Email We can watch neurons fire and interact but we do not really know how human consciousness comes to exist. The labs, in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and China, will use three techniques to record brain activity as volunteers perform consciousness-related tasks: functional magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography, and electrocorticography a form of EEG done during brain surgery, in which electrodes are placed directly on the brain. The GWT predicts the front of the brain will suddenly become active, whereas the IIT says the back of the brain will be consistently active. Tononi and Dehaene have agreed to parameters for the experiments and have registered their predictions. To avoid conflicts of interest, the scientists will neither collect nor interpret the data.
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The Allen Institute for Brain Science is engaged in a major effort to identify all the different types of neurons in the brains of mice and humans — the cell census effort. See the papers below. In collaboration with Francis Crick, he initiated the modern search for the neuronal correlates of consciousness, a systematic experimental program to identify the minimal bio-physical mechanisms jointly sufficient for any one specific conscious percept.
In collaboration with Giulio Tononi, he co-developed the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness. Psychologists study which cognitive operations underpin a given conscious perception. Neuroscientists track the neural correlates of consciousness in the brain, the organ of the mind. But why the brain and not, say, the liver? How can the brain, three pounds of highly excitable matter, a piece of furniture in the universe, subject to the same laws of physics as any other piece, give rise to subjective experience?
Koch argues that what is needed to answer these questions is a quantitative theory that starts with experience and proceeds to the brain. Koch describes how the theory explains many facts about the neurology of consciousness and how it has been used to build a clinically useful consciousness meter. The theory predicts that many, and perhaps all, animals experience the sights and sounds of life; consciousness is much more widespread than conventionally assumed.
Contrary to received wisdom, however, Koch argues that programmable computers will not have consciousness. Even a perfect software model of the brain is not conscious.
Its simulation is fake consciousness. Consciousness is not a special type of computation—it is not a clever hack. Consciousness is about being. How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience.
Aiding and abetting it were new techniques to listen in on the activity of individual nerve cells, clinical studies, and brain-imaging technologies that allowed safe and noninvasive study of the human brain in action.
Quest for Consciousness: A Historic Contest Is Announced