Science and SocietyHeidelberg Forum
Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 18:00 in the Print Media Academy Kurfürstenanlage 52-60, Heidelberg
Mit freundlicher Unterstützung der Manfred Lautenschläger Stiftung
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer
Conflicts between intuition and neurobiological evidence
Our intuition suggests that there is a central structure in our brain onto which all information from internal and external sources converges. This includes information stored in memories as well as that provided by the sensory organs. It would be the task of this structure to interpret the signals from the outside world on the basis of stored knowledge, make inferences, prepare decisions and plan future acts. In essence, these are the functions that we equate with the Self. Neurobiological evidence contradicts this plausible assumption. It negates the existence of a central instance and suggests that the brain is a highly distributed system in which a large number of sensory and executive processes occur in parallel without converging in a singular center. It will be discussed how these many distributed functions are coordinated and bound together so that they can give rise to coherent perceptions, decisions, actions, and ultimately conscious states. Similarities will be highlighted which the brain shares with other complex self-organizing systems.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer studied Medicine in Munich and Paris, obtained his MD from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and his PhD from the Technical University in Munich. He is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and Founding Director both of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Brain Research (ESI). His research is focused on the neuronal substrate of higher cognitive functions, and especially on the question how the distributed sub-processes in the brain are coordinated and bound together in order to give rise to coherent perception and action.