What is consciousness, and how does it relate to brain activity? In this talk I will approach this age-old question from a framework that defines conscious experience as multisensory, situational survey. It explains its basis from brain systems constructing best-guess representations of sensory inputs originating in our environment and body. Conscious phenomenology is understood as a sensorily rich, spatially encompassing representation of body and environment, compatible with our common impression of experiencing external reality directly.
Clues to understand network-level mechanisms underlying consciousness are derived from computational models for predictive processing, which are trained by unsupervised, Hebbian learning principles. By themselves, these clues are highly instructive but do not reveal why this type of neural network activity would give rise to phenomenal experience. I will argue that a conceptualization of emergent, multi-level representations may be helpful in addressing this gap.
Next, I will present experimental results from animal models which are relevant for evaluating the prediction that conscious brain systems generally rely on multisensory interactions. Results from in vivo electrophysiology, 2-photon imaging and optogenetics in mice performing perceptual tasks will be shown to illustrate how these and other theoretical predictions can be empirically evaluated.
Duration of the talk:
Approx. 50 minutes, then general and specialized discussion.
IMBIT, Nexus Lab, George-Köhler-Allee 201, 79110 Freiburg im Breisgau
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