Lecture 1 in a series on the Neurobiology of Consciousness by Robert Blum, MD, PhD www.bobblum.com
Consciousness is critically important to our sense of the world and of ourselves.
It is also one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of science.
WHAT is the definition of consciousness? I will focus here on perceptual
WHO is conscious? We accord that status to our fellow humans and to
certain other animals. I introduce comparative neuroanatomy and discuss
the WHEN of consciousness – when did it evolve?
WHY did consciousness evolve? What’s it good for?
(It confers great evolutionary advantage in a fiercely competitive,
and changing world (fight or flight, feed or fornicate, friend or foe?)
I discuss David Chalmers Easy Problem vs Hard Problem and
the Turing Test, its star performer Elbot, and other Zombies and
Sleepwalkers on Autopilot.
Bernard Baars: Executive Summary, and Global Workspace Theory.
Template Matching: What one knows one sees.
Consciousnes as "best fit," global constraint satisfaction.
Ray Jackendoff’s intermediate level theory of consciousness.
Christof Koch’s search for the NCC: the Neural Correlates of Consc and the
theory of Koch and Crick: thee unconsc. frontal lobe looks at the perceptual (back) brain.
The Neuron Doctrine of Consc. But which neurons? Billions of neurons are
unrelated to Consc: gut, spinal cord, cerebellum.
What properties of neurons correspond to consc?
Emergence: Weak (patterns in groups of components) vs Strong (new phenomena)
Downward Causation by Consc? How does the "spirit world" of consc cause neurons to fire?
Is consc epiphenomenal (ie useless, like the sound of a locomotive)?
John Searle: Biological Naturalism (Property dualism)
Roger Penrose: "Consc is not computable and cannot even be simulated."
Is the brain the whole story? Near Death Experiences:
The Human Consc Project: A Multi-Institution Experiment;
Out of Body Experiences (As a homework assignment)
Recording from and stimulating single neurons. Grandmother Neurons.
Wilder Penfield: Re-experiencing the past by neural stimulation
Koch and Fried: Jennifer Aniston neurons
As preparation I recommend the essay on my website www.bobblum.com
entitled The Mystery of Consciousness
This will be a non-technical lecture suitable for the general public.
Subsequent lectures will cover exciting new research on the neuroscience
of consciousness as revealed by fMRI, electrodes arrays, and microelectrode studies.
Bob Blum was an undergrad at MIT in math/neuroscience and continued his studies of neuroscience in medical school at UCSF. He then completed a PhD in computer science (AI) and biostatistics at Stanford and was on the research staff for ten years.
His team at Stanford developed the RX Project, which automated the discovery of clinical causal effects. RX garnered numerous NIH, NLM, and NSF grants. Bob then returned to clinical medicine as an emergency physician for Kaiser Hospitals. Since retirement he has returned to the study of cognitive neuroscience and its intersection with AI. That is the focus of his website, www.bobblum.com.