Symposium – “The mind-brain relationship in cognitive neuroscience” (Abstracts)

Program simpozion
Department of Theoretical Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, organizes a conference on “The mind-brain relationship in cognitive neuroscience” on 27-28th April 2012. The participants are professors and students from University of Bucharest, University of Medicine, and Polytechnic University of Bucharest.
Participants: Bogdan Amuzescu (Biology, University of Bucharest), Violeta Rotarescu (Psychology, University of Bucharest) Ioan Dumitrache (Faculty of Automatic Control and Computer Science, Polytechnic University of Bucharest), Mircea Dumitru (Philosophy, University of Bucharest), Marius Dumitru (Christ Church, Oxford), Luiza-Maria Flonta (Biology, University of Bucharest), Gheorghe Stefanov (Philosophy, University of Bucharest), Gabriel Vacariu (Philosophy, University of Bucharest),
Leon Zagrean (Neuroscience – University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest)
Adriana Zbant (Philosophy, University of Bucharest)
Presentations and round tables will be organized. (See the abstracts) For information, Lecturer Gabriel Vacariu, email: gvacariu[at]

Vineri 27 aprilie
10.20-11.00 Deschidere simpozion, dl. decan Romulus Brâncoveanu (Filosofie), urmată de o scurtă introducere “Ce este neuroștiința cogniției?” (Gabriel Vacariu)
11.00 -11.45 Luiza-Maria Flonta (Biologie) “Durerea ca o reacție adaptativă a corpului care poate evolua către o durere cronica neadaptativa”
11.45-12.30 Mircea Dumitru (Filosofie) – “Argumente modale bi-dimensionale in problematica minte-corp”
12.30-13.15 Violeta Rotarescu (Psihologie) -“Un model al memoriei autobiografice – cercetari preliminare”
13.15-14.00 Pauză
14.00-14.45 Gheorghe Ștefanov (Filosofie) “Concepte logice în știința cogniției”
14.45-15.30 Marius Dumitru (Christ Church, Oxfod) “Monismul neutru, încotro?”
15.30-16.30 Masă rotundă:“Relația activări neuronale-computări mentale”

Sâmbătă 28 aprilie
11.00–11.45 Ioan Dumitrache (Automatică) – TBD
11.45-12.30 Bogdan Amuzescu (Biologie) “Metode experimentale moderne în modelarea realistă a rețelelor neuronale”
12.30-13.15 Leon Zăgrean (Medicina, neuroștiinta) – “Interrelația neuron-glie în funcționarea creierului ca întreg”
13.15-14.00 Pauză
14.00-14.45 Adriana Zbanț (Filosofie) “Schrödinger și teoriile asupra emergenței – Searle și Frith”
14.45-15.30 Gabriel Vacariu (Filosofie) “Ce fel de știintă e neuroștiința cogniției?”
15.30-16.30 Masa rotundă: “Viitorul neuroștiinței cogniției (imagistica neuronală)”

Bogdan Amuzescu – “Modern experimental approaches in realistic neuronal network modeling”
Dept. Biophysics & Physiology, Faculty of Biology, University of Bucharest

Understanding the dynamics and computations of single neurons and their role within larger neural networks is at the core of neuroscience. Quantitative models summarize and organize the rapidly growing amount and sophistication of experimental data, and make testable predictions. In their landmark work (Theoretical Neuroscience. Computational and Mathematical Modeling of Neural Systems. MIT Press, 2001), Dayan & Abbott classify neural circuitry models into descriptive, mechanistic, and interpretive, based on the specific question addressed by each class: what, how, and why. Within an outstanding review (Modeling single-neuron dynamics and computations: a balance of detail and abstraction. Science 314(5796), 80-85, 2006), Andreas V. M. Herz et al. identify five levels of complexity in single-cell neuronal models: detailed compartmental models, reduced compartmental models, single-compartment models (e.g. the Hodgkin-Huxley model of squid giant axon, still fundamental in a variety of cell excitability models), cascade models, and black-box models. We review a few classical neuronal models: the passive integrate-and-fire model of Lapicque, the Connor-Stevens model, models including T (and later L, N, P)-type Ca2+ currents, the cable equation and Rall branching models, and the principles of multi-compartment models, as well as new achievements in detailed compartmental models of Ranvier node conduction. We also briefly review recent progress in novel high-resolution microscopy techniques, such as STED (stimulated emission depletion microscopy) or 2-photon excitation confocal microscopy, which, in combination with targeted expression of fluorescent proteins or engineered ion channel – light-sensitive molecule assemblies, allow real-time dynamical visualisation at an unprecedented resolution of intricate electrical phenomena and ion flows associated with neuronal functions within in vivo experiments, and even control by lasers and stereotactically implanted waveguides of neuronal membrane potentials (optogenetic control). Further, we highlight modern achievements in large-scale detailed modeling of the brain, like Henry Markram’s team Blue Brain Project at Brain & Mind Institute, EPFL Lausanne, or the brain computational model of Nick Anghelidi based on layers of detailed 3D neuronal models ( Eventually, we present recent experimental evidence about the roles and functions of the hippocampal formation in episodic and spatial memory, action prediction, and emotional behavior, as revealed by multiple simultaneous patch-clamp recordings and imaging studies on brain slices, multielectrode array recordings on slices, animal models and human patients, complex immunofluorescence and immunocytochemistry studies. These findings would have definitely delighted Immanuel Kant, who convincingly argued more than two centuries ago in his celebrated Critique of Pure Reason that time and space are a priori conditions of cognition.

Marius Dumitru – “Whither Neutral Monism?” –
Christ Church, Oxford

Neutral monism’s core insight is that there might be something underlying both mind and matter which is neither and of which mind and matter could be seen as particular manifestations. In this talk, I shall present some directions for developing neutral monism as a metaphysical position on the mind-brain problem and argue that its core insight may be applied to other debates in philosophy of mind, in particular debates about the metaphysics of phenomenologies, such as the phenomenology of thought and cognitive phenomenologies.

Mircea Dumitru – “Two-Dimensional Modal Arguments in the Mind-Body Problem”

In my talk, I shall explain in a semi-formal way the main tenets and mechanics of some systems of two-dimensional semantics for modal logic. This formal approach, which grew out mainly from the work of Saul Kripke, David Kaplan, and Richard Stalnaker, became lately the formal background, and an essential prerequisite, for insightful discussions in the metaphysics of mind, especially in the debates concerning the mind-body problem.
The talk is concerned with one major application of this two-dimensionalist framework in the field of conceivability arguments for anti-materialist and for pro-dualist positions. Key notions in this regard are those of conceivability and possibility, the would-be logical validity of the inference from the former to the latter being involved in the logical apparatus of defending some forms of dualist positions about the conceptual relations between mind and brain.
The talk will examine the controvertible claim that this logical passage is valid, which apparently is an essential condition for establishing the conceptual underpinnings of the conceivability dualist arguments, leaving room for undermining some materialist orthodox views about mind and brain, such as materialism and functionalism.

Maria-Luisa Flonta, University of Bucharest, Dept. Physiology and Biophysics – Pain as an adaptive reaction of the body can evolve to a maladaptive chronic pain.
Pain and suffering are parts of human consciousness. As subjective experiences, they are private and not directly quantifiable. In order to measure what is measureable, and to make measurable what is not so, as Galilei said, we have to distinguish the following partially overlapping processes: nociception, pain, suffering and behaviour.
Pain is a complex, multidimensional subjective experience and as such involves the activity within a large, distributed brain network. Pain is a life-saving reaction warning against severely impairing events, realized as an interplay of cognitive-discriminative, emotional-affective, vegetative and motor components. But pain that persists beyond the resolution of the initiating injury is chronic and poses a huge health care and socioeconomic challenge. We know that pain perception is the result of active pain modulation, which is conceived as an interplay of cortical and subcortical structures, constituting the so-called pain matrix. In contrast to healthy subjects, persons suffering from chronic pain disorder experience spontaneous pain or suffer from enhanced pain perception in response to innoxious stimuli. This phenomenon is attributed to a maladjustment/disequilibrium of nociceptive and antinociceptive processes within the ascending pain processing. Given the diverse etiologies (e.g. physical trauma, infections, neurotoxins, imune and metabolic diseases, chemotherapy) and the variety of molecular mechanisms underlying pain hypersensitivity, the approach of targeting ionic channels in primary afferent nociceptive neurons that contribute to the detection ao stimuli, may be an effective approach for developing more successful therapies for clinical pain syndromes. I will present some of our results on the sensitization of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel, which seems to be involved in the painfull diabetic neuropathy.

Violeta Rotarescu (Psihologie) – Un model al memoriei autobiografice – cercetari preliminare
Studiul memoriei autobiografice este, poate, unul dintre cele mai dificile demersuri în ştiinţele cogniţiei, pentru că implică intersecția mai multor domenii: psihologia cognitivă, psihologia personalității, psihologia dezvoltării şi, mai presus de toate, studiul conştiinţei. Dificultatea metodologică majoră ţine de construcţia şi validarea unor instrumente care să surprindă esenţa fenomenului conştient al reamintirii propriului trecut, cu tot ceea ce presupune această reamintire (structură şi conţinut).
În studiul de faţă ne propunem să validăm parțial un model propriu al memoriei autobiografice, model care are drept elemente de referință două modele importante din literatura de specialitate: Rubin (1986) și Conway și Pleydell-Pearce (2001, 1996).
Modelul propriu este unul de tip microstructură, asemănător celui elaborat de Conway și Pleydell-Pearce, și îmbină noțiuni ca memoria autobiografică, emoţie, personalitate și dezvoltare cognitivă. Pentru verificarea empirică a modelului am formulat cinci ipoteze de lucru, care vizează dimensiunile longitudinală și transversală ale loturilor de subiecți implicați.
Datele obținute în urma măsurătorilor comportamentale efectuate infirmă modelul constrângerilor lingvistice (Rubin, 1986), pentru că demonstrează că structura lingvistică a amintirilor autobiografice (AA) se modifică în timp, prin creşterea numărului de cuvinte (substantive şi adjective) folosite în evocare. În schimb, se confirmă modelul lui Conway și Pleydell-Pearce (2001), pentru că datele arată că elemente ale personalităţii şi imaginea de sine contribuie la re-construcţia AA, din perspectiva conţinutului cognitiv şi emoţional.
În modelul propus de noi, care include elementele de mai sus, adăugăm factorii de mediu (mediul familial), care par să aibă un rol decisiv asupra modului de reamintire, mai ales în cazul AA negative. În AA prezentă, despre evenimente din trecut, importante sunt acele componente ale personalităţii şi imaginii de sine care vizează proiecţia acestora în viitor.
În concluzie, memoria autobiografică are, probabil, o organizare complexă, variabilă în timp, modificabilă sub influenţa unei varietăţi de factori, iar conţinutul ei ţine de aspecte cognitive şi afective care variază funcţie de caracteristicile AA, de distanţa în timp faţă de momentul formării AA şi de evenimentele prin care trec subiecţii între timp.

Gheorghe Stefanov, Universitatea Bucuresti – Logical concepts in cognitive science
Both the informational and the inferential-role accounts of logical concepts in cognitive science assume that the aquisition of a logical concept must occur after we learn to speak. This assumption is fostered by the standard logical view, according to which expressions like ‘not’, ‘if… then’, ‘and’, ‘or’, neither… nor’, etc. are truth functions. As such, they have to apply to true or false sentences, and in order to understand such logical expressions we must be able to understand at least a few sentences. I do not think this view is evolutionary plausible. To suggest a way in which we could explain what is it to have a logical concept and how do we acquire logical concepts I will focus on the case of negation.

Gabriel Vacariu – “What kind of science is cognitive neuroscience?”
In cognitive neuroscience there is a huge optimism based on remarkable results furnished by the functional neuroimaging technology (especially fMRI apparatus). However, the main problems of this domain (the binding problem, localization, differentiation-integration, default network) are reflected by the optimism (Bechtel) vs. skepticism (Utall) debates in cognitive neuroscience. I believe that these problems cannot be solved the reason being that the main notion, “correlations”, lacks in any ontological background. In this context, we have to answer to the following question: “What kind of science is cognitive neuroscience?”

Adriana Zbant (University of Bucharest) – Schrödinger and emergence theories – Searle and Frith
One of the main theories, both in the philosophy of mind and in cognitive neuroscience, for explaining the relationship between the human brain and the mind is that of emergence. My paper focuses on the similarities between three theories on emergence, those of Erwin Schrödinger, John Searle and Chris Frith. I try to show that John Searle uses the same two scientific theories as Erwin Schrödinger to explain the nature of the human mind, while discussing the way in which subjectivity influences our cognitive processes. But Schrödinger’s ideas can also be found in Chris Frith’s work in cognitive neuroscience, even though there are significant differences between the two.

Leon Zăgrean – Neuroglial interactions in the whole-brain-work theory
Neuoroglia, coined by R. Virchow (1856), was described as a real cement or brain interstitial substance which binds the nervous elements together. Discovery of neuron (H. Waldeyer, 1891) yielded the neuron theory, accepted by scientists six decades later. For a long time, the main role of glial cells was considered to provide support to the more important cells of the brain, the neurons. In the last decades the research of glial cells expanded, mainly regarding the neuron-glial interactions in the whole-brain-work-theory, the subject of this work.

27th April
15.30-16.30 Round table: “The relationship between neuronal activations and mental computations”

28th Saturday
15.30-16.30 Round table: “The future of cognitive neuroscience (EEG, fMRI, etc.)”

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