Brain Science Project

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A group of students exploring questions of the brain.

Next Meeting

The Brain Science Project has ended its first run. We will meet again next term, pending interest. For more information, contact Asher Woodworth. Reid will not be available since he will be off-campus.

To be continued

Reading Chapters 3 and 4, Wider than the Sky.

Reid wants to bring up the question of a computer writing programs again. Programs such as video games do take outside knowledge and act accordingly based on the information--however this does not strike me as "the remembered present." This is a more complicated version of the ant following the pheromones in front of him--but not necessarily more complex. The program must still refer to the original program that was written for it to process the information.

I don't understand the paradigm proposed in our last meeting. How can it be constructed?


Since we're at the end of term, I thought it a good time to think about what we've done. I think our first meeting had a good start, and it might illustrate what I'd like to see happen in the future.

  • First, that there's a common vocabulary. Reading Edelman's book was a way for us to bridge our vocabularies together. Later on, this could be advanced by reading more in the field.
  • Second, that people bring in their own information. This happened with the psychology references and the Kauffman references--is there a way to build this more concretely?
  • Third, that there be a public presentation. What good is science if the information isn't shared? Whether this be through a computer program, a presentation, or a performance, knowledge should matter to people.
  • Fourth, a better name?

Fun Stuff

Ursano began his talk by paraphrasing Neurosciences Institute founder and director Gerald Edelman’s statement that science is where imagination meets evidence. “The problem with science,” Ursano continued, “is that it often answers questions that are not the ones we want the answers to. It is only questions amenable to its tools that it can answer.” He then went on to outline the things he wouldn’t talk about, since science couldn’t measure them. Included were the “self-sacrifice, improvisation, creativity, dedication, and resilience” that go into any disaster relief effort, as well as the burdens disaster imposes on those who are already impoverished or disenfranchised, and the value of leadership and sufficient resources to recovery.

Meeting notes

Thursday, May 10th

Only Reid came, although he was six minutes late.

Thursday, May 3rd

1st Meeting. Reid G., Rachel W., Hannah W., Asher W.

Discussion of the "remembered present" and the levels of conciousness.


  • yuck/yum (basic rules), Kauffman
  • values that don't change

(Bees/ants: social creatures in colonies)

Primary Conciousness:

  • "remembered present"
  • awareness of things
  • not necessarily semantic
  • animals (dogs)
  • no planning
  • learning
  • Pavlov
  • values that change

Higher Order:

  • Conscious of consciouness
  • Intentionality
  • humans (only?)
  • symbolic/semantic creation
  • imagination
  • values that the entity can choose?

"house of stairs"


Deacon - Artful Mind
Silberstein - Converging on Emergence
Edelman - Theories and Measures of Consciousness
Ye - Improved complexity results on solving real-number linear feasibility problems
Baars - Neural Darwinism and Consciousness
"Great minds don't think alike" by Mark Lythgoe, artist and neuroscientist.
A blog entry pointing out connections between Alexander Technique and cognitive science
Fruit Flies have free will!
Computers on Facial Recognition
An article on Edelman's theory
A working model of the brain I wonder how accurate this is and how anyone even measures accuracy!

MIT has an OpenCourseware program, where they release materials for their classes online. Check out their Brain Science section here:

Limited time free Scientific American, with a feature on neurobiology and memory
Reid's thoughts: This article seems to contradict what Edelman argues. Read this excerpt:

By coupling another mathematical tool called hierarchical clustering analysis with the sequential MDA methods, Osan and I discovered that these overall network-level patterns are generated by distinct subsets of neural populations that we have dubbed “neural cliques.” A clique is a group of neurons that respond similarly to a select event and thus operate collectively as a robust coding unit.
Furthermore, we found that each specific event is always represented by a set of neural cliques that encode different features ranging from the general to the specific. Notably, an earthquake episode activates a general startle clique (one that responds to all three startling stimuli), as well as a second clique that responds only to the events involving motion disturbance (both the earthquake and the elevator drop), a third clique that is activated exclusively by shaking and a fourth clique that indicates where the event took place (we put the animal in one of two different containers before each quake). Thus, information about these episodic events is represented by neural clique assemblies that are invariantly organized hierarchically (from general to specific).

Joe Tsien, the author of the article, is arguing that there are particular neurons associated with memory,and are not as dynamic as Edelman suggested. Although, I'm wondering on the context of the situation. Edelman wrote on "the Remembered Present." Edelman said our brain isn't a computer that demands the exact same pieces of machinery as we experience something familiar. However, Tsien is saying that as the mouse recalls the experience, the same neurons were used. I'm wondering if the "remembered present" of trauma for the mouse in question actually refutes Edelman's theory in this instance.

What do you think?

Some initial categories to help channel our energies...

Not Chemistry
Not Advanced Biology
Not Deep Mathematics

Basic dynamics of complexity

Cognitive Science
Philosophy of mind

Information theory