Workshops

Workshops

Several pre-conference workshops will be offered on Friday June 4, the day before the main conference begins. Attendance at these workshops, which will cover a variety of topics relevant to the study of consciousness, will be limited to 25 people. Each workshop will last for three hours and will offer plenty of opportunity for discussion and questions. It is possible to attend two workshops, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The registration fee for attending one workshop is $75 (CDN); for two, $150 (CDN). Note that a separate registration fee must be paid to attend the conference itself, which begins the day after the workshops. See Registration on the main menu for details.

FRIDAY JUNE 4th: MORNING 9:00AM to Noon

Workshop 1: Schizophrenia and Consciousness

Chris Frith
Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology
Institute of Neurology
University College London
12 Queen Square
London WC1N 3BG UK
cfrith@fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk

This workshop will explore three themes.

  1. The Neuropsychology of schizophrenia.
    It has proved difficult to identify a characteristic profile of cognitive deficits associated with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. This may be due to the considerable variability of signs and symptoms both within and between patients. An alternative approach is to identify cognitive deficits associated with particular syndromes or even specific symptoms.
  2. Symptoms reflecting impaired awareness of self (own mental states).
    We shall consider delusions of control and other passivity experiences and show how these might arise from an abnormality in the awareness of the control of action. A framework for understanding disorders of awareness in the motor system will be explored. Experimental evidence about the basis of delusions of control will presented from behavioural and imaging studies.
  3. Symptoms reflect impaired awareness of others (mental states of others).
    We shall explore the idea that symptoms such as delusions of persecution and delusions of reference reflect a defect in the ability to make inferences about the mental states of others (mentalising). We will make comparisons between autism and schizophrenia. We will discuss experiments demonstrating impairments of mentalising in patients with schizophrenia and consider whether recent brain imaging experiments can throw any light on the cognitive and physiological basis of the ability to mentalise.

Readings

  1. Frith, C.D. (1992) The Cognitive Neuropsychology of Schizophrenia. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hove.
  2. Frith, C.D. (1996) Neuropsychology of schizophrenia. British Medical Bulletin, 52, 618-626.
  3. Frith, C.D. (1996) The role of the prefrontal cortex in self consciousness: the case of auditory hallucinations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 351, 1505-1512.
  4. Corcoran, R., Mercer, G. & Frith, C.D. (1995) Schizophrenia, symptomatology and social inference: Investigating 'theory of mind' in people with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 17, 5-13.

Workshop 2: Actions, Faces, Objects and Space: How to Build a Neurobiological Account of the Self.

Vittorio Gallese
Istituto di Fisiologia Umana
Università degli Studi di Parma
Via Volturno 39, I-43100 Parma, Italy
gallese@ipruniv.cce.unipr.it

There are many different approaches to the study of the self, perhaps as many as there are definitions. Each of these different perspectives presupposes a theoretical background that is crucial in establishing the founding principles inspiring the choice of a given level of description.

The neurophysiological study of the functions of the primate brain, particularly research at the neuronal level of description, has for decades concentrated all its efforts trying to elucidate the functional mechanisms underlying sensation and the control of action. Neuroscientists have traditionally been extremely reluctant to address issues such as semantics and inter-subjectivity, not to mention consciousness and the self. All these issues were considered as something to be safely left in the philosophers' hands. During last part of this century we are experiencing a radical shift. The increasing attention paid to the ethological plausibility of the paradigms used to study the brain has led to a series of discoveries that have opened up the possibility of expanding the boundaries of the neurobiological enterprise. It is now possible to regard neuroscience as a good candidate for providing a biologically-relevant explanatory framework that can be successfully applied to problems central to Consciousness and Self.

This workshop will attempt to provide non-specialists with a survey of some of the most prominent findings over the last thirty years in the study of the neurophysiology of visuo-motor integration, object coding, face coding, and action representation. These results will provide a starting point for discussing possible neurobiological models of the self.

Readings

  1. Carey, D.P., Perrett, D.I., Oram, M.W. Recognizing, understanding and reproducing action. In: F. Boller, J. Grafman (eds.) Handbook of Neuropsychology, vol.11, pp.111-129, Elsevier Science B.V., 1997.
  2. Colby, C.L., Duhamel, J-R. Spatial representations for action in the parietal cortex. Cog. Brain Res. 5: 105-115, 1996.
  3. Gallese, V., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Rizzolatti, G. Action recognition in the premotor cortex. Brain 119: 593-609, 1996.
  4. Gallese, V., Goldman, A. Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. TICS 2: 493-501, 1998.
  5. Goodale, M.A., Milner, D. Separate visual pathways for perception and action. TINS 15: 20-25, 1992.
  6. Graziano, M.S.A., Gross, C.G. Multiple pathways for processing visual space. In: C. Umiltà, M. Moscovitch (eds.) Attention and Performance, vol. XV, pp.181-207, MIT Press, 1994.
  7. Jeannerod, M. The representing brain: neural correlates of motor intention and imagery. Behav. Brain Sci. 17: 187-245, 1994.
  8. Jeannerod, M., Arbib, M.A., Rizzolatti G., Sakata, H. Grasping objects: the cortical mechanisms of visuomotor transformation. TINS 18: 314-320, 1995.
  9. Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. Parietal cortex: from sight to action. Curr. Op. Neurobiol. 7: 562-567, 1997.
  10. Rizzolatti, G., Arbib, M.A. Language within our grasp. TINS 21: 188-194, 1998.
  11. Rizzolatti, G., Luppino, G., Matelli, M. The organization of the motor system: new concepts. Electroencephal. and Cl. Neurophysiol. 106: 283-296, 1998.
  12. Sakata, H., Taira, M. Parietal control of hand action. Curr. Op. Neurobiol. 4: 847-856, 1994.

Workshop 3: The Phenomenological Study of Consciousness: A Survey with Special Emphasis on the Work of Edmund Husserl

Eduard Marbach
Research Professor in Phenomenology and the Philosophy of Mind
University of Bern, Switzerland
eduard.marbach@philo.unibe.ch

This workshop will introduce to the phenomenological study of conscious experiences as originally developed by the philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) who considered his phenomenology to be a "science of consciousness". The main emphasis will be on examining his methods for studying consciousness phenomenologically; for Husserl was particularly careful in elaborating methodical tools for the study of consciousness. Key concepts of the methodology to be explained are:

  • Phenomenological reflection (as distinct from psychological introspection) and the question of control
  • Phenomenological reduction (as distinct from `theoretical reduction`)
  • Descriptive eidetic analysis of structures of conscious experiences (as a mathematically inspired analysis, proceeding by way of contrasting various experiences in order to establish invariant components of conscious experiences of one kind or another)
  • Application of pure phenomenology to empirical sciences, psychology in particular (in analogy to the application of pure mathematics to science, physics in particular, in order to make it an exact science).

An important aspect will also be to explain in what sense one can speak of "laws of conscious experiences" and of "phenomenological dependencies" (or relations of foundation of one form of conscious experience upon another form).

Other important topics of phenomenology that will be covered turn upon the relationship between consciousness and intentionality (cf. "Brentano’s Problem"), and upon the question of the "inner consciousness" and, especially, of the inner time consciousness as the most basic form of consciousness. Also, since the overall topic of ASSC3 is "Consciousness and Self", special attention will be given to the Husserlian approach to the question of the Self, leading him from a Humean position in his early work to a more Kantian one later on.

One of the aims of the workshop will be to show that studying consciousness with phenomenological methods is also useful to people in the sciences. More broadly, the workshop aims at conveying a more precise sense of the Husserlian enterprise that is sometimes alluded to in the circles of cognitive science and contemporary philosophy of mind, but often in a rather superficial manner.

Pertinent readings will be handed out at the workshop.

Workshop 4: Functional Magnetic Imaging of Perceptual Processes and Higher Cognitive Function

Ravi S. Menon
Director
Laboratory for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
The John P. Robarts Research Institute
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5K8
rmenon@irus.rri.on.ca

A large body of research in human perception/cognition has been concerned with the analysis of mental events into their presumed hierarchical processing stages, the temporal aspect of such processing being termed 'mental chronometry'. Advances in single-event functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have allowed the extraction of relative timing information between the onset of activity in different neural substrates as well as the duration of cognitive processing during a task, offering new opportunities in the study of human perception/cognition. Single-event fMRI studies have also facilitated increased spatial resolution in fMRI, allowing studies of columnar organization in humans. Since important processes such as object recognition, binocular vision and other fundamental functions are thought to be organized at the columnar level, these advances in the spatial and temporal capabilities of fMRI allow a new generation of cognitive and basic neuroscience studies to be performed, investigating the temporal and spatial relationships between these cortical sub-units. Such experiments bear a closer resemblance to single-unit or evoked-potential studies than to classical static brain activation maps and might serve as a bridge between primate electrophysiology and human subjects.

This workshop will review the basis of fMRI and demonstrate the state of the art with a number of concrete examples of fMRI in cognitive neuroscience, including mental rotations, visuo-motor tasks and imaging ocular dominance columns and contrast sensitivity functions in humans. Limitations of the technique will also be discussed.

Readings

  1. Kim, S.-G., Richter, W. and Ugurbil, K. (1997) Limitations of temporal resolution in functional MRI Magn. Reson. Med., 37, 631-636.
  2. Richter, W. et al. (1997) Time-Resolved fMRI of mental rotation Neuroreport, 8, 3697-3702.
  3. Menon, R. S., Luknowsky, D. L. and Gati, J. S. (1998) Mental chronometry using latency-resolved functional magnetic resonance imaging Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 95, 10902-10907.
  4. Rosen, B.R., Buckner, R.L. and Dale, A.M. (1998) Event-related functional MRI: Past, present and future Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 95, 773-780.
  5. Menon, R.S. and Kim, S.-G. Spatial and temporal limits in cognitive neuroimaging with fMRI. Trends in Cognitive Science (in press).

Workshop 5: Relationships between Conscious and Unconscious Processes: Different Theories and Relevant Evidence

Howard Shevrin, Ph.D.
University of Michigan Medical Center
Riverview Building
900 Wall Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
shevrin@umich.edu

In this workshop three different theories explaining relationships between conscious and unconscious processes will be examined in the light of recent evidence. The three theories are: 1) the controlled/automatic distinction identified with Shiffrin and Schneider, 2) a hierarchical model of attentional-motivational priorities proposed by Allport, 3) unconscious processes as providing the disposition or context for conscious processes as proposed by Baars, Searle, and others. Recent research in the areas of perception, memory,and development seen from both a cognitive and neuroscience perspective will be brought to bear on these different theories in order to evaluate their explanatory and predictive power. Problems with each of these theories will be explored in the light of the research evidence. For example, research has called into question the hard and fast distinction between conscious processes as controlled and conscious processes as automatic. Other research has challenged the close link posited between episodic memory and consciousnes and procedural memory and unconscious priming. Other issues addressed in the context of recent research:the relationship of emotion and consciousness and the controversial role of unconscious motivation. The aim will be to encourage an atmosphere of free discussion of these issues and the sharing by participants of their own theories and research.

Readings

  1. Shevrin,Bond,Brakel,Hertel & Williams (1996). Conscious and Unconscious Processes: Psychodynamic, Cognitive, and Neurophysiological Convergences, New York: Guilford Press, Chapter 3, pp.38-58; Chapter12, pp.271-275.
  2. Allport,A (1989). Visual Attention. In M.I.Posner (ed.) Foundations of Cognitive Science (pp.631-682). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  3. Bargh, J.A. (1989). Conditional Automaticity: Varieties of autonomic influence on social perception and cognition. In J.S. Uleman & J.A.Bargh (eds.) Unintended Thought (pp.3-51). New York: Guilford Press
  4. Baars, B.J. (1997) In the theatre of consciousness: Global Workspace theory, a rigorous scientific theory of consciousness. J. of Consciousness Studies, v4(4), pp. 292-309.

Workshop 6: Emotion and Consciousness: Affective Neuroscience, Global Workspace, and the Self

D.F. Watt, Ph.D.
Director of Neuropsychology
Clinic for Cognitive Disorders
Quincy Hospital
114 Whitwell Street
Quincy, MA 02169
DrWatt@msn.com

Many believe that any meaningful theory of self and consciousness would be incomplete without a comprehensive integration of the complex phenomena of emotion. This workshop will address several topics that argue for a closer and evolutionary integration of emotion with cognition than has been generally considered in most theories of consciousness, which tend to be sensory- and/or cogno- centric.

Major topic areas will include:

  1. Review of work of leading theorists and neuroscientists in the field of "affective neuroscience" (LeDoux, Panksepp, and Damasio) examining areas of agreement and conflict between these leading figures, particularly differing conceptions about the putative role of emotion in the neural substrates for consciousness. We will look closely at the bridging concept of global state functions (attention, pain/pleasure, volition, emotion, and self-representation) as outlining different pieces of the puzzle of a complex integrative neural envelope for consciousness.
  2. Current leading "cognitive architecture" theories of consciousness that emphasize "global workspace," and its substrates in an extended reticular thalamic activating system (ERTAS), as outlined in work by Baars, Newman, Taylor, Llinas, Engels, and many others who have looked to define thalamocortical interactions and the role of the extended RAS in priming, facilitating and binding cortical function. Particular attention will be paid to the "framing" and "streaming" of working memory and its possible neural substrates in an "ERTAS." This "ERTAS" system is very highly distributed from top to bottom of the neuroaxis, suggesting that consciousness is dependent on a very complex field of brainstem-midbrain-thalamocortical interactions, and that the more ventral portions of this system are absolutely crucial and generally neglected in consciousness theory.
  3. Controversy about whether the notion of a "limbic system" has meaning or heuristic value in view of recent work suggesting that the hippocampus is more allied with cognition functions (spatial-temporal mappings), and that therefore there is little basis for assuming any neural integration in popular notions about a "limbic system." However, there may be much more ventral than dorsal integration of the "limbic system," with multiple systems in diencephalon and basal forebrain that support various prototype emotions all projecting to periaduaductal gray (PAG). PAG in turn has very rich connectivities into several key portions of the "ERTAS," suggesting a prominent role for value operators in bootstrapping consciousness. At every level of ERTAS, there are rich interactions with hierarchically distributed "limbic" structures, from paleocortex to basal forebrain, to midbrain PAG. This suggests that the more dorsal cognitive architecture of ERTAS and a ventral limbic architecture for affect are not separable at all. Indeed, severe damage to either the top of this hierarchical system for emotion (the cingulate) or the bottom (PAG) produces profound deficits in consciousness (delirium, stupor, akinetic mutism, or profound twilight states).
  4. Possible neural substrates for a primitive representation of the self in connectivities between primitive sensory (superior colliculus, cuneiform nucleus), primitive motor (deep tectal-tegmental motor regions) and primitive value mappings (PAG) (Panksepp).
  5. These connectivities between the extended networks of ERTAS and various midbrain systems may form important substrates for the functional interdependence of attention, executive functions, self-representation, and emotion, as basic global state functions essential to consciousness. These primitive midbrain systems have considerable re-entry with the extended prefrontal systems that elaborate volition and self.
  6. Basic controversies and unresolved questions about emotion and consciousness and possible empirical tests.

Readings

  1. Baars, B.J., Newman, J. & Taylor, J.G. (1998) Neuronal mechanisms of consciousness: A relational global workspace framework. In S. Hammeroff et al. (Eds.) Towards a Science of Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. Damasio, A. (1994) Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Avon Press.
  3. Damasio, A. (1998) Emotion in the perspective of an integrated nervous system. Brain Research Review. May; 26 (2-3): 83-86.
  4. Engel, Andreas K., Fries, P., Roelfsema, P., R., König, P. & Singer, W. (1997) Temporal Binding, Binocular Rivalry, and Consciousness. Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. On Line E-Seminar http://server.phil.vt.edu/assc/esem3.html.
  5. LeDoux, J. (1996). The Emotional Brain. The Mysterious Underpinnings Of Emotional Life. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  6. Newman, J. (1997) Putting the puzzle together: Towards a general theory of the neural correlates of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4:1&2, 47-66, 101-121.
  7. Panksepp, J. (1998) Affective Neuroscience. Oxford University Press.
  8. Smythies, John. (1997) The functional neuroanatomy of awareness. Consciousness and Cognition, 6, 455-481.
  9. Watt, D.F. Implications of affective neuroscience for extended reticular thalamic activating system theories of consciousness. Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. On Line E-Seminar http://server.phil.vt.edu/assc/esem4.html.

FRIDAY JUNE 4th: AFTERNOON 2:00pm to 5:00pm

Workshop 7: Efference, Agency, and Phenomenal Unity of Consciousness

Ralph D. Ellis
Department of Philosophy
Clark Atlanta University
Atlanta GA 30314
ralphellis@mindspring.com

Natika Newton
Department of Philosophy
Nassau County College
Garden City, N.Y. 11533
nnewton@suffolk.lib.ny.us

  1. This workshop explores implications for the conscious experience of self-unity of recent studies of motor action, the dynamic interdependence of action and perception, and efferent/afferent interrelations both within the central nervous system and between it and the environment.
  2. Both presenters have backgrounds incorporating philosophy of mind and neuroscience. They are collaborating on an anthology of emotion, motivation and consciousness with original articles by well-known researchers in philosophy, cognitive psychology, and the neurosciences. (See bibliography)
  3. S.Hurley, among many others, has drawn attention to the interdependence of efference and afference and to the influence of emotionally motivated motor intentions on conscious perception. This part of the workshop explores what is known about perception and action mechanisms, subpersonal implementation mechanisms, and feedback systems interrelating them.
  4. The experience of unity of the conscious self with the content of consciousness has not been an issue recently (as it was for, e.g. Kant and Sartre). We have three proposals:
    1. Phenomenal unity requires a sense of agency, not reducible to the content of consciousness. A sense of agency would include the experience of "free will."
    2. The sense of agency is mediated by efference copy as well as motor and perceptual feedback. The "whole person" feels in charge of what's going on through its conscious intentions, and is not just the passive experiencer (even if conceptualized as a single entity).
    3. The "out-thereness" of phenomenal consciousness, possibly the essence of the "hard problem", becomes surprisingly more accessible to analysis given the above account of the unity of consciousness.

Readings

  1. Ellis, R.D. (1986), An Ontology of Consciousness (Dordrecht: Kluwer/Martinus Nijhoff)
  2. Ellis, R.D. (1995), Questioning Consciousness (Amsterdam: John Benjamins)
  3. Newton, N. (1991), "Consciousness, Qualia and Reentrant Signalling," Behavior and Philosophy 19: 21-41.
  4. Newton, N. (1996), Foundations of Understanding (Amsterdam: John Benjamins)
  5. Ellis, R.D. and Newton, N. (1998), "Three Paradoxes of Phenomenal Consciousness," Journal of Consciousness Studies 5, 4, 419-442.
  6. Ellis, R.D. and Newton, N., eds. (To Appear). Emotion, Motivation and Consciousness. (Amsterdam: John Benjamins)
  7. Hurley, S.L. (1998), Consciousness in Action, (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press).

Workshop 9: Binding and the Unity of Conscious Perception: Current Research and Thinking

James Newman
Colorado Neurological Institute
701 East Hampden Avenue, Suite 330
Englewood, Colorado 80110
newmanjb@wordlnet.att.net

Antti Revonsuo
Department of Philosophy
University of Turku
FIN-20014, Finland
revonsuo@utu.fi

One of the central problems of a science of consciousness is how the unitywe experience in awareness arises out of the highly modular and distributedactivities of the central nervous system. Is this perceived unity illusoryor epiphenomenal, as some have argued, or do specifiable neural processes serve to impose coherence upon the "pandemonium" of brain activity? The binding problem has become a topic of lively discussion since the discovery of synchronous "40-Hz" or "gamma oscillations" associated with theperception of coherent stimuli in the cat visual cortex. Subsequent research has shown 40-Hz to be tied to the synchronous firing of cell populations across wide areas of the cortex, and to be potentiated by activation of the brain stem reticular formation. Evidence for the correlation of synchronous gamma with conscious awareness in humans has been recently reported as well. These, and many other findings, were the subject of a 1998 ASSC E-Seminar led by Engel & Singer's group, who have done much of the original research. Several e-seminar participants have subsequently contributed to a special issue of Consciousness and Cognition appearing this Spring, which the presenters of this workshop co-edited. Participants in this workshop would be provided with a comprehensive overview of the latest research and thinking in this fast-evolving and controversial area.

Workshop 10: Neurological disorders of consciousness

Nicholas Schiff, M.D.
Instructor and Assistant Attending Neurologist
Department of Neurology and Neuroscience
New York Hospital- Cornell Medical Center
1300 York Avenue
NY NY 10021
nschiff@mail.med.cornell.edu

Human consciousness cannot be understood without the biological comprehension of the nature of its disorders. The neurologist's view of consciousness is framed by implicit hypotheses derived from reliable observations of brain structure and function. These hypotheses tend to be top down in nature and cover a broad picture sometimes not yet easily translated into the details of neuroscience. However, they represent heuristics that may be examined in the first steps toward a neurological view of human consciousness. Impaired consciousness may result from focal injuries that induce widespread changes in brain function. The phenomenological aspects of these global disturbances are not homogeneous. In many patients, brain damage is too severe to lead to meaningful recovery as in the vegetative state. In others, the transient or permanent impact of focal lesions reveal the contribution of specific brain systems to the overall conscious state. Global disorders of consciousness include stupor and coma, vegetative states, akinetic mutism, absence and partial complex seizures, delirium, and others.

In this workshop we will (1) explore the neurology of impaired consciousness and detail a taxonomy of disorders of consciousness. (2) Place the neurological diseases in the context of the underlying anatomy and physiology of arousal and 'gating' systems. (3) Examine the role of functional brain imaging in building a neurobiological understanding of disorders of consciousness. This approach will be illustrated by new examples of preserved modular brain function in selected patients in the persistent vegetative state. This methodological approach will be considered in terms of developing an understanding of recovery from various states of impaired consciousness. Implications for the rational design of therapeutic strategies for the problems of impaired perceptual awareness and consciousness will also be discussed.

  1. Global and focal disorders of consciousness: a taxonomy
  2. Role of arousal and gating systems in disorders of consciousness: review and discussion of underlying anatomical structures and physiological properties.
  3. Functional brain imaging in the persistent vegetative state: isolated modular function in permanent unconsciousness.

Readings

  1. Menon, D.K., et al. (1998) Cortical processing in the vegetative state. The Lancet 352, 200
  2. Llinas, R et al. (1994) Content and context in temporal thalamocortical binding, in Temporal Coding in the Brain (Buzsaki, G. et al. eds.), pp 252-272, Springer-Verlag
  3. Plum, F., et al. (1998) Coordinated expression in chronically unconscious persons. Phil Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. 353: 1929-1933
  4. Ribary, U., et al. (1998) Fractured brain function in unconscious humans: Functional brain imaging using MEG. Neuroimage 7(4), S106
  5. Purpura, K.P. and Schiff, N.D. (1997) The thalamic intralaminar nuclei: role in visual awareness. Neuroscientist 3:8-14.
  6. Schiff, N.D., and Pulver, M. (1999) Does vestibular stimulation activate thalamocortical mechanisms that reintegrate impaired cortical regions? Proc.R. Soc. Lond. B. 266: 1-3
  7. Schiff, N.D. et al. (1999) Words without mind. J. Cognitive Neuroscience (in press).

Workshop 11: Change Detection, Attention, and the Contents of Awareness

Dan Simons
Psychology Department
Harvard University
33 Kirkland St., Room 820
Cambrige MA 02138
dsimons@wjh.harvard.edu

Ronald A. Rensink
Cambridge Basic Research
Nissan Research & Development, Inc.
Cambridge MA 02171
rensink@pathfinder.cbr.com

This workshop will examine recent evidence from the study of change blindness: the surprising finding that people fail to notice large changes to natural scenes. Such findings are particularly striking in the face of metacognition about change detection. People feel that they would detect such changes despite the fact that they rarely do. Such impressions are founded on the intuitive belief that we represent the details of our visual world. Yet, recent evidence that people fail to notice large changes to images of natural scenes across eye movements, blank screens, movie cuts, and real world occlusion events suggests that we may not.

We will review the conclusions that can be drawn from change blindness and from related phenomena. Specifically, we consider what these phenomena can tell us about the structure and accessibility of our representations. In so doing, we will also examine recent evidence that change blindness may simply indicate our lack of awareness of the representations we do have. In other words, non-conscious, implicit representations of the details of scenes may at least partially underlie our experience of a stable, continuous visual world. We will also discuss how the techniques used to study change detection may help to determine the role of attention and effort in the formation of both conscious and non-conscious representations. At the end of the workshop, we will consider how the mechanisms underlying change blindness and change detection work together to provide a continuous, stable impression of our visual world.

The workshop will be segmented roughly as follows:

Hour 1: The phenomena and issues: history and current status

Hour 2: Representations, attention, and awareness

Hour 3: Representations, inattention, and non-awareness

Readings

INATTENTIONAL BLINDNESS:

  1. Neisser, U. (1979). The control of information pickup in selective looking. In A. D. Pick (Ed.), Perception and its development: A tribute to Eleanor J. Gibson (pp. 201-219). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  2. Moore, C. M., & Egeth, H. (1997). Perception without attention: Evidence of grouping under conditions of inattention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 23(2), 339-352.

CHANGE BLINDESS:

  1. Rensink, R. A., O'Regan, J. K., & Clark, J. J. (1997). To see or not to see: The need for attention to perceive changes in scenes. Psychological Science, 8, 368-373.
  2. Simons, D. J., & Levin, D. T. (1997). Change blindness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 1(7), 261-267.

Workshop 12: The Neurochemical Basis of Consciousness and Sense of Self

John Smythies
Division of Neurochemistry
Center for Brain and Cognition
Department of Psychology
University of California, San Diego
California 92093-0109
smythies@psy.ucsd.edu

Recently considerable advances have been made in the field of the neurochemical basis of consciousness and self. It would therefore be timely to have a workshop on this topic. The subjects planned would include

  1. the mode of action of general anesthetics particularly on the glutamate and GABA systems.
  2. details of the neurochemistry associated with various types of metabolic comas.
  3. an exploration of the mechanism of action involved in the deep and prolonged coma produced in humans by a mixture of the iron chelator desferrioxamine and prochlorperazine.
  4. the key mechanisms at the glutamate synapse complex for the maintenance of consciousness that include the redox balance between a variety of reactive oxygen species and antioxidants; catecholamine-iron complexes, endocytosis of receptor-transmitter complexes for G-protein linked receptors, blood ammonia and GABA levels, and others.
  5. the biochemical mechanisms responsible for changes in the sense of self induced by psychedelic drugs.
  6. Attention will also be paid to the basic biochemical mechanisms controlling synaptic plasticity, neurocomputation, and learning.

These topics are not only of great and timely interest from the point of view of basic brain neurochemistry but they serve to emphasize the biochemical mechanisms that enable neurons to produce conscious states, in a field that here-to-now has been dominated largely by purely electrophysiological considerations.

Readings:

  1. Smythies J.R. (1997) The biochemical basis of synaptic plasticity and neurocomputation: a new theory. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 264, 575-579.
  2. Smythies J.R. (1997) Oxidative reactions and schizophrenia. Schiz. Res. 24, 357-364.
  3. Smythies, J.R. (1999) The neurochemical basis of learning and neurocomputation: the redox theory. Behav. Brain Res. 99, 1-6.
  4. Smythies, J.R. (1999) Redox mechanisms at the glutamate synapse and their significance. Eur. J. Pharmacol. in the press.