Chief Scientific Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle
BREAKING THE WALL TO UNDERSTANDING CONSCIOUSNESS. How Neuroscience Explains The Rise of Experience from the Brain
Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute, is a neuroscientist specialising in determining how consciousness is linked to specific activity in the brain. He believes that consciousness can be entirely explained scientifically, and is active in discovering the objective brain mechanisms – what he calls the neural correlates of consciousness—that underlie subjective human experiences. This new research offers with it the possibility of moving the study of the mind beyond philosophical conceptions and into the realm of concrete physical data.
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, which integrates 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 Big Science 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.