Berkeley scholars can hardly resist dealing with the question of how his philosophical system relates to commonsense. It is an irresistible question because it first appears to have a sensational answer. On the one hand, Berkeley claims to "side in all things with the Mob," and on the other, his denial of the existence of matter seems as contrary to commonsense as any philosophical view can be. The articles, chapters, books and conference papers on this one aspect of Berkeley's philosophy (...) alone could make a sizeable bibliography. Interpretations run the gamut, from A. A. Luce's judgment that Berkeley's account of the sensible is commonsense itself, to Jonathan Bennett's pronouncement that Berkeley's attitude .. (shrink)
The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. These features have also been found in other mammals, which suggests that consciousness (...) is a major biological adaptation in mammals. We suggest more than a dozen additional properties of human consciousness that may be used to test comparative predictions. Such homologies are necessarily more remote in non-mammals, which do not share the thalamocortical complex. However, as we learn more we may be able to make “deeper” predictions that apply to some birds, reptiles, large-brained invertebrates, and perhaps other species. (shrink)
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the ‘dynamic core’). These interactions, which permit high-order discriminations among possible core states, confer selective advantages on organisms possessing them by linking current perceptual events to a past history of value-dependent learning. Here, we assess the consistency of ND with 16 widely recognized (...) properties of consciousness, both physiological (for example, consciousness is associated with widespread, relatively fast, low amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical system), and phenomenal (for example, consciousness involves the existence of a private flow of events available only to the experiencing subject). While no theory accounts fully for all of these properties at present, we find that ND and its recent extensions fare well. (shrink)
The resurgent science of consciousness has been accompanied by a recent emphasis on the problem of measurement. Having dependable measures of consciousness is essential both for mapping experimental evidence to theory and for designing perspicuous experiments. Here, we review a series of behavioural and brain-based measures, assessing their ability to track graded consciousness and clarifying how they relate to each other by showing what theories are presupposed by each. We identify possible and actual conflicts among measures that can stimulate new (...) experiments, and we conclude that measures must prove themselves by iteratively building knowledge in the context of theoretical frameworks. Advances in measuring consciousness have implications for basic cognitive neuroscience, for comparative studies of consciousness and for clinical applications. (shrink)
In this essay we develop and argue for the adoption of a more comprehensive model of research ethics than is included within current conceptions of responsible conduct of research (RCR). We argue that our model, which we label the ethical dimensions of scientific research (EDSR), is a more comprehensive approach to encouraging ethically responsible scientific research compared to the currently typically adopted approach in RCR training. This essay focuses on developing a pedagogical approach that enables scientists to better understand and (...) appreciate one important component of this model, what we call intrinsic ethics . Intrinsic ethical issues arise when values and ethical assumptions are embedded within scientific findings and analytical methods. Through a close examination of a case study and its application in teaching, namely, evaluation of climate change integrated assessment models, this paper develops a method and case for including intrinsic ethics within research ethics training to provide scientists with a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the critical role of values and ethical choices in the production of research outcomes. (shrink)
The metacognitive stance of Smith et al. (2003) risks ignoring sensory consciousness. Although Smith et al. rightly caution against the tendency to preserve the uniqueness of the human mind at all costs, their reasoned stance is undermined by a selective association of consciousness with high-level cognitive operations. Neurobiological evidence may offer a more general, and hence more inclusive, basis for the systematic study of animal consciousness.
This joint article reflects the authors’ personal views regarding noteworthy advances in the neuroscience of consciousness in the last ten years, and suggests what we feel may be promising future directions. It is based on a small conference at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, USA, in July of 2012, organized by the Mind Science Foundation of San Antonio, Texas. Here, we summarize recent advances in our understanding of subjectivity in humans and other animals, including empirical, applied, technical and conceptual (...) insights. These include the evidence for the importance of fronto-parietal connectivity and of feedback processes, both of which enable information to travel across distant cortical areas effectively, as well as numerous dissociations between consciousness and cognitive functions, such as attention, in humans. In addition, we describe the development of mental imagery paradigms, which made it possible to identify covert awareness in non-responsive subjects. Non-human animal consciousness research has also witnessed substantial advances on the specific role of cortical areas and higher order thalamus for consciousness, thanks to important technological advances. In addition, much progress has been made in the understanding of non-vertebrate cognition relevant to possible conscious states. Finally, major advances have been made in theories of consciousness, and also in their comparison with the available evidence. Along with reviewing these findings, each author suggests future avenues for research in their field of investigation. (shrink)
The significance of animals in research cannot be over-emphasized. The use of animals for research and training in research centres, hospitals and schools is progressively increasing. Advances in biotechnology to improve animal productivity require animal research. Drugs being developed and new interventions or therapies being invented for cure and palliation of all sorts of animal diseases and conditions need to be tested in animals for their safety and efficacy at some stages of their development. Drugs and interventions for human use (...) pass through a similar development process and must be tested pre-clinically in laboratory animals before clinical trials in humans can be conducted. Therefore, animals are important players in research processes which directly and indirectly benefit animals and humans. However, questions remain as to whether these uses of animals consider the best interests of animals themselves. Various research and training institutions in Tanzania have established some guidelines on animal use, including establishing animal ethics committees. However, most institutions have not established oversight committees. In institutions where there may be guidelines and policies, there are no responsible committees or units to directly oversee if and how these guidelines and policies are enforced; thus, implementation becomes difficult or impossible. This paper endeavours to raise some issues associated with the responsible use of animals in research and training in Tanzania and highlights suggestions for improvement of deficiencies that exist in order to bridge the gap between what ought to be practised and what is practised. (shrink)
This commentary considers Merker's mesodiencephalic proposal in relation to quantitative measures of neural dynamics suggested to be relevant to consciousness. I suggest that even if critical neural mechanisms turn out to be subcortical, the functional utility of consciousness will depend on the rich conscious contents generated by continuous interaction of such mechanisms with a thalamocortical envelope. (Published Online May 1 2007).
Consciousness has of late become a “hot topic” in neuroscience. Empirical work has centred on identifying potential neural correlates of consciousness (NCCs), with a converging view that the prefrontal parietal network (PPN) is closely associated with this process. Theoretical work has primarily sought to explain how informational properties of this cortical network could account for phenomenal properties of consciousness. However, both empirical and theoretical research has given less focus to the psychological features that may account for the NCCs. The PPN (...) has also been heavily linked with cognitive processes, such as attention. We describe how this literature is under-appreciated in consciousness science, in part due to the increasingly entrenched assumption of a strong dissociation between attention and consciousness. We argue instead that there is more common ground between attention and consciousness than is usually emphasized: although objects can under certain circumstances be attended to in the absence of conscious access, attention as a content selection and boosting mechanism is an important and necessary aspect of consciousness. Like attention, working memory and executive control involve the interlinking of multiple mental objects and have also been closely associated with the PPN. We propose that this set of cognitive functions, in concert with attention, make up the core psychological components of consciousness. One related process, chunking, has been shown to activate PPN particularly robustly, even compared with other cognitively demanding tasks, such as working memory or mental arithmetic. It is therefore possible that chunking, as a tool to detect useful patterns within an integrated set of intensely processed (attended) information, has a central role to play in consciousness. Following on from this, we suggest that the main evolutionary purpose of consciousness may be to provide innovative solutions to complex or novel problems. (shrink)
During times of emotional stress, individuals often engage in emotion regulation to reduce the experiential and physiological impact of negative emotions. Interestingly, emotion regulation strategies also influence memory encoding of the event. Cognitive reappraisal is associated with enhanced memory while expressive suppression is associated with impaired explicit memory of the emotional event. However, the mechanism by which these emotion regulation strategies affect memory is unclear. We used event-related fMRI to investigate the neural mechanisms that give rise to memory formation during (...) emotion regulation. Twenty-five participants viewed negative pictures while alternately engaging in cognitive reappraisal, expressive suppression, or passive viewing. As part of the subsequent memory design, participants returned to the laboratory two weeks later for a surprise memory test. Behavioral results showed a reduction in negative affect and a retention advantage for reappraised stimuli relative to the other conditions. Imaging results showed that successful encoding during reappraisal was uniquely associated with greater co-activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus, amygdala and hippocampus, suggesting a possible role for elaborative encoding of negative memories. This study provides neurobehavioral evidence that engaging in cognitive reappraisal is advantageous to both affective and mnemonic processes. (shrink)