Friday, March 23, 2018

25 Years of Cognitive Neuroscience in Boston



The 25th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society starts off with a big bang on Saturday afternoon with the Big Theory versus Big Data Debate, moderated by David Poeppel.1


Big Theory versus Big Data: What Will Solve the Big Problems in Cognitive Neuroscience?


My non-commital answers are:

(1) Both.

(2) It depends. (on what you want to do: predict behavior2 (or some mental state), explain behavior, control behavior, etc.)

Abstract: All areas of the sciences are excited about the innovative new ways in which data can be acquired and analyzed. In the neurosciences, there exists a veritable orgy of data – but is that what we need? Will the colossal datasets we now enjoy solve the questions we seek to answer, or do we need more ‘big theory’ to provide the necessary intellectual infrastructure? Four leading researchers, with expertise in neurophysiology, neuroimaging, artificial intelligence, language, and computation will debate these big questions, arguing for what steps are most likely to pay off and yield substantive new explanatory insight.


Talk 1: Eve Marder The Important of the Small for Understanding the Big

Talk 2: Jack Gallant Which Presents the Biggest Obstacle to Advances in Cognitive Neuroscience Today: Lack of Theory or Lack of Data?

Talk 3: Alona Fyshe Data Driven Everything

Talk 4: Gary Marcus Neuroscience, Deep Learning, and the Urgent Need for an Enriched Set of Computational Primitives


Levels of analysis! Marr! [Poeppel is the moderator] New new new! Transformative techniques, game-changing paradigms, groundbreaking schools of thought, and multiple theories for myriad neural circuits. There is no single computational system that can possibly explain brain function at all levels of analysis (gasp! not even the Free Energy Prinicple).3

A Q&A or panel discussion would be nice... (although not on the schedule)


This Special Symposium will be preceded by the ever-exciting Data Blitz (a series of 5 minute talks) and followed by a Keynote Address by the Godfather of Cognitive Neuroscience:

Michael Gazzaniga

The Consciousness Instinct

How do neurons turn into minds? How does physical “stuff”—atoms, molecules, chemicals, and cells—create the vivid and various alive worlds inside our heads? This problem has gnawed at us for millennia. In the last century there have been massive breakthroughs that have rewritten the science of the brain, and yet the puzzles faced by the ancient Greeks are still present. In this lecture I review the the history of human thinking about the mind/brain problem, giving a big-picture view of what science has revealed. Understanding how consciousness could emanate from a confederation of independent brain modules working together will help define the future of brain science and artificial intelligence, and close the gap between brain and mind.


Plus there is a jam packed schedule of posters, talks, and prestigious award recipients/presenters on Sunday through Tuesday. Another highlight:

Symposium 3 The Next 25 Years of Cognitive Neuroscience: Opportunities and Challenges (Brad Postle, Chair)4


I belong to the school of slow blogging, so I probably won't have immediate recaps. Follow #CNS2018 and enjoy the conference!



Footnotes

1 The passenger next to me was watching the Big Bang Theory, so yay for repetition priming.

2 At multiple levels of analysis, e.g. from molecular processes to motor output and all in between. Not daunting or anything. Perhaps not even possible...

3 Although Poster A87 suggests otherwise. {I think}

4 Unfortunately, this conflicts with Symposium 1 Memory Modulation via Direct Brain Stimulation in Humans which I really want to attend as well.

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