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Consciousness and the Brain

Summer school 2009

How is it possible that the grey and white matter of our brains make us aware of the smell, colour and shape of a red rose? How do neurones organise themselves into rhythmically active networks that enable mental phenomena such as conscious vision?

From June 15 to 26, the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam organises an interdisciplinary Summer School on the neural basis of consciousness for graduate students (master and PhD) around the work of visiting professor Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology. The aim of the Summer School is to introduce and discuss various experimental and theoretical approaches to the neuroscience of consciousness, with special emphasis on viewpoints attempting to bridge the gap between brain cells, networks and psychological phenomena.

Professor Koch is one of the world leaders in consciousness research and has made many contributions to a number of research areas, most notably in the computational neuroscience of vision and - together with the late Francis Crick - in theory and experiments on visual consciousness. He recently published the widely acclaimed book “The Quest for Consciousness – a Neurobiological Approach”. The program of the Summer School will reflect the width of his scientific interests.

On the first eight days of the Summer School, a number of tutorials on various experimental and theoretical approaches on brain-consciousness relationships will be given by international experts. In addition, students will carry out a small research project, either in the field of experimental psychology, neurophysiology, neuroimaging or robotics/AI. These projects will be supervised by researchers of the University of Amsterdam and will be carried out in small groups.

The second week will include a Workshop entitled “Debates on Consciousness”, which can be attended separately from the rest of the Summer School. The Workshop consists of several debates that reflect currently ‘hot’ issues in the field, such as the role of lower visual areas versus temporal lobe structures in consciousness. For each debate we have invited renowned researchers that will defend often opposing viewpoints. We anticipate that this will be a highly interesting and stimulating event.

On Thursday, June 25, Professor Koch will deliver a keynote lecture for a larger audience (the honorary Frijda lecture) which will be followed on the last day of the Summer School (Friday, June 26) by a Symposium in which a number of internationally renowned researchers will present their most recent work.