Pomaia, Province of Pisa, Italy

Consciousness and Cognition

when 28 August 2021 - 5 September 2021
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 6 EC
fee EUR 250

The enigma of Consciousness is perhaps the most fascinating mystery in the Universe. There are many hypotheses, on the basis of which we try to give an answer to the most difficult of problems but, wanting to schematize, all can be traced back to two broad categories: those that they recognize to the Consciousness an intrinsic existence independent, at least in part, from its physical substratum and those who instead consider the Consciousness entirely reducible to the electro-chemical-physical processes that take place in the brain. Whereas the
latter fit well into the so-called Scientic Materilism, the former lead to a dualistic vision of Reality in which the external world obeys the laws of Physics and the internal one requires a different level of analysis.
The path in search of the solution winds between these two alternatives and passes through the answer to two fundamental questions:
1) "Is Scientic Materialism capable of embracing the totality of Reality?"
2) "Is a unitary vision of Reality possible in which Consciousness is not completely reducible to its neuronal correlates?"
In the absence of definitive and widely shared answers to these two questions, the study of consciousness and of the process through which we have cognition of the Reality must be fronted with a multidisciplinary approach that includes not only the neurosciences, but also biology, articial intelligence, the philosophy of science and epistemology.
A space has to be reserved to two disciplines that are apparently very different, but that, on the contrary, show very surprisingly, some convergencies: the Quantum Physics, and the contemplative practices. While the
first constitutes the most advanced approach to the study of the physical world which also extends to phenomena that take place at the nanoscopic level in biological tissues, the latter allow one to explore in a profound and accurate way the aspects of the problem that are not accessible with objective methods and that concern the first-person experience.
For these reasons, the School will be organized in such a way as to explore the enigma of Consciousness from different points of view, with the participation of teachers who are experts in all these disciplines.
The School will take place in a residential form, thank to a Convention with University of Pisa, at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, 35 Km from Pisa, renowned for the excellent quality of its study programs of Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

Course leader

Prof. Bruno Neri

Target group

Graduate Students and Scholars interested in multidisciplinary studies concerning the new Science of Consciousness, psychologists and psychotherapists.

Course aim

The aim of the School is not to provide students with definitive answers, but to provide the foundations and basic tools in each of the disciplines covered that allow them to follow the debate still open today in the various sectors that can be grouped under the name of Mind Science. In particular the students should:

- (Philosophy) acquire a sensitiveness to the existence of a dimension of consciousness that overcomes the distinction between subject and object and understand its role in the current quest to explain consciousness, through a progression into insights drawn from Western philosophical approaches (especially phenomenology) and Eastern traditions and practices;
- (Neurodynamics) understand the fundamental concepts of computational neuroscience, explain the main physical characteristics of biological neurons (synaptic mechanisms and membrane potential, action potential generation and propagation) and how they can be modelled. Understand features and underlying mechanisms of different computational models of synaptic plasticity and of small cortical circuits as simple networks of learning neurons;
- (Artificial Intelligence) learn the basic concepts and models of nature-inspired computational techniques, and to know how to apply them to a wide range of application areas. Students will be exposed to the advantages and challenges of using computationally intelligent systems with human-like capabilities in terms of reasoning, learning and adaptation;
- (Biosemiotics) learn the basic of Biosemiotics and become acquainted with the semiotic nature of sign relationships both in biological and human-made systems, understand how cells act as semiotic units capable of interpreting their own environment through signs exchange, and eventually comprehend how sign perception and epigenetic regulation are causally linked through differential gene expression;
- (Quantum Mechanics) understand the basic principles of quantum mechanics to comprehend the subtler issues connected with the interpretation of the theory and their possible relevance for a discussion of consciousness, of the mind-body problem and of the nature of reality itself;
- (Contemplative Practices) comprehend the vision of Eastern tradition (Induism and Buddhism) concerning Consciousness and its different levels and manifestations; learn the foundations, the characteristics and the eects of the different types of meditation;
- (Measurement techiques and not Ordinary state of Consciousness) after a description of the main investigation tecniques of the brain activitiy (Electroencephaography, FMRI) and of the elaboration of biomedical signal, understand how self induced not ordinary states of consciousness by natural drugs, hypnosis, deep meditation, affect this activity.

Fee info

EUR 250: Fee



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