Consciousness

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Tuesday 7 April — New Scientist Live: Consciousness and the Extended Mind

For those who happen to be in Edinburgh and are interested in consciousness. Or, like, it’s spring break and you’re spending some days down south. You might want to check out the Edinburgh International Science Festival

— in particular the debate on Consciousness and the Extended Mind, with some absolute hot shots there!

“It’s one of the biggest questions of our existence. What is consciousness? Millennia after Aristotle and Hippocrates wrestled with the concept of the mind and self-awareness, neuroscientists, roboticists and psychologists are starting to pin down answers. Join a panel of experts for an evening of lively debate on what we know about the workings of our brains and how our minds extend into our bodies and the world around us – through walking sticks, prostheses, body swaps and machine melds. Philosopher Andy Clark from the University of Edinburgh will be your guide. Artificial intelligence pioneer Margaret Boden of the University of Sussex and neuroscientists Patrick Haggard and Micah Allen from University College London will join him to discuss what we can learn about ourselves from creating artificial consciousness and whether revealing the brain’s inner workings will solve the hard problem of consciousness – how a kilogram or so of nerve cells conjures up the seamless kaleidoscope of sensations, thoughts and emotions that occupy our every waking moment.”

Speakers’ websites:

Micah Allen is also an avid blogger and universal spreader of information on neuroscience and consciousness, so check him out at neuroscience.com, or his Twitter-account.

BBC Video on Consciousness

Click on more for video (more…)

Measuring Consciousness using fMRI

Functional magnetic resonance imaging is a measure of activity in the brain using an MRI machine. MRI machines generate a magnetic field that can scan a brain for electrical activity. In this way, researchers are not able to know what you are thinking but where you are thinking and associate certain areas with certain purposes. For example, the act of seeing and vision is associated with the back of the brain.

When is comes to measuring consciousness, fMRI scanners are incredibly useful too. They surpass the traditional methods of simply observing a patient’s behaviour (more…)

The Difference between Vegetation and Consciousness

In popular culture comas are practically common place. While a useful plot device in medical fiction, they’re significantly more important in real life as they offer the brain a chance to recover from severe damage caused by stroke, seizure, or traumatic injury. But if a coma is like a reset button for our brain, how how do we tell between those who are minimally conscious and those who are vegetative (that is to say, completely unaware) within a coma? The Glasgow Coma Score (a scale from 3-15, 15 being fully conscious) is commonly used in medical situations to score a patient’s conscious state. This is a satisfactory measure of ability, leaving t (more…)

The Neurology of Consciousness (Book Review)

Every book has to start somewhere, and The Neurology of Consciousness: Cognitive neuroscience and neuropathology begins with a concise introduction exploring the basics of consciousness, coma, and neglect, among other disorders in a well-thought out structure. Described as a “welcome addition to the field”, the contributors to the text include quickly recognizable and prestigious names including (among many others) Drs. James Bernat, (more…)