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The Physiology and Biophysics of Consciousness

Biology And Biomedical Sciences 4582 - Spring 2019

This course will explore the questions surrounding the search to understand the biophysical substrate of consciousness. Some areas to be explored: 1. Can consciousness be addressed like any other biological property in the sense that it has evolved by natural selection and that some elements of it are present in simple model systems, such as the fruit fly? Can insight be gained studying simple model systems? 2. Where in the brain is consciousness? What is the pattern of neurological events that occurs during consciousness? Is brain activity generating consciousness localized or distributed? Does it involve interacting brain regions? Does brain activity generating consciousness migrate to different brain regions? 3. How does the dynamic core hypothesis of Edelman relate to these questions? What can functional brain imaging add to these questions? Are Gamma waves involved in higher mental activity, and do they promote synchronized firing of neurons from different brain areas? How does this relate to the binding problem? 4. How does the brain's ability to function as a computer relate to consciousness? In many respects the brain functions as a computer using electrical signals called Action Potentials. Action potentials in neuronal networks function in an analogous was as DC electrical impulses function in computer circuits. What is the output of computation in an electrical device? What are the theoretical limitations regarding what computation can achieve and ask whether electrical activity in the brain also has a fundamentally different purpose in addition to computation. 5. Is our knowledge of the physical world too primitive and incomplete to understand consciousness? The brain is an electronic device and consciousness clearly depends on its electrical activity. Yet, electrical forces are poorly understood, both in the context of classical physics and quantum physics. Will understanding consciousness have to wait for a unified theory that mor

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The Physiology and Biophysics of Consciousness
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