Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness
|Semester & Location:||
Spring 2019 - DIS Copenhagen
|Type & Credits:||
Core - 3 credits
|Core Course Study Tours:||
Claudia Carrara-Augustenborg, Ph.D. - email@example.com
Carla Caetano, Ph.D. - firstname.lastname@example.org
Aidan Mahony - email@example.com
|Time & Place:||
Tuesday & Fridays, 08:30 - 09:50, N7-C23
Course Information and Purpose
1. Course Description
Prerequisites: One semester of neuroscience, physiological psychology, biological psychology, or cognitive psychology at a university level.
Co-requisite: Enrollment in Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness Research Lab
This course introduces the main theoretical models and the empirical methods employed to explain and measure consciousness. Students are offered the opportunity to learn about the neurobiological mechanisms possibly underlying the emergence of consciousness and to grasp why science also needs to embrace conceptual and philosophical levels of analysis. The course outlines the multi-faceted nature of consciousness by discussing different aspects of the phenomenon in normal as well as abnormal conditions. Students are encouraged throughout the course to actively participate in discussions and to critically think regarding the current state of knowledge about how the brain relates to the mind.
2. Course Learning Objectives
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
- Appreciate the multi-faceted nature of consciousness
- Identify the conceptual and methodological problems in studying consciousness
- Discuss some of the key approaches to studying consciousness
- Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of current methodologies
- Trace the neurobiological mechanisms possibly underlying the emergence of consciousness
The following topics will be covered during the course:
Theme 1: Framing consciousness
- What do we mean by ‘conscious’?
- The hard vs. the easy problem
- Mapping different aspects of consciousness
- Consciousness and Accessibility
Theme 2: Theoretical Approaches to the study of consciousness
- Globalist vs. localist models
- Theories: Baars; Damasio; Zeki; Tononi; Lamme; Edelman; Carrara-Augustenborg
- The emergence of consciousness and the problem of binding
- Understanding consciousness from the social psychology perspective
Theme 3: Methodological challenges
- Objective and Subjective assessments of consciousness
- Consciousness and Emotions
- Disorders of consciousness: coma, vegetative states, locked-in syndrome
- Anesthesia and brain default network
Theme 4: Consciousness applied (selected topics)
- Somnambulism and Crime
- Non-human consciousness
- Infant consciousness
Claudia Carrara-Augustenborg, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and M.Sc Psychology (Major in Clinical and Neuropsychology). Interests are focused on the neural mechanisms that mediate and modulate human consciousness and subjective perception, and on the functional and neural distinctions between conscious and unconscious cognitive and emotional processes. With DIS since 2013.
4. Course Components
Course mandatory readings
- Journal Articles available on Canvas. Reference list follows.
Abondo et al. (2009). Sexual assault and MDMA: the distinction between consciousness and awareness when it comes to consent. Int. J. Legal. Med. 123:155-156
Atkinson, A.P., Thomas, M.S.C., Cleeremans, A. (2000). Consciousness: Mapping the Theoretical Landscape, in Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4(10), 372-382.
Carrara-Augustenborg (2013). Endogenous Feedback Network: Summary and Evaluation, in The development of a comprehensive model of human consciousness, pp. 15.23, Ph.D Thesis, University of Copenhagen, ISBN 978-87-7611-591-3
Baars BJ.(2005). Global workspace theory of consciousness: toward a cognitive neuroscience of human experience, in Progresses in Brain Research 150, 45-53.
Block, N. (2011). Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access, in Trends in Cognitive Sciences Dec;15(12), 567-75.
Damasio, A. (2003). Feeling of emotions and the self, in Ann. N.Y Acc.. Science, 1001, 253-261
Custers, R., Aarts, H. (2010). The Unconscious Will: How the Pursuit of Goals Operates Outside of Conscious Awareness, in Science 2 July 2010: Vol. 329 no. 5987 pp. 47-50
Dehaene, S., Naccache, L. (2001). Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: basic evidence and workspace framework, in Cognition 79, 1-37.
Dehaene S, Changeux JP, Naccache L, Sackur J, Sergent C. (2006). Conscious, preconscious, and subliminal processing: a testable taxonomy, in Trends Cogn Sci. May;10(5):204-11.
Edelman, DB & Seth, AK (2009). Animal consciousness: a synthetic approach, in Trends Neurosci. Sep;32(9):476- 84.
Johansson P., Hall L., Sikström S., Tärning B., Lind A. (2006). How something can be said about telling more than we can know: On choice blindness and introspection. Consciousness and Cognition 15 (2006) 673-692.
Kouider S, de Gardelle V, Sackur J, Dupoux E. (2010). How rich is consciousness? The partial awareness hypothesis, in Trends Cogn Sci.Jul;14(7):301-7.
Lamme, V.A.F. (2006). Towards a true neural stance on consciousness, in Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10(11), 494-501.
Laureys S. (2005). The neural correlate of (un)awareness: lessons from the vegetative state. In Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Dec;9(12):556-9.
Monti MM, Vanhaudenhuyse A, Coleman MR, Boly M, Pickard JD, Tshibanda L, Owen AM, Laureys S. (2010). Willful modulation of brain activity in disorders of consciousness, in N Engl J Med. Feb 18;362(7):579-89.
Overgaard M, Rote J, Mouridsen K, Ramsøy TZ. (2006). Is conscious perception gradual or dichotomous? A comparison of report methodologies during a visual task, in Conscious Cogn. Dec;15(4):700-8..
Sandberg K, Timmermans B, Overgaard M, Cleeremans A. (2010). Measuring consciousness: Is one measure better than the other? In Consciousness and Cognition Dec;19(4):1069-78.
Sass LA, Parnas J. (2003). Schizophrenia, consciousness, and the self, in Schizophr Bull. 29(3):427 44.
Tononi G. (2004). An information integration theory of consciousness. BMC Neurosci. Nov 2;5:42.
Zeki S. (2003). The disunity of consciousness, in Trends in Cognitive Sciences May;7(5):214-218.
5. Field studies
Field studies serve to complement your course work by placing you in the professional field. Students will be asked to compare, extend and rethink what we read about and discuss in class.
Date: Thursday, February 7th
Time: 13:15 - 15:45
Topic: Yoga and Mindfulness Workshop
Objective: To explore proprioceptive awareness
Date: Friday, February 8th th
Time: 10:00 – 12:30
Topic: Workshop with Thomas Christiansen from The Nudging Company
Objective: To explore the principles of nudging, i.e. the power that unconsciously detected stimuli can apply on our choices, preferences and decisions
Date: April 3rd 8:30-12:30
Time: 8:30 - 12:30
Objective: We will watch together the film “Ex-Machina”, one of the best fiction pictures ever made to define the challenges of creating sentient artificial intelligence. A thorough discussion will follow the movie.
6. Study Tours
Core Course week and study tours are an integral part of the core course as we take the classroom on the road and see how theory presented in the classroom is translated to practice in the field. You will travel with your classmates and DIS faculty/staff on two study tours; a short study tour during Core Course Week and a long study tour to Florence (Italy).
Expectations for study tours:
- Participate in all activities
- Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to achieving the learning objectives
- Respect the destination, the speakers, DIS staff, and your fellow classmates
- Represent yourself, your home university and DIS in a positive light
While on a program study tour DIS will provide hostel/hotel accommodation, transportation to/from the destination(s), approx. 2 meals per day and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure.
Core Course Week and Short Study Tour:
Themes: Merging the science of consciousness with the reality of our perceptions
Purpose: The aim of the Core Course Week is to contextualize some among the most influential theoretical frameworks and empirical models that underline our scientific understanding of human consciousness. In addition to the academic activities on study tour, the study tour program is supplemented with cultural visits and events. In the past, cultural visits have included touring castles, museum visits, and experiencing traditional Danish food at a local restaurant.
- Timing: Core Course Week Short Study Tour February 4th – February 8th
- Orientation: The study tour activities will be presented to you in the week before departure and a booklet containing the itinerary will be posted on Canvas prior to departure.
Long Study Tour- Florence:
Themes: Senses and Perception
Purpose: The tour probes the following questions: “Why and how is this experience unique to me?” (i.e. Introspection), “How does the brain turn my objective perception into subjective sensation?” (i.e. The Self as Subject), and “How does this perception and/or sensation affect the way I am, think and act?” (i.e. The Self as Object).
- Timing: March 2nd – March 7th th
- Orientation: The study tour activities will be presented to you in the week before departure and you will be able to download the booklet prior to departure day.
7. Approach to teaching
This course outlines the multi-faceted nature of consciousness by discussing different aspects of the phenomenon in normal as well as abnormal conditions, and it comprises both lectures and open discussions. Students are therefore expected to participate actively in the discussions throughout the course: to make critical thinking regarding the current state of knowledge about how the brain relates to the mind.
The schedule will list reading materials for each class meeting. Please be prepared by having read and thought about the material before coming to class. By reading the material beforehand, you will better understand the points I make, you will be better prepared for discussion, and you will be able to ask thoughtful and productive questions.
Classes will consider a few specific topics in depth and will typically not repeat the assigned readings, but will serve as a foundation for the lectures and it will be expected that they are included in class discussions. Thus, most of the materials in the text you will learn on your own outside of class. Concretely speaking, I will present topics and probe questions that still engage the scientific community and I will expect students to relate to these matters in a critical perspective, both by drawing at what they learn through the course readings but also at their own personal judgment.
It is imperative that you keep up with the readings, because you can:
- ask questions about reading material you find confusing or unclear, and
- continuously prepare for the exam.
8. Expectations of the students
Class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to have done the reading for each class and to come with notes and questions for me and for the other students. This will give us material to generate conversation. It is also expected that during classes the students are able to discuss and to present topics and to respond to questions providing references to our readings to support their points. Active participation during classes will constitute 10% of the grade. Finally, it is expected that students hand in their assignments on time (late papers will not be accepted) and that they contribute significantly to planned group activities.
9. Section for Lab information
The lab module associated to the course offers students the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience with the concrete aspects of research in the field of human consciousness. During the semester students will therefore formulate, create and carry on a full-scale experiment and submit a research manuscript presenting their results.
10. Assignments and Evaluation
To be eligible for a passing grade in this class, the students must complete all of the assigned work.
The final grade for this course will be based on two tests, a research paper, two group presentations and participation.
Percentage of Grade
Participation (incl. group-presentation questions) and Attendance
Throughout the course
Refer to course schedule
Study Tour Assignment (Core Course Week written assignment)
February 17th @23.59
Study Tour Assignment (Long Tour written assignment)
March 17th @23.59
In addition to the academic content of the written assignments(s), focus will also be placed on the structure, use of appropriate academic language, and writing skills. (See grading rubric on Canvas for further details regarding the evaluation criteria).
Participation (incl. group-presentation questions) and Attendance (25%):
Since class participation is a major component of the course, you will need to be present and participating to receive full credit.
Class participation includes, but it is not limited to: (see also evaluation criteria on Canvas)
- critically evaluating the model/hypotheses suggested in readings
- asking relevant questions that show understanding of the material – with tentative considerations/conclusions
- being prepared for class and be ready to answer questions when asked
- discussing implications as regards practical application and/or future research considerations
- contributing to class activities
Group Presentation (10%):
Groups of approx. 2-4 students will be presenting a topic in class (ca. 10 min.), after which there will be ca. 10 min. discussion with the rest of the class, addressing the prepared questions (see Group Presentation Questions below)
Contents should include (but not be limited to):
- Introduction of the key issues of the topic
- Method employed to investigate it
- Identification and discussion of key findings/knowledge
- Critique of methods and potentially of the findings
- Examples/Applied cases
Students not presenting should demonstrate their participation by preparing discussion questions with focus on the presented topic; the questions should be based on the students´ own reflective considerations, can be open-ended or can be in form of thought-provoking comments, e.g. (with reference to the due reading) “Does Overgaard’s idea of continuous consciousness connect to other theories we have previously studied?; “Do you think that the results of today´s paper support or contradict Kouider's Partial Awareness Hypothesis?”.
Study Tour Assignments (5%+ 5%):
Due: February 17th + March 17th
Students will be expected to submit a reflective paper (max 2 pages) in which they address the questions probed by the Tours (refer to Study Tour Booklets) and the answers they reached by the end of the tours.
Due: February 22nd
12 Short-answers + 1 short essay (selected among 5 available topics)
Final Exam (30%):
Date: April 12th
12 Short-answers + 1 short essay (selected among 5 available topics)
You are expected to attend all DIS classes when scheduled. If you miss a class for any reason please contact the faculty no later than the day of the missed class. If you miss multiple classes the Director of Teaching and Learning, and the Director of Student Affairs will be notified and they will follow-up with you to make sure that all is well. Absences will jeopardize your grade and your standing at DIS. Allowances will be made in cases of illness, but in the case of multiple absences you will need to provide a doctor’s note.
Academic honesty, plagiarism and violating the rules of an assignment
DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.
Policy for students who arrive late to class
Students arriving over 15 minutes after the beginning of class will not be allowed to participate. One exception throughout the course will be allowed for students arriving within 15 minutes after beginning of class.
Use of laptops or phones in class
To establish a positive learning environment, it is important that everyone is present in body and mind, and not distracted by technology or other disruptive behaviors. Therefore, students are not allowed to use laptops/Tablets/iPads in the classroom unless agreed upon for specified tasks such as article reading and/or for discussion purposes and/or note-taking. Cellular phones must be switched off during class. Disregard of these rule will have a very negative impact on the student participation grade.
Disability and resource statement
Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support (firstname.lastname@example.org) to coordinate this. In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.
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