Christof Koch (California Institute of Technology)
Neuroscience Seminar Series
To understand how consciousness is linked to the brain, how the flickering activity of myriad of nerve cells leads to ineffable experiences, of seeing blue, of being warmed by the sun, or of being scared by exposure on a climb. I shared this passion with Dr. Francis Crick at the Salk Institute. Over close to two decades, we wrote, talked, thought, and discussed ways and means to discover and characterize the neuronal correlates of consciousness (the NCC). For a summary, see this essay that appeared in Nature Neuroscience in 2003. A photo-essay and the cover story from the LA Weekly provide a different view.
I'm also interested in a theory of consciousness, a formal framework - formulated using the idiom of information theory - that explains what consciousness is, which system can have subjective experiences and why in functional terms. Such a theory would imply that a computer, properly programmed as to mimic the functional connectivity of the human brain, could be consciousness. Together with Giulio Tononi, a neuroscientist at the University of Madison in Wisconsin working on such a theory of Integrated Information, I recently surveyed what we can learn about biological consciousness and apply to machine sentience (and how we can teach a machine to truly understand the movie Blade Runner).
Francis passed away in 2004, leaving a profound gap in my life. I worked with him since the late 1980s, writing close to two dozen papers and book chapters with him, and came to love and admire him as a mentor, a scientist and as a friend. I miss him dearly. Martin Packer maintains an exhaustive web-site about Francis, his written legacy and his scientific impact.
Understanding the Extracellular Electrical Potential - From Spikes to the LFP and Back Again
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