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Scientists from around the world meet in Brisbane, Australia to share insights from studies of consciousness, from laboratory to clinic
The 18th meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness convened in Brisbane, Australia July 16th to 19th, 2014. Scientific investigators from around the world converged on the beautiful subtropical campus of the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia, to share insights and review new developments in the scientific study of how the hardware of the brain creates our phenomena of our subjective experience. Mind Science Foundation is a longtime underwriter of the ASSC's annual meetings.
The program opened with a traditional aboriginal welcome from Inawinytji Williamson, a libretto writer, storyteller, artist and aboriginal law woman. Ms. Williamson and her colleague Dr. Diana James, of the Australian National University, shared a film about their work with traditional song cycles, or “songlines,” used by indigenous peoples of Australia to encode information and create narrative “maps” in traditional song, that have been used for millennia to guide people on journeys of hundreds or thousands of miles.
The opening keynote was presented by David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at New York University and the Australian National University. Dr. Chalmers, perhaps the best known contemporary scholar on the philosophy of consciousness, provided an overview of the past 350 years of efforts to solve what he has termed “the hard problem of consciousness,” the enduring puzzle of why we have subjective experience at all in the process of extracting information from and interacting with the world around us.
Neuroscientists, philosophers and psychologists attending the meeting presented new work on studies of the neural correlates of consciousness. Of particular note this year were investigations from several different laboratories on progress towards developing a so-called “consciousness meter,” a set of techniques and algorithms that can be used to describe variations in levels of consciousness across different states, including dreaming, deep sleep, anesthesia, coma and brain injury.
The scientific program concluded with a lecture by Dr. Stanislaus Dehaene. Dr. Dehaene, one of the leaders in the scientific study of consciousness, presented an overview of his work entitled: Understanding consciousness: From the lab to the clinic.” Dr. Dehaene’s lecture highlighted the rapid progress that is being made in moving from investigations of consciousness in laboratory experiments to the application of this knowledge in our understanding of disorders of consciousness associated with clinical conditions like traumatic brain injury. Dr. Dehaene is Professor and Chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology, Collège de France, Paris, and Director, INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Orsay, France. In 2014 Dr. Dehaene’s distinguished record of accomplishment was recognized when he was awarded the Brain Prize, a €1,000,000 award given each year to honor scientific progress in brain research. The acclaim attached to the work of Dr. Dehaene and his colleagues is an important indicator of growing recognition and respect by the scientific community for the progress that is being made in demystifying the mystery of consciousness. Mind Science Foundation is honored to provide continuing support for this important annual scientific meeting.
For more information on the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness click here.