Brain & Mind Computational Seminar

Kuukausittainen seminaari epämuodolliselle keskustelulle aiheista kuten: artificial intelligence, neuroscience, human behaviour & digital humanities. Tervetuloa!
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We warmly welcome you to our next Brain & Mind Computational seminar on 16.12.2021 at 16:00 EET. This time Michael Graziano (Princeton University) and Anil Seth (University of Sussex) will present and discuss their research work on Consciousness!

Zoom link: https://aalto.zoom.us/j/68816094280?pwd=TzFzQ0dlRjlxOGQ5SFFIU2hwS1Zvdz09

Password: brainmind



A Conceptual Framework for Consciousness

Michael S. A. Graziano - Princeton University

Neuroscientists understand the basic principles of how the brain processes information. But how does it become subjectively aware of at least some of that information? What is consciousness? In my lab we are developing a theoretical and experimental approach to these questions that we call the Attention Schema theory (AST). The theory seeks to explain how an information-processing machine could act the way people do, insisting it has consciousness, describing consciousness in the ways that we do, and attributing similar properties to others. ASTbegins with attention, a mechanistic method of handling data. In the theory, the brain does more than use attention to enhance some signals at the expense of others. It also monitors attention. It constructs information – schematic information – about what attention is, what the consequences of attention are, and what its own attention is doing at any moment. Both descriptive and predictive, this “attention schema” is used to help control attention, much as the “body schema,” the brain’s internal model of the body, is used to help control the body. The attention schema is the hypothesized source of our claim to have consciousness. Based on the incomplete, schematic information present in the attention schema, the brain concludes that it has a non-physical, subjective awareness. In AST, awareness is a caricature of attention. In addition, when people model the attention of others, we implicitly model it in a schematic, magicalist way, as a mental energy in people’s heads. Our deepest intuitions about consciousness as a hard problem, or as a mystery essence, may stem from the brain’s sloppy models of attention.

Real problems and beast machines: predictive processing and conscious experience

Anil Seth - University of Sussex

Consciousness is, for each of us, the presence of subjective experience. Without consciousness there is no world, no self: there is nothing at all. In this talk, I will illustrate how the framework of predictive processing (or active inference) can help bridge from mechanism to phenomenology in the science of consciousness. I will advance the view that predictive processing, precisely because it is not itself a theory of consciousness, is an excellent theoretical resource for consciousness science. I will illustrate this view first by showing how conscious experiences of the world around us can be understood in terms of perceptual predictions, drawing on examples from psychophysics and virtual reality. Then, turning the lens inwards, we will see how the experience of being an embodied self rests on control-oriented predictive (allostatic) regulation of the interior of the body. This approach implies a deep connection between mind and life, and provides a new way to understand the subjective nature of consciousness as emerging from systems that care intrinsically about their own existence. Contrary to the old doctrine of Descartes, we are conscious because we are beast machines


Michael Graziano is an American scientist, novelist, and composer, who is currently a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University. He has proposed the "attention schema" theory, an explanation of how, and for what adaptive advantage, brains attribute the property of awareness to themselves. His previous work focused on how the cerebral cortex monitors the space around the body and controls movement within that space. Notably he has suggested that the classical map of the body in motor cortex, the homunculus, is not correct and is better described as a map of complex actions that make up the behavioral repertoire. His novels rely partly on his background in psychology and are known for surrealism or magic realism. 

Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Program on Brain, Mind and Consciousness, an ERC Advanced Investigator, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness, and a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow. He has published more than 180 papers and is listed in the Web of Science ‘Highly Cited Researcher’ index (2019, 2020, 2021). His 2017 TED talk has been viewed more than twelve million times, and his new book Being You: A New Science of Consciousness was an instant Sunday Times top 10 bestseller, a Guardian book of the week, and a Financial Times best science book of the year. @anilkseth.



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