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ECE Departmental Seminar

Neural basis of consciousness

Prof. Yuri Saalmann
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thursday, 5/26/22, 11:00am
Light Engineering 250 

Abstract: The neural basis of consciousness is hotly debated. Competing theories of consciousness disagree on the contribution of the “front” versus “back” of the brain and largely neglect deep brain areas. This lack of understanding impedes the ability to monitor consciousness, during surgical anesthesia or in disorders of consciousness like coma, which can lead to adverse clinical consequences. In this talk, I will provide an overview of the consciousness science field, covering major theories of consciousness and the neural basis of different conscious states – anesthesia, sleep and wakefulness. This will draw upon neuroimaging and electrophysiology studies investigating neural mechanisms across a range of spatial scales, from individual brain cells to large-scale brain networks, as well as causal manipulations of consciousness using optogenetics and deep brain stimulation. 

Bio: Yuri Saalmann is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Scientist at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. He performed his doctoral work in neuroscience at the Australian National University, and postdoctoral research at Royal Holloway University of London and Princeton University. His lab investigates the neural basis of cognitive control – the ability to flexibly adapt behavior according to goals and context – and consciousness. This is done using a combination of neuroimaging and intracranial electrophysiology in non-human primates and human subjects. His research program is directed at understanding information processing in large-scale brain networks in healthy subjects and subjects with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and neurological disorders, such as deficits in awareness after stroke.