Spring term 2013
Course code 993C8
MSc Cognitive Neuroscience (core);
MSc Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems (option)
Consciousness is one of the last remaining frontiers of scientific exploration, and theories and methods in neuroscience are at the front line of this endeavour. Topics covered on this module include: measuring and studying consciousness; states of consciousness (including wake, dreaming, hypnosis and vegetative state); visual consciousness (including the different roles of visual cortex and fronto-parietal network; blindsight and neglect as disorders of visual awareness); implicit learning and meta-knowledge; psychiatric disturbances of consciousness (e.g. hallucinations, depersonalisation); interoceptive awareness; consciousness and cortical plasticity (examples of synaesthesia, phantom limb and sensory substitution); computational models of consciousness; biological models of consciousness; and evolutionary approaches to consciousness.
Updated course details for 2012-2013 will be available in late 2012. Below are the lecture outlines from the 2011-2012 academic year.
Lecture 1: Measuring and studying consciousness
Dr. Anil Seth, 13/01/12
This introductory lecture will give a brief historical background to consciousness science, followed by a summary of ‘where we are’, highlighting key concepts, controversies, challenges, and approaches to unravelling the neural mechanisms underlying conscious experience. We will focus on (i) the contrastive approach, comparing conscious and unconscious conditions (content and level), and (ii) the importance of measurement, and of moving from correlation towards explanation in connecting the phenomenology of consciousness to its neural mechanisms.
(Crick and Koch 2003)
(Tononi and Koch 2008)
(Seth, Dienes et al. 2008)
(Dehaene and Changeux 2011)*
Lecture 2: States of consciousness
Dr. Anil Seth, 20/01/12
This lecture will describe the various states of consciousness, both normal (waking, sleeping, dreaming, daydreaming) and abnormal (e.g., epilepsy, coma, vegetative and minimally conscious states, anaesthesia, hypnosis, somnambulism, etc.). What do they have in common? How do they differ? We will explore what analysis of these conditions can tell us about the neural mechanisms underpinning normal consciousness in humans. We will also ask how understanding more about the neuroscience of consciousness can help diagnose and perhaps even treat severe brain injuries leading to coma, vegetative state etc.
(Owen, Schiff et al. 2009)*
(Alkire, Hudetz et al. 2008)
(Nir and Tononi 2010)
(Oakley and Halligan 2009)
(Dienes and Perner 2007)
(Massimini, Ferrarelli et al. 2005)*
(Monti, Vanhaudenhuyse et al. 2010)
Lecture 3: Visual consciousness
Dr. Daniel Bor, 27/01/12
Some philosophers argue that visual consciousness is a non-physical process and therefore is independent of the brain. This lecture will show both how such arguments are flawed and the extent of progress neuroscientists are making to explain how the brain supports our ability to see. Whereas the previous lecture centred on different levels of consciousness, this lecture will use vision to explore how different contents of consciousness arise. We will focus on biological markers of conscious contents using neuroimaging and single unit recording techniques, which have been cleverly combined with quirks of the perceptual system (e.g. binocular rivalry and visual illusions) in normal humans and other primates. We will also examine fascinating neurological patient groups (e.g. blindsight and neglect), which shed further light on how the brain generates conscious vision. The relative role of different parts of the visual system and the frontoparietal network in supporting consciousness will be covered. Finally, the relationship between visual awareness and attention will be discussed.
(van Boxtel, Tsuchiya et al. 2010)*
(Koch and Tsuchiya 2007)
(Del Cul, Dehaene et al. 2009)
(Sahraie, Weiskrantz et al. 1997)
(Vuilleumier, Sagiv et al. 2001)
Lecture 4: Implicit perception and implicit learning
Dr. Ryan Scott, 03/02/12
This lecture will examine the topic of implicit learning and unconscious knowledge. We will discuss the everyday experience of implicit learning and the challenges and potential benefits of its experimental investigation. Methods for studying subliminal perception will be outlined and the key experimental paradigms used in studying implicit learning will be described. Different approaches to assessing the conscious status of knowledge will be examined, and the potential bases for implicit knowledge explored. Finally, we will turn to the properties of implicit knowledge and the apparent limits of implicit learning - what can and can’t be learnt implicitly – and will discuss how this may have implications for (explicit) consciousness.
(Kouider, de Gardelle et al. 2010)
(Cleeremans, Destrebecqz et al. 1998)*
(Merikle, Smilek et al. 2001)
(Scott and Dienes 2008)
The Shanks chapter is available here.
Lecture 5: Consciousness and cortical plasticity
Dr. Jamie Ward, 10/02/12
The functional specialisations of different cortical regions are relatively fixed. This is often considered to be particularly true of sensory and motor regions of the brain because their functions are ‘anchored’ by their peripheral inputs (e.g. from the sense organs) and outputs. However, there are important exceptions to this general trend that have significant implications for our understanding of consciousness. For example, it is possible to redirect visual inputs (from the eyes) to the auditory cortex of animals. To give another example, in blind humans the ‘visual’ cortex is used for hearing and touch. In these ‘rewired’ brains, does the conscious experience reside with the brain region (e.g. the visual region gives rise to visual experiences whatever its input) or reside with the function (e.g. the visual region will give rise to auditory experiences if it carries out auditory functions)? The philosophers Hurley and Noe (2003) refer to these two positions as cortical dominance and cortical deference respectively, and there appears to be examples of both in the literature. For example, synaesthesia and referred phantom limb sensations appear to be examples of cortical dominance (e.g. the colour region gives rise to colour experiences even if they are elicited by sounds). Sensory-substitution devices may be an example of cortical deference. The issue of how these two different accounts can both be true (depending on the circumstances) will be discussed in the seminar.
(Noe and Hurley 2003)*
(Ramachandran and Hirstein 1998)
(Ward and Meijer 2010)
(Hurley and Noe 2003)
Lecture 6: The self, volition, intention, agency
Dr. Anil Seth, 17/02/12
This lecture will discuss the distinction between consciousness and self-consciousness, and ask the question, what IS a self? We will describe some philosophical perspectives challenges the very idea of the existence of a self. We will then discuss relevant experimental evidence, for example the artificial induction of “out-of-body” or “autoscopic” experiences. We will then turn to challenging and controversial experiments that address the linked topics of agency, volition, intention, and free will. Finally, we will ask whether there are ‘default’ modes of brain activity pertaining to awareness of the self, as opposed to awareness of the environment.
(Lenggenhager, Tadi et al. 2007)*
(Petkova and Ehrsson 2008)
(Goldberg, Harel et al. 2006)
(Baars, Ramsoy et al. 2003)
(Vanhaudenhuyse, Demertzi et al. 2010)
Lecture 7: Interoceptive awareness
Prof. Hugo Critchley, 24/02/11
The internal state of the body is proposed as the primary reference for a sense of self. The coordinated regulation of internal bodily state is arguably the basis for motivations; correspondingly, motivationally significant sensations from the body are viewed as fundamental to emotional processes. Interoception describes the central representation of such information, and interoceptive sensitivity refers the ability of an individual to gain declarative conscious access to such sensations. A basic logic is that enhanced interoceptive sensitivity is an indicator of better representations of bodily sensations which would predict, from peripheral theories of emotions, more intense affective experiences in that individual compared to those with more impoverished interoceptive ability.
Damasio’s somatic marker theory argued that our rational thoughts and conscious decision-making are heavily and implicitly influenced by interoceptive processes (ultimately representing the unconscious representation of prior motivational experience) yet saw the same information as the basis to emotions and defined the core self. Craig has a broad, but also exclusive, definition of interoception, proposing a labelled line for such neural information flow that leads to preferential access to certain aspects of conscious affect. He has extended this logic to propose that conscious awareness and coherence, even of the passage of time, is grounded on such as representations within the brain. In this teaching session, we will explore such ideas, evidence and their implications
(Critchley, Wiens et al. 2004)
(Damasio and Damasio 2006)*
(Parvizi and Damasio 2001)
(Katkin, Wiens et al. 2001)*
(Sanchez-Vives and Slater 2005)
Lecture 8: Theories and models of consciousness
Dr. Adam Barrett, 02/03/12
This lecture will address the challenge of coming up with a neurobiological theory of consciousness. How can we explain why certain neural areas and/or neural dynamics are associated with consciousness (both level and content), whereas others are not? It can be argued that a good theory is both most lacking and most needed in consciousness science, both in order to drive new experiments and interpret existing data. We will discuss a range of theories, from Bernard Baars’ ‘global workspace’, Dehaene’s ‘neuronal workspace’, and Lamme’s ‘neural stance on consciousness’ to Edelman’s ‘neural Darwinism’ and Tononi’s recent ‘information integration theory of consciousness’. We will also discuss relevant experimental evidence, e.g. data linking neuronal synchrony to consciousness. (And we’ll see, along the way, that so-called ‘quantum theories’ are simply unnecessary at this point.)
(Gaillard, Dehaene et al. 2009)
(Melloni, Molina et al. 2007)
Lecture 9: Psychiatric disturbances of consciousness
Dr. Nick Medford, 09/03/12
In this session we will consider the degree to which mental illnesses can be construed as disorders of consciousness. All psychiatric disorders involve disturbances of subjective experience: indeed it is usually these disturbances that are the essence of the presenting problem. Does this help us delineate ‘mental illness’ as a category apart from other illness? The ‘consciousness thesis’ of Stephens and Graham will be briefly discussed as an example of a theoretical view which explicity posits psychiatric illnesses as disorders of consciousness. We will also examine the phenomenology of schizophrenia, a common and severe psychotic illness, and consider whether reformulating schizophrenia as a consciousness disorder may be helpful. Finally we will examine the phenomenology of depersonalization disorder, a relatively little-studied condition in which there is a pervasive disturbance of self-experience in the absence of psychotic phenomena.
(Sass & Parnas, 2003)*
(Phillips et al., 2001)
(Medford et al., 2005)*
Lecture 10: Animal consciousness and its evolution
Dr. Daniel Bor, 16/03/12
How widespread is consciousness among other animals? And how do we go about assessing whether other animals are conscious and by how much? How similar is a chimpanzee mind to a human mind? Do birds have anything like conscious experiences? This lecture will first discuss behavioural approaches to answering these questions, including assessing the ability of other animals to learn in ways the lecture series has suggested are important for consciousness. Also covered will be an assessment of how animals might report on their own level of awareness, for instance by using binocular rivalry paradigms and animal analogs of blindsight. Various problems with the behavioural approach will be discussed. The second part of the lecture will cover possible neurophysiological approaches to assessing animal consciousness, including comparing parts of human neuroanatomy known to be associated with consciousness with the neuroanatomy of other species. Also discussed will be ways of measuring the level of animal consciousness dynamically, for instance by using an information integration approach. Finally, we'll discuss the possible evolution and purpose of consciousness, and whether conscious machines are possible.
(Edelman and Seth 2009)*
(Edelman, Baars et al. 2005)
(Seth, Baars et al. 2005)
(Northoff and Panksepp 2008)
(Cowey and Stoerig 1995)*
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Baars, B. J. (2002). "The conscious access hypothesis: origins and recent evidence." Trends Cogn Sci 6(1): 47-52.
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Butler, A. B. (2008). "Evolution of brains, cognition, and consciousness." Brain Res Bull 75(2-4): 442-449.
Cleeremans, A., A. Destrebecqz, et al. (1998). "Implicit learnin: News from the front." Trends Cogn Sci 2: 406-415.
Cowey, A. and P. Stoerig (1995). "Blindsight in monkeys." Nature 373(6511): 247-249.
Craig, A. D. (2009). "How do you feel--now? The anterior insula and human awareness." Nat Rev Neurosci 10(1): 59-70.Craig, A. D. (2010). "The sentient self." Brain Structure and Function 214: 563-577
Crick, F. and C. Koch (2003). "A framework for consciousness." Nature Neuroscience 6(2): 119-126.
Critchley, H. D., S. Wiens, et al. (2004). "Neural systems supporting interoceptive awareness." Nat Neurosci 7(2): 189-195.
Damasio, A. and H. Damasio (2006). "Minding the body." Daedalus: 15-22.
Dehaene and Changeux (2011). "Experimental and theoretical approaches to conscious processing." Neuron 70(2):200-227
Del Cul, A., S. Dehaene, et al. (2009). "Causal role of prefrontal cortex in the threshold for access to consciousness." Brain 132(Pt 9): 2531-2540.
Dienes, Z. (2008). "Subjective measures of unconscious knowledge." Progress in Brain Research 168: 49-64.
Dienes, Z. and J. Perner (2007). The cold control theory of hypnosis. Hypnosis and conscious states: The cognitive neuroscience perspective. G. Jamieson. Oxford, Oxford University Press: 293-314.
Edelman, D. B., B. J. Baars, et al. (2005). "Identifying the hallmarks of consciousness in non-mammalian species." Consciousness and Cognition 14(1): 169-187.
Edelman, D. B. and A. K. Seth (2009). "Animal consciousness: a synthetic approach." Trends Neurosci 32(9): 476-484.
Edelman, G. M. (2003). "Naturalizing consciousness: a theoretical framework." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100(9): 5520-5524.
Gaillard, R., S. Dehaene, et al. (2009). "Converging intracranial markers of conscious access." PLoS Biol 7(3): e61.
Goldberg, II, M. Harel, et al. (2006). "When the brain loses its self: prefrontal inactivation during sensorimotor processing." Neuron 50(2): 329-339.
Gray, J. (2003). "How are qualia coupled to functions?" Trends Cogn Sci 7(5): 192-194.
Haggard, P. (2008). "Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will." Nat Rev Neurosci 9(12): 934-946.
Hurley, S. and A. Noe (2003). "Neural plasticity and consciousness." Biology and Philosophy 18: 131-168.
Katkin, E. S., S. Wiens, et al. (2001). "Nonconscious fear conditioning, visceral perception, and the development of gut feelings." Psychol Sci 12(5): 366-370.
Knudsen, E. I. (2007). "Fundamental components of attention." Annu Rev Neurosci 30: 57-78.
Koch, C. and N. Tsuchiya (2007). "Attention and consciousness: two distinct brain processes." Trends Cogn Sci 11(1): 16-22.
Kouider, S., V. de Gardelle, et al. (2010). "How rich is consciousness? The partial awareness hypothesis." Trends Cogn Sci 14(7): 301-307.
Lamme, V. A. (2010). "How neuroscience will change our view on consciousness " Cognitive Neuroscience" 1(3): 202-220.
Lenggenhager, B., T. Tadi, et al. (2007). "Video ergo sum: manipulating bodily self-consciousness." Science 317(5841): 1096-1099.
Logothetis, N. K. (1998). "Single units and conscious vision." Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 353(1377): 1801-1818.
Massimini, M., F. Ferrarelli, et al. (2005). "Breakdown of cortical effective connectivity during sleep." Science 309(5744): 2228-2232.
Medford, N., Sierra,M., et al. (2005). "Understanding and treating depersonalization disorder". Adv. Psych. Treat. 11:92-100.
Melloni, L., C. Molina, et al. (2007). "Synchronization of neural activity across cortical areas correlates with conscious perception." J Neurosci 27(11): 2858-2865.
Merker, B. (2005). "The liabilities of mobility: a selection pressure for the transition to consciousness in animal evolution." Conscious Cogn 14(1): 89-114.
Merikle, P., D. Smilek, et al. (2001). "Perception without awareness: Perspectives from cognitive psychology." Cognition 79: 115-134.
Metzinger, T. (2007). "Self models." Scholarpedia 2(10): 4174.
Monti, M. M., A. Vanhaudenhuyse, et al. (2010). "Willful modulation of brain activity in disorders of consciousness." N Engl J Med 362(7): 579-589.
Nir, Y. and G. Tononi (2010). "Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology." Trends Cogn Sci 14(2): 88-100.
Noe, A. and S. Hurley (2003). "The deferential brain in action: Response to Jeffrey Gray." Trends Cogn Sci 7(5): 195-196.
Northoff, G. and J. Panksepp (2008). "The trans-species concept of self and the subcortical-cortical midline system." Trends Cogn Sci 12(7): 259-264.
Oakley, D. A. and P. W. Halligan (2009). "Hypnotic suggestion and cognitive neuroscience." Trends Cogn Sci 13(6): 264-270.
Owen, A. M., N. D. Schiff, et al. (2009). "A new era of coma and consciousness science." Prog Brain Res 177: 399-411.
Parvizi, J. and A. Damasio (2001). "Consciousness and the brainstem." Cognition 79(1-2): 135-160.
Petkova, V. I. and H. H. Ehrsson (2008). "If I were you: perceptual illusion of body swapping." PLoS One 3(12): e3832.
Phillips, M. L., N. Medford, et al. (2001). "Depersonalization disorder: thinking without feeling." Psychiatry Res 108(3): 145-160.
Ramachandran, V. S. and W. Hirstein (1998). "The perception of phantom limbs. The D. O. Hebb lecture." Brain 121 ( Pt 9): 1603-1630.
Rees, G. (2007). "Neural correlates of the contents of visual awareness in humans." Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 362(1481): 877-886.
Sahraie, A., L. Weiskrantz, et al. (1997). "Pattern of neuronal activity associated with conscious and unconscious processing of visual signals." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 94(17): 9406-9411.
Sanchez-Vives, M. V. and M. Slater (2005). "From presence to consciousness through virtual reality." Nat Rev Neurosci 6(4): 332-339.
Sass, L., & Parnas, J. (2003). "Schizophrenia, consciousness, and the self". Schizophrenia Bulletin. 29(3):427-444.
Scott, R. B. and Z. Dienes (2008). "The conscious, the unconscious, and familiarity." Journal of experimental psychology: Learning, memory, and cognition 34(5): 1264-1288.
Seth, A. K. (2009). "Explanatory correlates of consciousness: Theoretical and computational challenges." Cognitive Computation 1(1): 50-63.
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Seth, A. K., Z. Dienes, et al. (2008). "Measuring consciousness: relating behavioural and neurophysiological approaches." Trends Cogn Sci 12(8): 314-321.
Shanks, D. R. (2005). Implicit learning. Handbook of Cognition. K. Lamberts and R. Goldstone. London, Sage: 202-220.
Swinderen, B. (2005). "The remote roots of consciousness in fruit-fly selective attention?" Bioessays 27(3): 321-330.
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Tononi, G. and C. Koch (2008). "The neural correlates of consciousness: an update." Ann N Y Acad Sci 1124: 239-261.
van Boxtel, J. A., N. Tsuchiya, et al. (2010). "Consciousness and attention: on necessity and sufficiency." Frontiers in Psychology 2: 12.
Vanhaudenhuyse, A., A. Demertzi, et al. (2010). "Two Distinct Neuronal Networks Mediate the Awareness of Environment and of Self." J Cogn Neurosci.
Vuilleumier, P., N. Sagiv, et al. (2001). "Neural fate of seen and unseen faces in visuospatial neglect: a combined event-related functional MRI and event-related potential study." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98(6): 3495-3500.
Ward, J. (2008). The frog who croaked blue: Synesthesia and the mixing of the senses. London, Routledge.
Ward, J. and P. Meijer (2010). "Visual experiences in the blind induced by an auditory sensory substitution device." Conscious Cogn 19(1): 492-500.
Weiskrantz, L. (2009). "Is blindsight just degraded normal vision?" Exp Brain Res 192(3): 413-416.
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