Cognitive functions like perception, memory, language, or consciousness are based on highly parallel and distributed information processing by the brain. One of the major unresolved questions is how information can be integrated and how coherent representational states can be established in the distributed neuronal systems subserving these functions. It has been suggested that this so-called ''binding problem'' may be solved in the temporal domain. The hypothesis is that synchronization of neuronal discharges can serve for the integration of distributed neurons into (...) cell assemblies and that this process may underlie the selection of perceptually and behaviorally relevant information. As we intend to show here, this temporal binding hypothesis has implications for the search of the neural correlate of consciousness. We review experimental results, mainly obtained in the visual system, which support the notion of temporal binding. In particular, we discuss recent experiments on the neural mechanisms of binocular rivalry which suggest that appropriate synchronization among cortical neurons may be one of the necessary conditions for the buildup of perceptual states and awareness of sensory stimuli. (shrink)
Ethical thought experiments such as the trolley dilemma have been investigated extensively in the past, showing that humans act in utilitarian ways, trying to cause as little overall damage as possible. These trolley dilemmas have gained renewed attention over the past few years, especially due to the necessity of implementing moral decisions in autonomous driving vehicles. We conducted a set of experiments in which participants experienced modified trolley dilemmas as drivers in virtual reality environments. Participants had to make decisions between (...) driving in one of two lanes where different obstacles came into view. Eventually, the participants had to decide which of the objects they would crash into. Obstacles included a variety of human-like avatars of different ages and group sizes. Furthermore, the influence of sidewalks as potential safe harbors and a condition implicating self-sacrifice were tested. Results showed that participants, in general, decided in a utilitarian manner, sparing the highest number of avatars possible with a limited influence by the other variables. Derived from these findings, which are in line with the utilitarian approach in moral decision making, it will be argued for an obligatory ethics setting implemented in ADVs. (shrink)
We argue that brains generate predictions only within the constraints of the action repertoire. This makes the computational complexity tractable and fosters a step-by-step parallel development of sensory and motor systems. Hence, it is more of a benefit than a literal constraint and may serve as a universal normative principle to understand sensorimotor coupling and interactions with the world.
Visual masking of primes lowers prime visibility but spares processing of primes as reflected in prime–target congruence and prime–response compatibility effects. However, the question is how to appropriately measure prime visibility. Here, we tested the influence of three procedural variables on prime visibility measures: prime–target similarity, prime–response similarity, and the variability of prime–response mappings. Our results show that a low prime–target similarity is a favorable condition for a prime visibility measure because it increases the sensitivity of this measure in comparison (...) to a high prime–target similarity. (shrink)
Recent experimental work suggests that the concept of contextual fields should be generalized to allow the modulation of local information extraction by both external and internal context. The external context relates to the coherent information of the stimulus; the internal context refers to the parts of this information which are relevant for behavior. This dual interaction, present at every level of the hierarchy, requires a fundamental unit of processing more complex than a single neuron appears today. We argue that the (...) cortical column supplies the required mechanisms for a separate top-down and bottom-up processing and allows for interaction without destructive cross-talk. This flexibility might explain why the same basic architecture of a cortical column is used in the whole isocortex. (shrink)