Tutorials

One of the aims of this meeting is to allow researchers to gain a background in areas that they may know little about. Towards that end a number of tutorials are planned. Some participants in the conference may be interested in learning about technical matters such as EEG or other important brain imaging techniques. Others might enjoy a seminar on a philosophical topic, or a tutorial on relevant matters in cognitive psychology. Tutorial presenters are expected not to present just only their own material, but to give a broader tutorial overview and encourage discussion and debate.

Tutorials will be held in parallel sessions on the morning and afternoon of 5 June 2009. Each tutorial is intended to last approximately three hours. The size of the tutorial audiences will vary between a minimum of 10 to a maximum of around 35 attendees. The cost of attending a tutorial is 50 euros. Tutorials that do not achieve the minimum enrolment of 10 people may not be offered.

Morning

Afternoon

Tutorial M1: Willpower: From metaphysical problems to empirical challenges

Presenters

Henrik Walter
Department of Psychiatry
University of Bonn

Heather Berlin
Department of Psychiatry
Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Summary

Freedom of will continues to be a hotly debated topic. Most discussions concern the question of whether the brain is a deterministic machine and what consequences this has for the concept of personal responsibility. Above and apart from this metaphysical discussion, cognitive neuroscience has begun to investigate volition empirically. In contrast to free will, “willpower” is an emerging concept which is subject to empirical science and can be measured and quantified. Willpower, a quantitative aspect of volition, is the strength of self-regulatory functions that enables people to come to wise decisions on the basis of anticipated future outcomes and to pursue long-term goals in the face of conflict, temptations and distractions. After a brief introduction to the metaphysical problem of willpower, we will present experiments in psychology, neuropsychology and neuroimaging which demonstrate how willpower can be empirically investigated and quantified. We propose to introduce the concept of willpower as a new research topic in cognitive neuroscience.

Willpower can also be viewed as the cognitive ability to modulate or inhibit impulsive behavior. Impulsivity (i.e. weakness of will)-the failure to resist an impulse, drive, or temptation that is potentially harmful to oneself or others-is a common clinical problem and a core feature of human behavior. What makes an impulse pathological is an inability to resist it and its expression. In this tutorial we will also discuss what we know about the neurocircuitry of impulse control based on empirical research with brain lesion and psychiatric patients, and how this relates to the scientific study of willpower. This will include a discussion of such disorders of volition as intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, pyromania, pathological gambling, and trichotillomania (representing a failure to resist aggressive impulses, and urges to steal, set fires, gamble, and pull one's hair, respectively). Clinical research provides an important tool to expand our knowledge of the neural basis of willpower.

Schedule

  • Henrik Walter: Introduction and philosophical background (20 minutes)
  • Henrik Walter: Volition in psychology and cognitive neuroscience (50 minutes plus 15 minutes discussion)
  • Heather Berlin: The neural basis of impulsivity/failure of willpower (50 minutes plus 15 minutes discussion)
  • Heather Berlin and Henrik Walter: Guided Discussion (30 minutes)

Tutorial M2: Manipulating perception: Misdirection, magic and consciousness

Presenters

Amory Faber
Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich

Gustav Kuhn
Department of Psychology
Durham University

David Edelman
The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego

Summary

Recently, it has been suggested that magic techniques could be adopted as valuable research tools for cognitive science (Kuhn et al., 2008, Macknik et al., 2008). In particular, common magic techniques such as misdirection and illusions could be exploited to gain new insights into the inner workings of conscious perception. Our challenge is to find ways of incorporating these techniques into the scientific study of consciousness.

It has been suggested that attention and conscious perception may sometimes constitute two distinct cognitive processes (O’Regan et al., 2000; Lamme, 2003; Koch, 2006). Through the use of misdirection, magicians manipulate these constituent processes of the perceptual chain. In the field of visual attention, studies have been published in which special magic tricks were developed and deployed as stimuli (e.g. Kuhn and Tatler, 2005; Kuhn and Land, 2006). Others have used magic tricks to investigate the neural correlates of causality (Parris et al., in press). However, these methodological tools are still in their infancy.

In this tutorial, we will present experimental designs built around a variety of magic techniques and share some preliminary results that bear on the nature of consciousness. We will discuss the findings of three different research groups, each taking a distinctly novel approach.

Three main topics will be covered: (1) Misdirection of attention: How can we investigate misdirection in the lab, and what can it tell us about attention and awareness? (Kuhn); (2) A working definition of misdirection: From methodology to theory; misdirection as an interdependent signaling process (Edelman); (3) Developing a battery of magic stimuli: Problems and pitfalls (Faber). To unpack these topics, several mini-talks and practical demonstrations of magic tricks will be embedded: Mark Mitton (magician): A practical demonstration of a deception model ; Thomas Fraps (magician): The Blind Spot - Filling-in mechanisms and perceptual illusions.

Schedule

The tutorial will be divided into three 50-minute sessions. Each session will cover one of the topics listed above, and include a 25-minute talk, followed by 10 minutes of discussion, a practical demonstration or mini-talk of no longer than 10 minutes, and a wrap-up Q&A of no longer than 5 minutes. After each session, 10 minutes will be allotted for a break.

Tutorial M3: Philosophical issues concerning consciousness and representation

Presenter

Uriah Kriegel
Department of Philosophy
University of Arizona

Summary

The tutorial will survey current approaches to consciousness in Anglo-American analytic philosophy. It will focus on four approaches, to which I will refer as (1) mysterianism, (2) dualism, (3) representationalism, and (4) higher-order representation theory. With each approach, I will present in order (i) the leading account of consciousness along its line, (ii) the case for the approach, and (iii) the case against the approach. A discussion of the merits and demerits of each approach will follow the presentation of these three aspects. The specific accounts I will cover are McGinn's mysterianism, Chalmers’ dualism, Tye’s representationalism, and Rosenthal’s higher-order theory. The purpose of the tutorial is not to issue a final verdict on any approach, but rather to get a clearer picture of the logical geography of the issue, that is, of the logical interconnections between the various theoretical issues.

Schedule

  • Mysterianism and the prospects for a science of consciousness (40 minutes)
  • Dualism and the reducibility of consciousness (40 minutes)
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • Representational theories of consciousness (40 minutes)
  • Higher order representation theories of consciousness (40 minutes)
  • Conclusions (10 minutes)

Tutorial M4: Synesthesia

Presenter

Noam Sagiv
Department of Psychology
Brunel University

Summary

Have we grossly underestimated how different our own perceptual experiences may be from other people’s experiences? Studies of synaesthesia reveal a remarkable diversity. In this tutorial, I will provide an overview of the phenomenology, behavioural and neuroimaging studies, as well as theoretical frameworks for understanding this diversity and it implications for understanding consciousness. First, I will review a wide range of synaesthetic experiences (beyond the relatively more familiar varieties of coloured graphemes and coloured hearing), how we study those in the lab, and what is known about their neural mechanism and course of development. In the second part I will discuss the relationship between synaesthesia, phantoms and hallucinations; visuo-spatial variants of synaesthesia; and a number of related phenomena including personification, animistic thought, and mirror synaesthesia. I will consider what they tell us about of the self, the way in which we understand others, and contribution of the debates on embodied cognition. In the final part of the tutorial I will discuss how findings from synaesthesia studies constrain our ideas about consciousness. These include the problem of qualia, representation and meaning, synaesthesia and functionalism, and the neural correlates of consciousness. An open discussion will follow.

Tutorial A1:How can we experimentally induce and measure emotional feelings?

Presenters

Silke Anders
Department of Neurology and Neuroimage Nord
University of Lübeck

Raffael Kalisch
Department of Systems Neuroscience
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Summary

Phenomenal experience of affect is one of the most vivid aspects of consciousness. The study of neural correlates of different kinds of phenomenal experience has made great progress during recent years, but there are relatively few studies that have investigated the neural correlates of affective experience. Affective experiences differ from all other experiences in that they have a valence (they are perceived as positive or negative). At the neurophysiological level, affective experiences might be associated with neural activity in a much more distributed network than phenomenal perception of external events. In this workshop we will first discuss what makes an emotion an emotion and how emotions (and particularly phenomenal emotional experience) can be assessed. This will be followed by a brief review of neuroscientific studies that have attempted to induce and to measure emotional feelings. One focus of this review will be on the experimental paradigms used in these studies and whether they are suited to induce “real” emotional feelings. The second focus will be on the question how we can best relate phenomenal affective experiences to brain processes. Finally, we will (with the help of the participants) ask how neuroscientific research into the neural correlates of emotional feelings can contribute to our general understanding of the neural correlates of phenomenal experience.

Schedule

To be posted soon!

Tutorial A2: Consciousness in a natural world: From biological function to the meanings of life

Presenters

Güven Güzeldere
Department of Philosophy
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Duke University

Summary

Darwinist theory plus neuroscience are considered by many to present a disenchanting conception of the human person (in Max Weber’s sense). We call this disenchantment neuro-existentialism. If we are just animals (smart but animals nonetheless) and if (as neuroscience assumes as a regulative ideal a la Kant) that there is a naturalistic explanation for consciousness and for our subjective experiences, then our significance as human persons, the meaning of our lives, are deflated.

The workshop will discuss the history and current status of the conflict between (W. Sellars’) the manifest and the scientific images as they pertain to the scientific study of consciousness. The naturalistic framework we adopt does in fact disallow for super-natural elements (immaterial soul, irreducible mental properties) into the ontology of consciousness and personhood. But we’ll argue that this does not steal away from our existential significance as persons, in a multi-layered pluralistic epistemic view of consciousness and agency we embrace. To the contrary, this is the only way to do justice to the proper understanding of ourselves as both biological organisms shaped by our evolutionary history and sentient rational subjects and autonomous agents in our social and cultural world.

I’ll wrap up the workshop with a broader discussion looking at the ties the history of consciousness studies has to cultural studies, sociology and history of science, and even popular understanding of science.

Tutorial A3:Neurocognitive theories of consciousness

Presenters

Sid Kouider
CNRS Paris

Anil Seth
University of Sussex

Vincent de Gardelle
CNRS Paris

Summary

The two last decades have given rise to a large number of scientific theories of consciousness. The aim of this tutorial will be to provide an overview of the most influential cognitive and neurobiological accounts of consciousness. We will first introduce the difficulty of constructing a scientific theory of consciousness, and the necessity to rely on neural “correlates” rather than “bases” of consciousness. We will then provide a brief historical overview of the precursors to a theory of consciousness, both in philosophy and in early cognitive psychology. We will in turn present several influential cognitive accounts. We will overview theories focusing on the architecture of consciousness (e.g., The Global Workspace theory of Baars, the Multiple Draft theory by Dennett, the Intermediate Level Theory by Jackendoff and extended by Prinz, the Information Integration Theory by Tononi), those focusing on consciousness as a by-product of learning mechanisms (The Sensory Motor theory by O’Regan and Noë, the Radical Plasticity Thesis by Cleeremans, the Higher-Order theory by Rosenthal). We will then turn to the most influential neurobiological theories, depicting them from the most globalists to the most localists accounts of the link between brain structures and conscious contents (The Re-entrant Dynamic Core theory of Edelman & Tononi, the Global Neuronal Workspace theory of Dehaene, the Coalition model of Crick and Koch, the Duplex Vision theory of Milner & Goodale, the Local Recurrence theory of Lamme, the Micro-Consciousness theory of Zeki, etc). We will contrast these theories according to their functionality and explanatory power. We will also discuss how these theories deal with important issues, such as the existence of a hard problem, the distinction between access and phenomenal consciousness, the link between attention and consciousness, the dissociation between primary and self-consciousness, and the problem of measuring consciousness.

Tutorial A4: Markers of awareness? EEG potentials evoked by faint and masked events, with special reference to the “attentional blink”

Presenter

Rolf Verleger
Department of Neurology
University of Lübeck

Summary

Averaged event-related EEG potentials (ERPs) indicate cortical activity with extremely good temporal resolution and therefore continue being the most illustrative means of looking at the brain’s activities in perceiving single events. Searching for brain-physiological correlates of the subjective state of being aware of perceptual input has always been a major goal of ERP research. To this end, ERPs have been measured in response to stimuli that were hard to perceive. This research started with ERP correlates of the detection of auditory signals and later focused on tasks where visual stimuli were briefly displayed that either were masked by following stimuli or were presented in rapid series to produce the “attentional blink”. Relevant ERP components proposed in this context as perceptual correlates of awareness have included early components related to perception (e.g., visual P1), middle-latency negative peaks (posterior N2, N2pc), and the P3 complex. Of interest are also the ERP signs of motor activation (Lateralized Readiness Potential) and semantic processing (N400) which may be evoked by stimuli even if remaining unidentified. The tutorial will suggest as a conclusion that there is no “awareness component” but that components may only be correlates of awareness, with P3 being the closest correlate. In contrast, variations of early components like P1 are evidently decoupled from variations in awareness, and N2-type components are more related to attention than to awareness. The reason why P3 is the best indicator of awareness is its close association to processes of classification and decision.

Schedule

  • Historical review and brief review of other relevant paradigms (20 minutes)
  • P3 evoked by unidentified visual stimuli? (20 minutes)
  • ERP signature of conscious identification of faint or masked visual stimuli (50 minutes)
  • Break (10 minutes)
  • ERP signature of conscious T2 identification in the Attentional Blink Paradigm (60 minutes)
  • Closing Discussion (20 minutes)