Consciousness & Cognition Journal Club

Hosted by Dr. Eve Isham and PhD student Lara Krisst.

The idea for this reading group germinated at the Northern California Consciousness Conference, held at the Center for Mind and Brain. Several conference attendees expressed interest in starting a journal club to discuss research in the scientific investigation of consciousness.

The group is intended to allow researchers and students in psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and other fields to discuss topics related to consciousness and cognition throughout the year.

Potential topics of discussion include: implicit memory and explicit memory systems; selective and directed attention; neural signatures of consciousness; the effects of priming and subliminal tasks; neural correlates of awareness and decision-making; automaticity in perception and action; blind sight; consciousness and voluntary control; pathology of self and self-awareness; development of the self-concept in children.

The journal club represents an invaluable opportunity for researchers across disciplines to develop and share ideas in the burgeoning field of consciousness research.

All meetings take place in the Main Conference Room at the Center for Mind and Brain.

Open to all. For more information, contact .

Spring 2017

Meeting 1 (4/12/2017) 

For our first meeting of the Spring quarter we discussed a paper entitled, "Gamma band activity and the P3 reflect post-perceptual processes, not visual awareness" by Michael Pitts, et al. This paper argues against the popular view that the P3 (P3b) component is a neural signature of awareness. Results suggest that the P3 reflects post-perceptual processing necessary for carrying out a task but not necessarily for consciously perceiving stimuli.  

Meeting 2 (4/26/2017)

Orestis Papaioannouwill led the discussion on the AIR (‘Attended Intermediate-level Representation’) Theory of Consciousness by Jesse Prinz. On this account, consciousness arises when intermediate-level perceptual representations, which map onto certain stages of brain processing, become available to working memory. We discussed Prinz's original 2003 paper entitled, “A Neurofunctional Theory of Consciousness”, and a 2015 rebuttal entitled, “Conscious intention: a challenge for AIR theory.” 

Meeting 3 (5/10/2017)

We discussed a paper entitled, 'Empirical support for higher-order theories of conscious awareness' by Hakwan Lau and David Rosenthal. We also discussed a paper by Ned Block entitled, 'Comparing the Major Theories of Consciousness,' which explored his view on HOTs. HOTs, in general, claim that consciousness consists in “perceptions, thoughts, or beliefs about first-order mental states”, and are thought to better account for both conscious and unconscious processing. 

Meeting 4 (5/24/2017)

We had a lively discussion about a decoding paper entitled, 'Distinct cortical codes and temporal dynamics for conscious and unconscious percepts' by Dehaene and colleagues.

The abstract is as follows: “The neural correlates of consciousness are typically sought by comparing the overall brain responses to perceived and unperceived stimuli. However, this comparison may be contaminated by non-specific attention, alerting, performance, and reporting confounds. Here, we pursue a novel approach, tracking the neuronal coding of consciously and unconsciously perceived contents while keeping behavior identical (blindsight). EEG and MEG were recorded while participants reported the spatial location and visibility of a briefly presented target. Multivariate pattern analysis demonstrated that considerable information about spatial location traverses the cortex on blindsight trials, but that starting ≈270 ms post-onset, information unique to consciously perceived stimuli, emerges in superior parietal and superior frontal regions. Conscious access appears characterized by the entry of the perceived stimulus into a series of additional brain processes, each restricted in time, while the failure of conscious access results in the breaking of this chain and a subsequent slow decay of the lingering unconscious activity.” 

As a result of this discussion, we reached out to the authors of this paper and received an invitation to collaborate.  

Winter 2017

Meeting 1 (1/17/2017)

To start the winter quarter we examined the problem of subjective report. We read and discussed a paper entitled, "No-Report Paradigms: Extracting theTrue Neural Correlates of Consciousness (2015)," by Naotsugu Tsuchiya, Melanie Wilke, Stefan Frässle, and Victor A.F.Lamme. This paper discusses the advantages and disadvantages of report-based and no-report based paradigms. We also discussed criticisms of this paper from Overgaard. 

In addition, we talked about a paper on postdiction by Shinsuke Shimojo entitled, "Postdiction: its implications on visual awareness, hindsight, and sense of agency", which considers implications for free-will and sense of agency. 

Meeting 2 (1/31/2017)

Since the Northern California Consciousness Conference took place on January 27th and four of our members spoke at the conference: Zoe Drayson, Felix Bacigalupo, Sucharit Katyal, and Lara Krisst, we took the opportunity to discuss the conference and offer the speakers more in-depth feedback on their presentations.  

Meeting 3 (2/14/2017)

During this meeting, we watched and discussed the lecture, “Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?’’ Abstract: There is a popular belief in neuroscience that we are primarily data limited, and that producing large, multimodal, and complex datasets will, with the help of advanced data analysis algorithms, lead to fundamental insights into the way the brain processes information. These datasets do not yet exist, and if they did we would have no way of evaluating whether or not the algorithmically-generated insights were sufficient or even correct. To address this, here we take a classical microprocessor as a model organism, and use our ability to perform arbitrary experiments on it to see if popular data analysis methods from neuroscience can elucidate the way it processes information. Microprocessors are among those artificial information processing systems that are both complex and that we understand at all levels, from the overall logical flow, via logical gates, to the dynamics of transistors. We show that the approaches reveal interesting structure in the data but do not meaningfully describe the hierarchy of information processing in the microprocessor. This suggests current analytic approaches in neuroscience may fall short of producing meaningful understanding of neural systems, regardless of the amount of data. Additionally, we argue for scientists using complex non-linear dynamical systems with known ground truth, such as the microprocessor as a validation platform for time-series and structure discovery methods. 

Meeting 4 (2/28/2017)

Lara Krisst presented an overview of a paper entitled, Ironic Processes of Mental Control by Daniel Wegner. She also discussed a TMS study investigating the neural correlates of thought suppression which uses an experimental paradigm based on this theory. Eve Isham presented data from follow-up studies on the paper Deliberation period during easy and difficult decisions: re-examining Libet’s “veto” window in a more ecologically valid.

Meeting 5 (3/14/2017)

For the last club meeting of the quarter we were excited to have Giyeul Bae, a postdoc in the Luck Lab, give a lecture on an Introduction to Decoding! His talk referenced a paper entitled,"The topography of alpha-band activity tracks the content of spatial working memory," which served as a useful primer to the topic. The talk was instructional in nature as many of the club members are interested in using decoding methods. 


Fall 2016

Meeting 6 (12/6/2016)

For our last meeting of the quarter, Alea Skwara, a graduate student in Cliff Saron's lab, gave a talk on changes in resting state EEG recorded over the course of intensive meditation retreat, and its relationship to self-reported emotion regulation. The talk generated a great discussion on the connection between theta/beta ratios and emotion regulation, and whether the current interpretation of this relationship is accurate. Several research collaborations will likely result from this dialogue.  

Meeting 5 (11/22/2016)

Since the mood was somber due to the post-election political climate, we thought it was appropriate that Dr. Felix Bacigalupo give a talk on death. Felix presented a paper he published while in medical school in Chile, entitled "The Debate About Death: An Imperishable Discussion?" This topic continued the discussion from the previous week regarding criteria used to assess consciousness. We also discussed a newly published theoretical paper on consciousness entitled, "Towards Statistical Mechanics of Consciousness: Maximization of Number of Connections is Associated with Conscious Awareness.”

Meeting 4 (11/8/2016)

Professor Zoe Drayson, from the UC Davis Department of Philosophy, presented an overview of her paper entitled "Intentional Action and the Post-Coma Patient.”

Abstract: Detecting conscious awareness in a patient emerging from a coma state is problematic, because our standard attributions of conscious awareness rely on interpreting bodily movement as intentional action. Where there is an absence of intentional bodily action, as in the vegetative state, can we reliably assume that there is an absence of conscious awareness? Recent neuroimaging work suggests that we can attribute conscious awareness to some patients in a vegetative state by interpreting their brain activity as intentional mental action. I suggest that this change of focus, from the interpretation of motor behavior as intentional bodily action to the interpretation of neural activity as intentional mental action, raises philosophical issues that affect the interpretation of the neuroimaging data. 

Meeting 3 (10/25/2016)

Integrated Information Theory, or IIT, by Giulio Tononi is one of the prevailing theories of consciousness. At this meeting, Andrew Stewart (postdoc in the Luck Lab) and Orestis Papaioannou (graduate student in the Luck Lab) presented the theoretical and mathematical underpinnings of IIT and the group engaged in a heated debate regarding the validity of the theory. We discussed a paper that tests the theory in various states of consciousness entitled, "Consciousness and Complexity during Unresponsiveness Induced by Propofol, Xenon, and Ketamine,” and then discussed criticism of the theory from mathematician, Scott Aaronson.

Meeting 2 (10/11/2016)

We are fortunate to have an interdisciplinary group of people, which includes faculty and students from Psychology, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Philosophy. At this meeting, Ellyn Daly, who is a student in the philosophy department under the direction of Professor Zoe Drayson, presented a talk entitled, “The Access/Phenomenal Distinction." The talk was based on a paper by Ned Block entitled, "On a confusion about a function of consciousness.” In the second hour, Professor Eve Isham, from the Psychology department, presented a talk on her research entitled, "Deliberation period during easy and difficulty decisions:  Libet's "veto" window in an ecological context."

Meeting 1 (9/27/2016)

Our first meeting was a great success, with good attendance and a lively discussion! We covered the mission and motivation of the C & C Journal Club; made introductions; presented suggested topics; and assigned topics to group members. We read and discussed two related papers: "Neural correlates of consciousness: progress and problems” and "Future directions for identifying the neural correlates of consciousness" (2016).