Symposia - 23rd Annual Conference of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness June 25 – 28, 2019, Conference by The Conference Services at Western University. Division of Housing and Ancillary Services at Western University
23rd Annual Meeting of ASSC

June 25 - June 28, 2019 | Western University, London, ON, Canada

 

Symposia

HIDDEN

Chair: Martin Fortier
Presenters: Xiao-Fei Yang, Michael Lifschitz, Rebecca Seligman

As yet, the scientific study of consciousness has not paid much attention to cultural variables and the field remains largely centered on the study of Westerners. This disregard for culture is unfortunate given that several lines of evidence demonstrate that culture does shape consciousness. E.g., it has been shown that the susceptibility to visual illusions varies across cultures, that sensory integration (the McGurk effect) is affected by culture, that culture interferes in binocular rivalry, etc. Moreover, anthropologists have noticed that some cultures explore a larger repertoire of conscious states than others through the cultivation of unique techniques (hallucinogens, fasting, sleep deprivation, etc.). While "monophasic cultures" are reluctant to induce contents and modes of consciousness that go beyond those experienced ordinarily, "polyphasic cultures" are eager to explore a stupendous diversity of conscious states. The enculturation of consciousness can take place in three ways: (1) Ordinary conscious processes can be encultured by ordinary practices. This type of shaping does not result in dramatic transformations, but in moderate contentual changes (as illustrated by visual illusions). (2) Some cultures use non-ordinary techniques for altering consciousness. In this case the enculturation of consciousness coincides with dramatic changes in the contents and modes of consciousness (as illustrated by hallucinogenic experiences). (3) Techniques for altering consciousness can themselves be penetrated by ordinary culture. Every type of altered consciousness (e.g., trance) displays some culture-independent features but also some culture-dependent ones. Each talk of the symposium will discuss one type of enculturation of consciousness. Immordino-Yang will examine with neuroimaging techniques how ordinary emotions are affected by everyday cultural practices. Lifshitz will present phenomenological, psychological and neuroscientific evidence about a non-pharmacological technique – "tulpamancy" – used to induce hallucinations. Finally, Seligman will combine anthropological and neurobiological data to demonstrate how techniques for altering consciousness (specifically, possession trance) can be penetrated by culture.

Chair: Megan Peters
Presenters: Steve Fleming, Johannes Fahrenfort, Jorge Morales

Perceptual decision making is the process by which animals detect, discriminate, and categorize information from the senses. Understanding how perceptual decisions are made has become a central theme in the neurosciences, with exceptional progress being made in using computational models from mathematical psychology (such as signal detection theory and drift-diffusion modeling) to relate neural data to behavior. However these models tend to remain conspicuously silent about the relationship between perceptual decision-making and consciousness. Can reports of awareness also be characterised within this framework? Which elements of the perceptual decision process are most tightly coupled to consciousness? Can adoption of tools from the perceptual decision-making field shed new light on the neurocomputational basis of consciousness? In our symposium we bring together neuroscientists, computational modelers, and a philosopher to tackle these and related questions from multiple perspectives. We examine how perceptual decisions about stimulus identity and presence are neurally instantiated, and what we can learn from mathematical models of these processes. Roles for inference, abstraction and dimensionality reduction, signal processing, and noise in reports of conscious awareness will be supported with philosophical analysis and empirical evidence from behavior, computation, and neuroscience. We hope that this set of talks will highlight deficiencies in the present literature relating perceptual decision making to perceptual awareness, and lead to new approaches -- both theoretical and empirical -- to building a comprehensive theory of consciousness through capitalizing on the powerful computational methods that are often applied to perceptual decisions.

Chair: Lucie Charles
Presenters: Nathan Faivre, Elisa Filevich, Myrto Mylopoulos

Metacognition is the introspection and evaluation of one’s own cognitive process. While metacognition for perceptual decisions has been intensively studied, metacognition of non-sensory processes such as proprioceptive signals and motor actions has been largely neglected. As a result, although we understand the processes supporting motor control in great detail, we know little about the subjective awareness of motor action, whether and how we can explicitly access our action monitoring processes and how they contribute to our sense of confidence in movement execution. Studying the subjective experiences associated with these processes is nonetheless important, as motor signals might constitute a special case for consciousness. Indeed, we appear to remain largely unaware of how we control our actions: we can run a flight of stairs, catch a ball or type on a keyboard, while being unable to report with precision the actual movement of our limbs. Paradoxically, this limited knowledge of what we do does not impair our sense of confidence about our actions and feeling we are executing our movements correctly. In this symposium, we propose to investigate what humans know about their motor actions and how it impacts their sense of confidence. We will present findings from both behavioural and electrophysiology perspectives showing how motor actions contribute to choice confidence. We will discuss a new set of studies that directly compare the contribution of motor predictions, proprioceptive signals and visual information to motor representations and confidence in action success. Finally we will propose a new theoretical framework for motor awareness, suggesting that access to motor representations is directly linked to metacognition of action. By bringing together converging novel findings on the subjective experience of action, we hope to open new perspective of research on motor awareness and metacognition and bring this topic to the forefront of consciousness research.

Chair: Jacobo Sitt
Presenters: Matthias Michel, Tristan Bekinschtein, Biyu Jade He

In their seminal paper, Crick & Koch (1990) defined the Neural Correlates of Consciousness (NCC) as the neural mechanisms that are minimally sufficient for any one specific conscious percept. Since then we have begun to validate quantitative measures of brain activity that enable us to discern whether or not a human subject is in a conscious state or conscious of a stimulus, and of which stimulus in particular. These advances have led to the proposition of different neural correlates for conscious states, conscious access, and conscious contents. While some of these neural correlates are shared across conditions others are more specific. In this symposium we will try to disentangle the different kinds of NCC and explore the difficulties to distill a unique kind of NCC. First, Matthias Michel will explain what NCCs are, and provide a way of going beyond the project of finding NCCs to account for the various aspects of consciousness. Then, Tristan Bekinschtein will explore the dynamical dissociation of the neural information associated to content and control. Jacobo Sitt will present differences in the NCCs dimensions on disorders of consciousness and anesthesia. Finally, Biyu Jade He will show that the whole brain dynamics preceding stimuli influence different sequences of brain activity corresponding to conscious or unconscious perception.

Chair: Maja Spener
Presenters: Rafael Malach, Wayne Wu, Hakwan Lau

Do subjective measures of consciousness involve participants' use of introspection to deliver their subjective reports? If so, does this make subjective measures unreliable and hence unviable? This symposium seeks to make progress with these important questions by clarifying the notion of introspection at the center of them from different perspectives in philosophy and psychology. The talks will bring together extant research on introspection and introspective methods in different areas, including philosophical issues relevant to theorizing about introspection as a psychological phenomenon, historical perspectives from early experimental psychology, models of the psychology of introspection, relevant data from psychology and neuroscience, and empirical methods to deal with introspective data. A panel discussion will integrate the issues raised by philosophy, theoretical modelling, methodologies for introspective analysis, and neural and behavioral data. Emphasis will be placed on how issues about introspection affect scientific theories of consciousness.

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