behind these methods.
  3. Some practical hands on experience.
  4. The capabilities, limitations and implications of using such methods.
  5. How these methods can be used for applied research in clinical and non- clinical settings.

Together, these new methods can expand empirical consciousness research by investigating conscious experience when stimulation has been removed. Questions and interactive discussion will be emphasized


TUTORIAL 3: Cancelled

  • Colin Hales (The University of Melbourne, Australia)



TUTORIAL 4: “Theory of Neuronal Cognition and Consciousness."

  • Claude Touzet  (Aix-Marseille University, France)

Formalized in 2010, the Theory of neuronal Cognition and Consciousness (TnCC) departs from all existing materialist theories of mind by claiming that our brain does not process information, but only represents information. The logical implication is that we are only a crystallization of our interactions with the environment. Since « extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs », the goal of my tutorial is to provide researchers at all levels with the neuronal blueprints of a (large) number of cognitive functions and concepts. After the description of the cortex as a hierarchy of self-organizing associative memories, I will show how the synergy between sensory and sensory-motor maps generates behaviors. I will then offer explanations about intelligence (a side effect of the observer knowledge), consciousness (an automatic verbalization), endogenous and exogenous attentions, episodic and semantic memories, motivation or joy (a side effect of associative memories functioning). TnCC also offers tentative explanations about a few brain diseases (schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's disease, autism) and answers to long-lasting questions such as why we must sleep, how hypnosis works, what is the placebo effect, and how unsupervised systems achieve homeostasis. However the biggest TnCC result relates to the fact that the absence of free-will is a sure guaranty that we must promote altruism to increase our personal happiness.