David will be demonstrating a number of techniques used by neuroscientists to investigate the mysteries of consciousness.
David Carmel “You know that picture of a cube that looks like either side of it could be in front, and they can switch? There’s a whole bunch of images like that, called ‘bistable stimuli’, and consciousness researchers find them really interesting (not so much the cube, which is sort of old news – but some of the others are way cooler; I’ll be showing several of them). What do these images have to do with consciousness? Think about it: Nothing changes in the picture (i.e., in the outside world), but the way we see the picture (our awareness) does change. So if we figure out how the brain chooses which way to interpret the picture, we’ll get some idea of how the brain creates conscious perception. In this presentation I’ll describe how I get at this using transcranial magnetic stimulation: Sending powerful magnetic pulses into people’s brains to disrupt their activity (temporarily, honest!), and see what this does to visual awareness.”
David Carmel is currently a cognitive neuroscientist at New York University, and will be moving to the University of Edinburgh’s Psychology Department in May. He is interested in consciousness – how brain activity creates it, which functions require it and which don’t, and why we have it at all. To answer these questions, he focuses mostly on visual awareness, examining what distinguishes conscious and unconscious visual experience, and how awareness interacts with faculties like attention and emotion. His ideas on the brain and mind have appeared in Scientific American Mind and fivebooks.com.