10th Annual Lecture
March 28, 2008
Logan Hall Auditorium
The Biology of Consciousness
Half a century ago, many did not think it was possible to understand the secret of life. Then two scientists, Jim Watson and Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA, forever changing biology and the way we view ourselves in the natural order of things. We are now once again facing a similar pursuit in determining the material basis of the conscious mind. Consciousness is one of the major unsolved problem in science today. How do the salty taste and crunchy texture of potato chips, the unmistakable smell of dogs after they have been in the rain, or the awfulness of a throbbing tooth pain, emerge from networks of neurons and their associated synaptic and molecular processes?
I will summarizes what is known about the biology and neurology of consciousness, outline the limits to our knowledge, and describe ongoing experiments using visual illusions to manipulate the relationship between physical stimuli and their associated conscious percepts. I will introduce the audience to the modern, empirical program to discover and characterize the neuronal correlates of consciousness (NCC). I will conclude by discussing the limitations of a scientific approach to consciousness.