CS200 Spring 2006

Cognitive Science 200 Seminar
WINTER Quarter:
Fridays 2-4PM
Cog Sci Building 003
NEURO ENIGMAS II: Large-Scale Problems in Neuroscience
Professor Patricia Churchland, Philosophy UCSD/ Salk Institute
Spectacular progress notwithstanding, many fundamental problems in neuroscience
remain unsolved. Neuroscience remains very much a young science, in the sense that it
has not yet discovered the general principles governing its target phenomena. Although
fruitful ideas of a highly general sort have emerged, and though the rise of computational
modeling has helped enormously in conceptualizing how macro effects emerge from
micro phenomena, the fact remains that neuroscience has not achieved the explanatory
maturity of, for example, molecular biology or physical chemistry. Unlike those sciences,
it is still groping for its general, “exoskeletal” explanatory principles. Identifying
unsolved problems can be a useful navigational tool in neuroscience, especially for those
not yet committed to a research paradigm. In this seminar, we shall discuss some of these
unresolved problems.
*Titles of the talks are not exact and may be updated.
Week 1: January 12
Pat Churchland, UCSD. What do neuroscientific discoveries imply for
free will and responsibility?
Week 2: January 19
John Reynolds, Salk Institute ."What is attention and what is the
neural basis of focused attention?”
Kristy Sundberg, Salk Institute: "A Motion-Dependent Distortion of
Retinotopy in V4”
Week 3: January 26
Chuck Stevens, Salk institute: How do brains manage to have a
scalable architecture, and why do they care?
Week 4 February 2
VS Ramachandran , UCSD: “Synesthesia, Phantom Gonads and the
Anterior Insula.”
Week 5 February 9
Bill Bechtel, UCSD: “What is a mechanism in biology and does
knowing the mechanism yield an explanation?”
Week 6 February 16
Anrivan Ghosh, Neurobiology UCSD
“How Do Brains Get Built? Part I”
Week 7 February 23
Terry Sejnowski Computational Neuroscience Lab, Salk & UCSD
“A Critique of Pure Vision: Update 2007”
Week 8 March 2
Ralph Greenspan, Neurosciences Institute
“What is sleep and why do we do it?”
Week 9 March 9
Howard Poizner, Institute for Neural Computation UCSD:
“How does anyone ever manage to hit a baseball?”
Week 10 March 16
Dennis O’Leary, Salk Institute:
“How Do Brains Get Built? Part II “
For Graduate Students:
If you are registered, you will be expected to attend every seminar, and you should notify
me if you must miss a class. For an hour following the seminar (4-5PM), we shall have
discussion of the days’ talk in Room 180 CogSci. Depending on the number of students
registered, one or two students will be responsible for leading the discussion in a
knowledgeable and critical way. (We have to do this because the university requires the
third hour…..and then CogSci Happy Hour starts at 5PM, so it works out rather nicely.)
I shall normally send out papers in pdf that you will help you to prepare for the seminar.
You are also advised to pick up a copy of “23 Unsolved Problems in Systems
Neuroscience” ed. by Van Hemmen and Sejnowski, OUP.