How Neuroscience Explains The Rise of Experience from the Brain

Over the last years, much has been learned about the neuronal basis of consciousness in the brain. Together with a recently developed Integrated Information Theory of consciousness, this progress raises the possibility that science will soon come to grips with this most ephemeral, yet most fundamental, of all phenomena at the heart of the mind-body problem. These studies suggest that consciousness is more widespread than usually assumed, including in many animals, but not in computer models of the brain. Christof Koch developed his interdisciplinary approach integrating the natural sciences and mathematics with more traditional philosophical concerns during his years of cooperation with his mentor Francis Crick, the Nobel-winning co-discoverer of the DNA structure. After a 27-year research career at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Koch left academia to become the Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Funded by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, the Seattle-based institute takes a BigScience approach to build Brain Observatories in order to catalogue all the cell types of the cerebral cortex and its complete interconnectivity using quantitative models to understand how it gives rise to behavior, perception and consciousness.

Koch grew up in Amsterdam, Bonn, Ottawa, and Rabat. Having studied Physics and Philosophy in Tübingen, he was awarded a Master of Physics in 1980 and obtained his PhD from the Max-Planck-Institut for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen in 1982. Then he spent four years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at MIT. In 1986 he joined the California Institute of Technology as Assistant and then Full Professor of Computation and Neural Systems. He was a visiting Professor at the Institute for Neuroinformatics at the ETH and the University of Zürich, Switzerland, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering at Korea University in Seoul, Korea. In 2011, he became chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, where he leads a ten year, large-scale, high through-put effort to build brain observatories to map, analyze, and understand the cerebral cortex.

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