Archive for the ‘Cognitive Neuroscience’ Category

Neuroscience Boot Camp

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Brain Hammer reader, Martha Farah, sends the following (which looks pretty cool):

The University of Pennsylvania announces their Neuroscience Boot Camp, August 2-12, 2009.

Why Neuroscience Boot Camp?

Neuroscience is increasingly relevant to a number of professions and academic disciplines beyond its traditional medical applications. Lawyers, educators, economists and businesspeople, as well as scholars of philosophy, sociology, applied ethics and policy, are incorporating the concepts and methods of neuroscience into their work. Indeed, for any field in which it is important to understand, predict or influence human behavior, neuroscience will play an increasing role. The Penn Neuroscience Boot Camp is designed to give participants a basic foundation in cognitive and affective neuroscience and to equip them to be informed consumers of neuroscience research.

What happens at Neuroscience Boot Camp?

Through a combination of lectures, break-out groups, panel discussions and laboratory visits, participants will gain an understanding of the methods of neuroscience and key findings on the cognitive and social-emotional functions of the brain, lifespan development and disorders of brain function.

Each lecture will be followed by extensive Q&A. Break-out groups will allow participants to delve more deeply into topics of relevance to their fields. Laboratory visits will include trip to an MRI scanner, an EEG/ERP lab, an animal neurophysiology lab, and a transcranial magnetic stimulation lab. Participants will also have access to an extensive online library of copyrighted materials selected for relevance to the Boot Camp, including classic and review articles and textbook chapters in cognitive and affective neuroscience and the applications of neuroscience to diverse fields.

Who should apply?

College and university faculty, working professionals and graduate students are encouraged to apply. The only prerequisites are a grasp of basic statistics and at least a dim recollection of high school biology and physics. (A short set of readings will be made available prior to the Boot Camp to remind you about the essentials.)
More details:

Participants will be housed on campus in air-conditioned apartment-style suites with private bedrooms. Sessions begin at 9 AM and end at 6:15. Breakfast and lunch will be eaten with the group; dinners are on your own.

The academic program spans nine days, Monday, August 3rd -Wednesday, August 12th with half of Saturday and all of Sunday off. There will be an opening reception on the evening of Sunday August 2nd and a gala dinner the last evening in the Lower Egypt gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

The cost of tuition, room and board is $3,000 and scholarships are available. Complete applications are due by midnight on February 1st. You will be notified of the status of your application by March 6th, and will have until April 1st to confirm attendance

Visit for more information!

Zeki Blog

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Zeki’s got a blog. Here.

Finite Will and Infinite Will

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Gualtiero Piccinini @ Brains calls attention to this NYT article on finite will: “Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind“. Excerpt:

No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some biological change in the brain. Perhaps neurons in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for planning behavior, or in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with cognitive control, use blood sugar more efficiently after repeated challenges. Or maybe one of the chemical messengers that neurons use to communicate with one another is produced in larger quantities after it has been used up repeatedly, thereby improving the brain’s willpower capacity.

Here’s a little bit of fiction I wrote a few years ago about infinite will: “Desire Magnitudes“. Excerpt:

I tear open my package, and, as is typical for ET merchandise, the accompanying literature is indecipherable trash. Fuck it. I pop a pill and wash it down with some hot sludge. I’m not real sure what to expect, but I’m figuring on an ingestible analogue to my previous surgery. I’m figuring nanobots are going to modify my frontal lobes allowing for the simulation of an indefinite number of ersatz consciousnesses to deal with an indefinite number of annoying distractions. Wrong answer, dude. That is not what this pill does to me at all. Just a few seconds after swallowing, the pill establishes various interfaces with my brain, and I know my way around my cerebrum well enough to know what’s what. The first interface established between the nanoprocessors and my brain is through the visual areas of occipital cortex. A translucent blue rectangle pops into my field of view. White alphanumerics scroll from top to bottom. It’s extraterrestrial at first, but as the pill coordinates the visual processing with the semantic association networks in my left temporal cortex, the text writhes into recognizable English:



Friday, February 22nd, 2008

The neuroscience carnival, Encephalon, is back in action [link to the latest edition]. Items include the outlandishly anti-Wittgensteinian Your Brain is Reading This.

Curious Television: The MindBrainMachine

Monday, January 14th, 2008

I just caught a pretty cool tv show recently: the “Mind/Brain/Machine” episode of the PBS series, Curious. The episode features lots of cool people from Caltech doing, among other things, fruit-fly robotics and neuroeconomics. Here’s a link for the episode’s webpage: [link].

Your Brain is Reading This

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

What Bennett and Hacker call “the mereological fallacy” is the view that psychological predicates attributable to whole organisms may also be attributed to proper parts of organisms. It’s consistent with such a view that my cat may remember where the litter-box is in virtue of his brain’s remembering where the litter-box is. Bennett and Hacker’s hostility toward this view goes beyond merely thinking it false: they reject it as incoherent and nonsensical.

In contrast, I regard it as at worst mostly harmless, probably true, and thus far from incoherent. A lot of the difference between us likely hinges on differing views regarding the mutability of concepts and the scientific worth of conceptual analysis.

Let’s, however, indulge in a little analysis, especially of the concept of a fallacy. I regard fallacies as invalid arguments, and if there is an invalid argument form deserving of the title “mereological fallacy” it goes something like this.

1. a is F
2. b is a proper part of a
3. Therefore, b is F

You can’t plug just any old predicate in for “F” and expect 1, 2, and 3 to come out true. However, it’s fully consistent with this that there are some substitution instances whereby 1, 2, and 3 do come out true. Let a = Mandik, b = Mandik’s left foot, and F = in the Earth’s gravitational field.

There are lots of occasions in which 1, 2, & 3 come out true. Why not, then, regard occasions in which F is a psychological predicate as such occasions?

Consider some relevant analogies. If my computer crashes and investigation reveals that all of its parts are in working order except for the hard-drive, then no confusion ensues in saying that the hard-drive crashed. If my cat digests a meal and investigation of all his parts reveals that his stomach did most of the work, then no confusion ensues in saying that his stomach digests the meal. Medieval philosophers, concerned with the doctrine of bodily resurrection, used to engage in a priori speculations about how digestion worked. It seems silly to engage in such practices now.

It should, at a minimum, be regarded as an open question, not something ruled out a priori, that further investigation will uncover facts we may summarize as that the brain remembers, is conscious, has beliefs, etc.

Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker (2003). Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Berlin, Blackwell Publishing.

Bennett, M.R., D. Dennett, P.M.S. Hacker, J. Searle. (2007). Neuroscience and Philosophy. Brain, Mind and Language. N.Y., Columbia University Press.

Presentations Presented Presently

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Numbers of people (more than one) have asked for the following, perhaps because they are students in a class soon to be examined on the topics contained within. Others may be interested as well. Below are PowerPoint slides for talks closely associated with Chapter 5 & 6 of The Subjective Brain.

Transcending Zombies [link to download]

Phenomenal Consciousness and the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface [link to download]

Consciousness Debate Videos

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

The following link is to the Mind Science Foundation’s page of video files of a debate concerning the neural correlates of consciousness between Susan Greenfield and Cristof Koch. [Link]

Inducing Out-of-Body Experiences

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Philosopher Thomas Metzinger emailed me a bunch of cool stuff he’s doing with some neurosicentists to utilize virtual reality to induce out-of-body experiences.

From “The embodied self: Using virtual reality to study the foundations of bodily self-consciousness“:

The “I” one thinks of as “myself” is inextricably attached to one’s bodily location. In patients with certain neurological conditions this sense of spatial unity can break down, causing disturbing sensations such as out-of-body experiences in which the global self is localized outside one’s body limits (often called disembodiment).

Previous experiments have shown that people may attribute fake body parts to their own bodies. In the “Rubber Hand Illusion”, a person’s unseen hand is stroked synchronously with a visible fake hand, and then the person is asked to point to his own hand. Subjects invariably err in the direction of the fake hand, attributing it to their own bodies. Because the attribution does not involve the whole body, the sense of global bodily self-consciousness is not affected. EPFL Professor Olaf Blanke, graduate students Bigna Lenggenhager and Tej Tadi, and philosopher Thomas Metzinger hypothesized that the same approach could be used to study the concept of global bodily self consciousness by using a single, coherent body representation instead of just a body part.

See also:
New Scientist, “Out-of-body experiences are ‘all in the mind’
New York Times, “Studies Report Inducing Out-of-Body Experience“.

Supervenience and Neuroscience

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Supervenience and Neuroscience. Draft. Comments welcome.

ABSTRACT: I assume physicalism and argue against non-reductive physicalism on the following grounds. Extant forms of non-reductive physicalism spell out their commitment to physicalism in terms of a notion of supervenience incapable of ruling out obviously unappealing scenarios that I call “doubled-qualia” and “mental-mental-supervenience.” Such scenarios involve multiple minds supervening on all and only the same physical properties. Such scenarios can be ruled out by a natural extension of the supervenience thesis that I call “fine-grained supervenience.” I argue further that the combination of non-reductive physicalism with fine-grained supervenience leads to a regress. I argue further still that if the regress is to be avoided, the form of reductive physicalism most preferable is one in which mental properties reduce to neural properties.

[Link to full text of article]

Related posts: Doubled Qualia; A Regress for Non-reductive Physicalism; Fine-grained Supervenience, Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Future of Functionalism