Cognitive Science

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Consciousness: from assessment to rehabilitation

In collaboration with Frontiers in Neuroscience, we are organizing a Research Topic titled "Consciousness: from assessment to rehabilitation”, hosted by Marta Olivetti Belardinelli, Giulio Lancioni, Thomas Huenefeldt, Steven Laureys. As host editor, I would like to encourage you to contribute to this topic.
The idea behind a research topic is to create an organized, comprehensive collection of several contributions, as well as a forum for discussion and debate. Contributions can be articles describing original research, methods, hypothesis & theory, opinions, etc.

We have created a homepage on the Frontiers website (section “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience”) where all articles will appear after peer-review and where participants in the topic will be able to hold relevant discussions:

Frontiers will also compile an e-book, as soon as all contributing articles are published, that can be used in classes, be sent to foundations that fund your research, to journalists and press agencies, or to any number of other organizations. Here the topic details:

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Topic TitleConsciousness: from assessment to rehabilitation
Topic Editor (s)Marta Olivetti Belardinelli, Giulio Lancioni, Thomas Huenefeldt, Steven Laureys
Suggested ByMarta Olivetti Belardinelli
Suggested On19 Apr 2013
Topic DescriptionContent reportability has often been considered as the principal access to phenomenal consciousness. However, in severe conditions such as aphasia and persistent vegetative state that preclude conventional reporting strategies, it is not possible to exclude some forms of conscious processing. The question invests both the antecedent problem of the assessment of consciousness and the consequent applicative task of rehabilitation possibilities. Researchers and clinicians are called to provide: 1) unambiguous definitions of consciousness (and of its minimal levels) also in relation to the different neuro-cognitive models; 2) proofs and indicators of phenomenal consciousness, from the neurological, to the behavioural, up to the neuroscience level; 3) modalities and types of stimulation programs to foster learning and responsiveness in the rehabilitation process.
1) Confusion on the definition of consciousness arises from the multiplicity of disciplines interested in this topic, concerning both living and artificial systems, and ranging from Philosophy, Psychology, Neurosciences, up to Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Robotics and Artificial Life. But agreement is lacking also with regard to which answer may be considered as a expression of consciousness, since different answers are connected to different levels of consciousness also in relation to different neurocognitive models. It is also possible that levels of consciousness are not distinct but arranged on a continuum (from vegetative state or minimal consciousness to full consciousness) along which many patients may be slowly moving, while clinicians are often required to categorize them according to a presence/absence dichotomy. Moreover the links among conscious experience and its neural correlates at the different levels of consciousness are not accounted for in current models of brain and behaviour.
2) As regards the second question about proofs and indicators of consciousness, behavioral, electrophysiological and neuroimaging assessment strategies have been developed, mostly based on cognitive accessibility and awareness, which replace the notion of reportability. Awareness is generally viewed as the ability to recognize/revisit a link between events previously experienced. Awareness may also be considered as the ability to acquire new links between events experienced in the context. In the former sense, neurological strategies may be invoked to check signs of these links. In the latter sense, neurological practices may be combined with the monitoring of behavioral signs of learning. The combination of the techniques or even the simple possibility to rely on behavioral signs and learning paradigms would allow new and challenging ways of checking the reliability of the persons’ behaviors as expressions of consciousness.
3) At present, three main behavioral, intervention strategies are available: (a) the use of music, in order to establish human contact, re-enact musical experiences and re-create emotions and related responsiveness; (b) the general sensory stimulation, at the scope of reducing the risk of sensory deprivation while promoting alertness; and (c) the use of learning programs in order to promote the acquisition and consolidation of simple responses and eventually ascertain choice behavior. Extended responding and choice could also be viewed as important rehabilitation objectives. Meanwhile today research is increasingly trying to develop rehabilitation techniques on a neurological basis, taking advantage of progresses in computer science, robotics and neuroscience.
To substantiate the interdisciplinary debate, together with a Cognitive Scientist (Marta Olivetti Belardinelli), a Philosopher (Thomas Huenefeldt), a Psychologist expert in behavioral rehabilitation (Giulio Lancioni) and a Neurologist (Steven Laureys) act as co-editors for this Frontiers Research Topic.
In preparation since03 May 2013
Online since06 May 2013
Submission Deadline31 Jul 2014

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Started by Marta Olivetti Belardinelli. Last reply by J. Ignacio Serrano Jun 24, 2010.

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Comment by Cristian Gurzu on June 29, 2010 at 9:25am
I think the consciousness is a live and continuous flow of thinks and ideas between neocortex and paleocortex (i.e. prefrontal lobe and limbic system) and all of diseases which disrupt this connection make us unconscious.
Comment by Antonio Bandera on June 28, 2010 at 2:00am
Thanks Marta for the invitation
Comment by Marta Olivetti Belardinelli on June 24, 2010 at 9:43am
Thank you to everybody for comments . I will think about all of them and reply in following days. M.O.B.
Comment by Giuseppe Riva on June 24, 2010 at 9:08am
Have you read the famous Crick paper about consciousness?

Crick & Koch (2003) A framework for consciousness, Nature Neuroscience, 6 (2), 119-126:

One of the main ideas is the comparison between the slower conscious mode and the many automatic but faster "zombie" modes that characterizes the activity of our brain.

Interestingly the same difference, using other words, allowed Kahneman to obtain the Nobel prize in economics in 2002:

Here are his words: "In the model that will be presented here, the perceptual system and the intuitive operations of System 1 generate impressions of the attributes of objects of perception and thought. These impressions are not voluntary and need not be verbally explicit. In contrast, judgments are always explicit and intentional, whether or not they are overtly expressed. Thus, System 2 is involved in all judgments, whether they originate in impressions or in deliberate reasoning. The label ‘intuitive’ is applied to judgments that directly reflect impressions."
Comment by Simone Fiacchi on June 24, 2010 at 8:52am
Thanks for the invitation.
Comment by Boris Suchan on June 24, 2010 at 2:49am
Thanks for the invitation Marta!
cheers boris
Comment by Narayanan Srinivasan on June 23, 2010 at 9:05pm
Thanks for the invite.
Comment by Erika Firrincieli on June 23, 2010 at 7:25pm
Thanks for the invitation.
Comment by Dina Di Giacomo on June 23, 2010 at 3:40pm
Thanks for invitation!
Comment by Giuseppe Riva on June 23, 2010 at 11:25am
Very interesting topic. I will participate in the group... Thank you

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