Neuroscience and experience
Subject area: Cognitive science
Position within subject area: Neuroscience and philosophy of mind

Intended audience:
Junior and senior year and graduate students

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
Symbsys 100 Session by Session

1. Biological criteria for neurophysiological plausibility: assessment of conventional neural networks, the integrate and fire paradigm, and approaches built on subthreshold resonance. What biological criteria exist for assessment of
neurophysiological plausibility? Which approaches have which kind of plausibility?. 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.

2. The interaction of spatial and temporal codes. We know the brain has topographic maps that go point-to-point into
higher-level maps, particularly in the visual system. Retinotopic mapping works well from the retina to LGN, from there to V1, and in the other "V areas" up to IT. The spatial resolution of those maps decreases as they become more abstract and object-like. But at the higher levels we also see more integration of multiple "features?" How do these spatial maps interact with spectral codes?

3. Multimodal mapping. Again, spatial location is a great way to integrate information from separate sense modalities. Sound and visual input from the same perceived location in space will tend to be experienced consciously as the same event, providing the two sensory inputs occur within about 100 ms of each other. How are we to understand that? Multimodal mapping has to involve at least two competing ingredients: (a) integration of senses across an accurate spatiotemporal representation of the world (b) separation of the senses, so that we can distinguish between the sight of a bird and the sounds it makes. How do we cover both of these competing objectives?

4. Global work space theory. We now have quite an array of evidence for widespread recruitment of brain regions for
conscious, but not very similar unconscious sensory input. (See Baars in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2002, available from What implications are there from such a phenomenon? If one believes there is axonal broadcasting of visual input, for example, when it becomes conscious, does that imply some sort of loss in the information being broadcast?

5. Consciousness. What does the resonate and fire (RFNN)paradigm suggest about the difference between conscious and
unconscious brain events? We know that a lot goes on without consciousness. For example, the cerebellum is mostly
unconscious. Yet in many animals it has a similar number of neurons as the cerebral cortex. What is the difference? What happens with the brain goes to sleep, and the waveforms become slow, large in amplitude and regular, rather than fast, low in amplitude and irregular? Consciousness is a very specific brain phenomenon. Other theories of consciousness; conscious inessentialism in Lashley and Jackendoff. Fodor versus Descatres on modularity. Freeman, Suppes; consciousness as a sample.

6. In-depth discussion of brain theories that address similar problems in similar ways. Detailed, critical discussion of recent work by (a) Walter Freeman, particularly his recent paper in Biological Cybernetics, which advances a strong case for a particular nonlinear dynamical model based on EEG, the notion of an AM phase wave packet; (b) Tononi and Edelman, involving the dynamic core hypothesis; (c) Llinas and Pare, on the thalamocortical system. These models all aim to deal with a sizable body of brain evidence. So they are biologically plausible to a considerable degree. Are they computationally functional as well? Are there things they cannot do? Do they constrain the RFNN approach? Does RFNN suggest changes in those models?

7 Historical aspects and summary; Plato, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Husserl, Levine; the advent of cognitive science. What theory, if any, will prevail? What seem to be the relevant criteria?
Methods of Instruction While the instructor will prepare a detailed presentation for each topic, the students will be
encouraged to debate the topics vigorously in class and through bulletin boards, and work together to give presentations

Credit requirements and course grade 50% end of session examination50% project work
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

Course coordinator: Sean O'Nuallain