Brain Awareness Week

Neuroscience Research Day 2012

Thank you to all the students, faculty members and volunteers who made Neuroscience Research Day 2012 a great success.

The keynote lecture was presented by Dr. Michael Graziano. Dr. Graziano, who visited us from Princeton University, is a highly accomplished researcher in the field of motor control. He recently changed his focus towards consciousness and shared with us his hypothetical model of consciousness as an ‘attention schema’. In his compelling keynote talk, he took us on a journey of thought about how awareness, attention and consciousness are linked, to a place where philosophy and neuroscience meet. 

Keynote Title: Consciousness and the Attention Schema.

Abstract: A common modern view of consciousness is that it is an emergent property of the brain, perhaps caused by neuronal complexity, perhaps with no adaptive value. Exactly what emerges, how it emerges, and from what specific neuronal process, is in debate. One possible explanation of consciousness is that it is a construct of the social perceptual machinery. Humans have specialized neuronal machinery that allows us to be socially intelligent. The primary role for this machinery is to construct models of other people’s minds thereby gaining some ability to predict the behavior of other individuals. In the present hypothesis, awareness is specifically a reconstructed model of attentional state. We reconstruct other people’s attention on item X as "awareness" of item X. The machinery that attributes awareness to other people also attributes awareness to ourselves. This hypothesis that awareness is an attention schema, or model of attention, and that it is a construct of the social machinery, can be evaluated against a variety of lines of evidence including experiments on the neural basis of social perception, hemispatial neglect, and the body schema.