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Consciousness and the Social Brain
Update time: 2016/08/12
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Speaker: Prof. Michael S. A. Graziano (Princeton University,)

Time14:00, August 16, 2016

Venue: Meeting Room Level 6, South Building

Neuroscientists understand the basic principles of how the brain processes information. But how does it become subjectively aware of at least some of that information? What is consciousness? In my lab we are developing a theoretical and experimental approach to these questions that we call the Attention Schema theory. The theory begins with attention, a mechanistic method of handling data. Some signals are enhanced at the expense of other signals and are more deeply processed. In the theory, the brain does more than just use attention. It also simulates attention. It constructs information – incomplete, schematic, sometimes even inaccurate information – about what attention is, what the consequences of attention are, and what its own attention is doing at any moment. This “attention schema” is used to help control attention, much as the “body schema,” the brain’s internal simulation of the body, is used to help control the body. Based on the information in the attention schema, the brain concludes that it has subjective awareness. Awareness is a caricature of attention. In this theory, we ascribe awareness to ourselves just as we attribute awareness to others. In both cases its function is to model the process of attention. In this talk I will outline the theory and describe some of the experimental evidence from behavioral and fMRI studies that support it.

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