Consciousness and brain fMRI research links and books

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Consciousness and brain fMRI research links and books

Postby Marshall on September 26th, 2014, 11:47 am 

If there is no objection I'll post (as "sticky") a copy of DLorde's post listing sources on consciousness and brain activity research. This could be the start of a bibliography or online resources thread for this particular topic.There seems to be rather a lot of interesting research in this area going on at present. Everyone is invited to add links and books relevant to the specific topic that you've found especially valuable or interesting.
dlorde » Fri Sep 26, 2014 7:35 am wrote:
Marshall » September 26th, 2014, 2:51 pm wrote:...They can watch brain activity in real time (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI) and can tell somewhat of what the subject is thinking by which centers are "lighting up" in the realtime brainscan movie. They can talk to the person meanwhile, as I understand it.
If you know of an online introductory account of this type of research and want to post a link, or if there is some online open access journal, that would be nice.

I feel like I'm plugging this, but the best introductory account of correlating brain activity with conscious and unconscious thought that I've found is Stanislaus Dehaene's book 'Consciousness and the Brain'. It's very readable and non-technical, and Dehaene is one of the leading researchers in the field - director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit in Saclay, France, and professor of experimental cognitive psychology at the College de France.

A good source for browsing publications on consciousness research is the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC) publication list. Some articles are more technical than others...

Scholarpedia has some interesting entries on consciousness in general.

Searching the Caltech authors library for 'neuroscience and consciousness' turns up some interesting papers (you have to wade through the uninteresting stuff to find them). Koch, in particular, is worth looking for.


I'd also like to understand better the physics of fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). How can they make a realtime map of the brain showing locations of regions here and there "lighting up" with increased activity. How does the realtime MRI scanner detect increased activity?

The idea of a specialized "sticky" thread is that it doesn't drift out of sight and it keeps (especially the online) resources handy so you know where to look for them. Neuro feel free to edit! this is an area where you have expertise (I'm basically almost completely ignorant about it, but find the research going on very interesting).
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Re: Consciousness and brain fMRI research links and books

Postby Marshall on September 26th, 2014, 12:00 pm 

In the role of "wine-taster" or reviewer, I tried DLorde's Scholarpedia link http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Cat ... sciousness
and found several things that were interesting and that weren't hard to read.
I'll go find the Amazon link for Dehaene's book. It might have sample sections one can browse online. E.g. the introduction or the table of contents.

WOW! Looking for the link to the book I accidentally came across this YOUTUBE of Dehaene lecturing about what goes on in the brain when you READ. This is very interesting functionally because you are seen a texture, recognizing patterns, and translating it into imagined sound of speech, and then thinking about what you understand. so it combines several parts and functionalities of the brain.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSy685vNqYk
What do you think of this person Dehaene? I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and articulateness. It is a wide audience lecture, not hard to understand, and thought provoking.

Eventually i found the Amazon page for the book which DLorde mentioned:
http://www.amazon.com/Consciousness-Bra ... 670025437/

Indeed the page allows some "Look Inside", one can browse a small sample of what is in the book:
for a preliminary discussion of fMRI search for "brain imaging" in the book sample
you get 19 hits but the only one they let you read is on page 13 of the introduction, most of which is already included in the sample.
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Re: Consciousness and brain fMRI research links and books

Postby Marshall on September 26th, 2014, 4:27 pm 

DLorde had another book recommendation that has to do with Unconscious thought processes which prepare for and support more conscious thinking. I want to give the context of his post because it gives some idea of what the book is about:
dlorde » Fri Sep 26, 2014 6:21 am wrote: It is the ... subconscious ... that is the source of the thoughts that suddenly "pop into your head". They're not coming from outside, they're coming from within. This isn't just guesswork, it's been demonstrated many times in the lab. Stuff you are consciously aware of is a tiny fraction of the processing activity going on in your brain. Most of the time, you just become aware of what that larger, 'hidden', part has done or is doing.

Sophisticated consciousness is a recent evolutionary development, built on top of a fast, responsive, highly parallel processing system that was much improved by the extra flexibility consciousness provided. But deliberative conscious thought is sequential, painfully slow and resource intensive (if you're walking along with someone and ask them to do a difficult mental calculation, they may even stop walking to focus on it).

Conscious thought depends on the speed and power of the underlying support system to function effectively; this support system gives us intuition, hunches, recognition, and expertise; but although it's fast, it's often wrong - it's why you can sometimes read faster than you can comprehend the text; why you only realise you've said the wrong thing after it's been said; why you find yourself looking in a cupboard, or in the fridge, or pacing around the room, without having consciously decided to do so; why you're absent-minded; why you can speak quickly and coherently without significant effort until it fails to supply you the name of the person in that movie, then you struggle; and it's terrible at probabilities... For a wonderfully entertaining exposition of this, I strongly recommend Daniel Kahneman's 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'.

It's fair to say that you're not consciously aware of most of what makes you who you are. Consciousness is a bit like the CEO of a large company - he/she/it makes long term plans and important or tricky decisions, is updated with what he/she/it needs to know, relies on a team of back-room researchers and egg-heads to provide timely information to act on, and he/she/it thinks it's all his/her/its own work.


Kahneman, whom you see DLorde recommending here is a Nobel laureate (about how the mind works)
Here is a YouTube of a talk he gave at Uni Zürich about his book Thinking Fast and Slow
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzJxAmJmj8w
Here is a YouTube of a talk he gave at the Google campus about intuition, how it works and how it can make mistakes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjVQJdIrDJ0
He had to get the Nobel in Economics because there is no Psychology Nobel. (but expert prediction and market behavior has economic significance so how do experts predict and how can they be wrong and how can they get better etc etc. they stretched it. the only other Psychologist who got the Nobel was PAVLOV. they stretched for him too.)
These are fairly deep HOUR talks with interesting ideas, but if you are becoming a Kahneman fan, as I am becoming, you might also want to know about this 20 MINUTE entertaining TED talk given to non-academic audience (about experience and memory)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgRlrBl-7Yg

So I am telling you the YouTube coat tails that come along behind the book that DLorde told us about :^)
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