Physics Department Seminar University of Alaska Fairbanks

J O U R N A L    C L U B


On three fundamental transitions in the Universe
Part 3: From Animal Consciousness to Human Self-consciousness

Juan G. Roederer
Geophysical Institute, UAF

This is the last part of the series dealing with three fundamental transitions, which represent truly irreversible, non-causal discontinuities in the chain of events from the Big Bang to humans. We shall discuss the common aspects and fundamental differences between subhuman and human brain function from the information-theory point of view. We shall define and examine the concepts of “dynamic state of brain function” and “semi-static state of brain memory”, discuss recent supporting experiments and fMRI/PET studies, and analyze their implications for the understanding of sensory information processing and behavioral response control, as well as the meaning of animal consciousness. Then we will discuss the fundamental information-processing operation that only the human brain can perform, namely working on its own informational output in absence of any somatosensory input, and look into some of its fundamental consequences: the human self-consciousness, conception of time, long-term prediction and planning, propositional language, art, and the ability of overruling the “Four F’s” of instinctive limbic mandates (Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and Reproducing).

Friday, 9 April 2010
Globe Room, Elvey Building
3:45 PM