State of Mind Talks Program
“Consciousness: The Final Frontier” will leap right into the leading edge of consciousness science, discussing recent advances and new insights into the brain mechanisms underlying the most familiar and yet the most mysterious aspect of our existence. Speakers are drawn from the Sackler Centre and beyond.
Time: 3pm, June 30th
Nothing seems more real than our experience of our own bodies, but then again nothing is quite what it seems. Dr. Anil Seth shows how our conscious self is just another fiction of the brain He will talk about rubber hands and phantom limbs, show how out of body experiences are possible, and describe how to do cutting-edge neuroscience in your living room with the help of some off-the-shelf video game equipment.
Our minds and our bodies are connected, but is it the mind that controls the body or the body that controls the mind? We are familiar with how our feelings relate to our body, like our heart speeding up when we sense danger. However, internal bodily changes can also influence conscious experience – is it possible our hearts can lead our minds? Dr. Garfinkel discusses how our heartbeats can affect the way we perceive the world. Understanding how our bodies can guide what we see, feel and remember demonstrates how our experience of the external world can be shaped by our own internal bodily states.
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.