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Christof Koch
Christof Koch

CalTech expert to discuss consciousness May 5

By Christi Fish
Public Affairs Specialist

(April 29, 2009)--The UTSA Neurosciences Institute Distinguished Lecture Series will present Christof Koch, professor at California Institute of Technology, speaking on "The Neurobiology of Consciousness: What Do We Know and How Can We Find Out More?" at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 5 at the University Center Retama Auditorium (2.02.02) on the UTSA Main Campus. The lecture and a 5:30 p.m. reception are free and open to the public.

According to Wikipedia, neurobiology is the study of cells of the nervous system and the organization of the cells into circuits that process information and mediate behavior. In his May 5 talk, Koch will:

  • Summarize what is known about the neurobiology of consciousness
  • Argue that attention is distinct from consciousness
  • Discuss the limits to our knowledge
  • Describe ongoing experiments using visual illusions to manipulate the relationship between physical stimuli and their associated conscious percepts
  • Describe a promising information-theoretical approach to consciousness that is grounded in circuit complexity

Half a century ago, many did not think it was possible to understand the secret of life. However, the discovery of the structure of DNA changed biology forever. We now face a similar pursuit in determining the basis of consciousness. How does the smell of dogs after they have been in the rain or throbbing tooth pain emerge from networks of neurons and synaptic processes? These are questions Christof hopes to answer.

Born in 1956 in the American Midwest, Koch grew up in Holland, Germany, Canada and Morocco, where he graduated from the Lycèe Descartes in 1974. He studied physics and philosophy at the University of Tübingen in Germany and was awarded a Ph.D. in biophysics in 1982. After four years at MIT, Koch joined Caltech in 1986, where he is the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and professor of computation and neural systems. He lives in Pasadena, and loves to run and to climb.

Koch is the author of "The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach," along with other books and more than 300 scientific papers and journal articles. He studies the biophysics of computation and the neuronal basis of visual perception, attention and consciousness. With Francis Crick, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Koch is one of the pioneers of the neurobiological approach to consciousness.

The UTSA lecture is co-sponsored by the Specialized Neuroscience Research Program.

For more information, contact Salma Quraishi, UTSA associate director of the Neurosciences Institute, research assistant professor of biology and scientific coordinator of the Specialized Neuroscience Research Program, at (210) 458-7493.

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About the UTSA Neurosciences Institute

The multidisciplinary research organization for integrated brain studies, the mission of the UTSA Neurosciences Institute is to foster a collaborative community of scientists committed to studying the biological basis of human experience and behavior, and the origin and treatment of nervous system diseases. Areas of focus include nervous system development; neuronal and network computation; sensory, motor and cognitive function; learning and memory, and the disease processes that impact them; implementing mathematical and computational tools in experimental neurobiology; and mathematical theory of neurons and nervous systems.

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