Consciousness Course: Syllabus

Course description

Subject area: Cognitive science
Position within subject area: Neuroscience and philosophy of mind
Intended audience: College students; intelligent and interested laypeople

Course objectives

When students have Completed this course, they will:
-know the essentials of neuroscience, including the perhaps more veridical theories of neural function and communication that may currently be emerging from such areas as non-linear systems, quantum mechanics, and analysis of subthreshold neural oscillations
- know the basic arguments in the philosophy of mind from Plato through Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Levine and such popular putative contributions as that of Chalmers
- In the absence of any certain conclusions about the nature of subjective experience, which this course dues not claim to give, be able to evaluate the many current and future claims that will be presented to them proposing a direct link from neural fact to subjective experience

Prerequisites for students

Interest in the area; commitment to engage with others in dialogue

Session by Session

Week 1: Historical aspects: Plato, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Husserl, Levine; the advent of cognitive science. Neurophysiological plausibility: assessment of conventional neural networks, the integrate and fire paradigm, and approaches built on subthreshold resonance. Introduction of the resonate and fire (RFNN) paradigm; vocabulary of non-linear systems to be used in the course. The Hilbert transform as superset of the Fourier transform; its applicability to brain function. Criteria for consequences for phenomenal experience.

Week 2: RFNs continued. The encompassing context; how does this work relate to contemporary controversies exemplified by the Noe/Hurley/Block debate, and the notion of a neural correlate of conscious experience.

Week 3: Continuation of analysis of the work of RNF theorists like Izhekevich, Reinker and Doris. The interaction of spatial and temporal codes. Topographic maps that go point-to-point into higher-level maps and retinotopic mapping from the retina to LGN, from there to V1, and in the other "V areas" up to IT. How do these spatial maps interact with spectral codes of Karl Pribram?
Week 4: Multimodal mapping. Spatial location and information integration. What other binding mechanisms are there, for example in Martin's LIMSI work? ;Filling ; mechanisms and change blindness.

Week 5: The contrastive approach in consciousness studies. Axonal versus dendritic communication. The FM radio analogy pioneered by Izhekevich, Doris and Freeman. Meaning as AM in the work of Freeman

Week 6: Other theories of consciousness; conscious inessentialism in Lashley and Jackendoff. Fodor versus Descartes on modularity. Freeman, Suppes; consciousness as a sample.

Week 7: Edelman, involving the dynamic core hypothesis. Llinas and the thalamocortical system. Pellionisz and Llinas on tensors in the work popularized by Churchland

Week 8: Recapitualtion of historical aspects and summary.. What theory, if any, will prevail? What seem to be the relevant criteria?

Weeks 9 and 10: Student presentations

Methods of Instruction

While the instructor will prepare a detailed presentation for each topic, the students will be encouraged to debate the topics vigorously throughthe internet , and work together to give presentations

Credit Requirements and Course Grade

50% end of session examination
50% project work (to be finalised)

Background Reading

Barlow H. B. (1972) Single Neurons and Sensation: A neuron doctrine for perceptual psychology. Perception. Perception 1, 371-394.

Biebel, U.W., Langner, G., 1997. Evidence for "pitch neurons" in the auditory midbrain of chinchillas. In: Syka, J. (Ed.), Acoustic Signal Processing in the Central Auditory System. Plenum Press, New York

Braun, M., 2000. Inferior colliculus as candidate for pitch extraction: multiple support from statistics of bilateral spontaneous otoacoustic emissions. Hear. Res. 145, 130-140.

Braun, M., 1999. Auditory midbrain laminar structure appears adapted to f 0 extraction: further evidence and implications of the double critical bandwidth.

Hear. Res. 129, 71-82.

J. C. Eccles (1957). The Physiology of Nerve Cells. Academic Press, New York, 1957

G Callewaert, J Eilers, and A Konnerth Axonal calcium entry during fast 'sodium' action potentials in rat cerebellar Purkinje neurones J Physiol (Lond) 1996 495: 641-647

Georgopoulos, A., Kalaska, J., Caminiti, R., & Massey, J. (1982). On the relations between the directionof two-dimensional arm movements and cell discharge in primate motor cortex. Journal ofNeuroscience, 2(11), 1527-1537.

Hubel and Wiesel (1959) Receptive fields of single neurons in the cat's striate cortex

Hutcheon, B. and Yarom, Y. "Resonance, oscillation, and the intrinsic frequency preferences of neurons" Trends Neurosci. 2000 May; 23(5): 216-22

Izhikevich (2002) "Resonance and selective communication via bursts in neurons having subthreshold oscillations" Biosystems 67(2002) 95-102

Langner, G., Schreiner, C.E., Biebel, U.W., 1998. Functional implications of frequency and periodicity coding in auditory midbrain. In: Palmer, A.R., Rees, A.,

Summerfield, A.Q., Meddis, R. (Eds.), Psychophysical and Physiological Advances in Hearing.

Whurr, London, pp. 277-285. Langner, G., Schreiner, C.E. and Merzenich, M.M. (1987) Covariation of latency and temporal resolution in the inferior colliculus of the cat. Hear. Res. 31, 197-201

McCulloch, W. and Pitts, W. (1943). A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity. Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, 7:115 - 133.

Rees, A. and Sarbaz, A. (1997) The influence of intrinsic oscillations on the encoding of amplitude modulation by neurons in the inferior colliculus. In: J. Syka (Ed.), Acoustic Signal Processing in the Central Auditory System, Plenum Press, New York, pp. 239-252

O Nuallain, Sean (2003) The Search for Mind; third edition. Exeter: England

Pribram, K. (1991) Brain and Perception: holonomy and structure in figural processing. N.J. : Lawrence Erlbaum

Reinker, S, E. Puil, and R.M. Miura (2004) "Membrane Resonance and Stochastic resonance modulate firing patterns of Thalamocortical neurons: Journal of computational Neuroscience 16 (1): 15-25, January-February, 2004

Rock, I. (1983) The logic of perception. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press

Rudolph, M. and A. Destexhe (2001) "Do neocortical pyramidal neurons display stochastic resonance?" Journal of computational neuroscience 11,19-42

DeSchutter, E. and Bower, J.M. (1993) Parallel fiber inputs gate the Purkinje cell response to ascending branch synaptic inputs. Soc. Neurosci. Abst. 19:1588.

Sherrington CS. 1906. Integrated Action of the Nervous System. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK

Wu, M, C-F Hsiao, and S.C. Chandler (2001) "Membrane reonance and subthreshold membrane oscillations in Mesencephalic V Neurons: Participants in Burst Generation The Journal of Neuroscience, June 1, 2001, 21(11):3729-3739

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