Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)


COGS Seminars provide a forum for internationally recognised researchers from all corners of cognitive science research to present and discuss their latest findings. All are welcome to attend.

Autumn 2021

Tuesdays 16:00-17:30


Feb 1

Depression as an Altered State of Consciousness
Cecily Whiteley

Abstract: First-person reports of Major Depressive Disorder reveal that when an individual becomes depressed a profound change or ‘shift’ to one’s conscious experience occurs. The depressed person reports that something fundamental to their experience has been disturbed or shifted; a change associated with the common but elusive claim that when depressed one finds oneself in a ‘different world’ detached from reality and other people. Existing attempts to utilise these phenomenological observations in a psychiatric context are challenged by the fact that this experiential ‘shift’ characteristic of depression appears mysterious and resists analysis in scientific terms. In this talk, I offer a way out of this predicament. The hypothesis proposed is that when an individual becomes depressed, the individual departs from a state of ordinary wakeful consciousness and enters a distinctive global state of consciousness akin to dreaming and the psychedelic state. After unpacking and motivating this hypothesis in the context of research in consciousness science, I outline two of its important implications for the neurobiology of depression and psychedelic psychiatry. The upshot is a promising and conceptually well-motivated hypothesis about depression which is apt for empirical uptake and development.

Fulton Building FUL-203

Zoom ID: 9930 8105 1230

Passcode: 5926

Feb 15

Analytic Idealism
Dr Bernardo Kastrup

Abstract: the ontology of analytic idealism will be discussed, according to which universal phenomenal consciousness is all there ultimately is, everything else in nature being reducible to patterns of excitation of this consciousness. The key challenge is to explain how the seemingly distinct conscious inner lives of different subjects—such as you and me—can arise within this fundamentally unitary phenomenal field. Along the way, a variety of other challenges are addressed, such as: how we can reconcile idealism with the fact that we all inhabit a common external world; why this world unfolds independently of our personal volition or imagination; why there are such tight correlations between measured patterns of brain activity and reports of experience; etc.
The core idea can be summarized thus: we, as well as all other living organisms, are dissociated alters of universal phenomenal consciousness, analogously to how a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) manifests multiple disjoint centers of subjectivity also called ‘alters.’ We, and all other living organisms, are surrounded by the transpersonal phenomenal activity of universal consciousness, which unfolds beyond the dissociative boundary of our respective alter. The inanimate world we perceive around us is the extrinsic appearance—i.e. the phenomenal image imprinted from across our dissociative boundary—of this activity. The living organisms we share the world with are the extrinsic appearances of other alters.


Zoom ID: 915 9307 4779

Passcode: 3861

Mar 15

Perception, illusion, and hallucination in virtual and augmented reality
Prof. David Chalmers
New York

Abstract: Professor Chalmers will be addressing philosophical issues on the topics of perception, illusion, and hallucination in virtual and augmented reality.


Zoom ID: 916 3918 6663

Passcode: 1069


Prof Daniel Osorio

Abstract: TBA

Pev1 1B3

Zoom ID: 998 4772 2730

Passcode: 9454

Mar 29


“Emergence” in complex dynamical systems
Dr Lionel Barnett

Abstract: In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the notion of “emergence” in complex dynamical systems, broadly understood as gross (macroscopic) properties of a system of interacting elements which are not properties of the individual (microscopic) elements themselves. While various forms of emergence have previously been proposed, here we present an information-theoretic formulation which we term Dynamical Independence, intended to capture the sense in which an emergent macroscopic process behaves like an individuated dynamical entity in its own right, independently of the dynamics of the underlying microscopic process. Dynamical Independence is defined purely in terms of Shannon mutual information, and as such is transformation-invariant; that is, it yields the same quantitative results when measured in any frame of reference.
While emergent macroscopic phenomena may be clearly discernable visually (for instance the collective dynamics flocking birds), this may not in general be the case: observation of cortical neurons, for example, yields scant clues to the organisation of large-scale neural dynamics. It is thus important that we are able not only to quantify, but also to discover emergent macroscopic processes from the micro-level dynamics. We present a linear operationalisation of Dynamical Independence, which facilitates explicit computation of dynamically-independent macroscopic processes at arbitrary spatial and temporal scales, and for which discovery of such processes from the microscopic dynamics becomes a classical (and tractable) problem in computational optimisation.
The technique may be applied, in particular, to steady-state multi-channel brain recordings (e.g., EEG, MEG, EcoG, etc.) for which linear autoregressive or state-space modelling are already standard. We propose that analysis of the “profile” of dynamically-independent macroscopic processes across spatio-temporal scales may reveal insights into the large-scale neural dynamics which underpin organism-level behaviour, cognition and consciousness. In an exploratory study, we apply our method to MEG data recorded during clinical trials of psychedelic drugs, and compare changes in the multi-scale profile of dynamically-independent processes between drug and placebo conditions.


Zoom ID: 995 0989 7913

Passcode: 3948

Apr 26


Plant cognition
Dr Jonny Lee



Zoom ID: 983 2964 4693

Passcode: 4952

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