Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness

September 11, 2008

Over the past decade, an increasing number of physicians and neuroscientists have sought to uncover the complex relationship between mind, brain, and consciousness as they continue to search for a more comprehensive perspective on the “self” and the workings of the human mind. Though much remains to be done, their findings to date have shed a more holistic light on our understanding of the elusive mind-body problem. Join our panel of renowned experts as they explain how new paradigms fueled by the latest scientific research are beginning to fundamentally alter how we perceive and relate to the physical world.The symposium will also serve as the occasion for the formal launch of The Human Consciousness Project—a multidisciplinary collaboration of international scientists and physicians who have joined forces to research the nature of consciousness and its relationship with the brain. Led by Dr. Sam Parnia, The Human Consciousness Project will conduct the world’s first large-scale multicenter studies at major U.S. and European medical centers on the relationship between mind and brain during clinical death. The results of these studies may not only revolutionize the medical care of critically ill patients and the scientific study of the mind and brain, but may also bear profound universal implications for our understanding of death and what happens when we die.

As human beings, we are inherently driven by the quest to understand and attribute meaning to our existence, our environment, and the events that shape and influence our lives. The rise of every great civilization throughout history and the thread of discovery and progress that runs through each is perhaps the greatest testament to this unquenchable desire for meaning and purpose.

Prior to the age of reason, mysticism and revelation served as the primary source of knowledge and wisdom in the western world. With the advent of the Enlightenment, however, a schism would emerge between the comprehension of physical realities through religious thinking and the drive to understand the material universe through empirical reasoning. Though the tension between these contrasting approaches has taken on many different forms since then, it has essentially continued to this day.

One of the barriers to reconciling these dichotomous positions has been the relative lack of reliable scientific data to explain the nature of the “self” and the phenomenon of consciousness. Where, for instance, does the “self” originate? Does our consciousness have an objective reality, or is it purely an epiphenomenon of our neurobiological processes? And is it indeed plausible to speak of an atemporal, nonlocalized mind that exists independently of the physical body?

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    • Details

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