Archive for the ‘Week7_ Memory+Consciousness’ Category

Week7_Memory+Consciousness_Crystal Lin

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Memory and Consciousness are interesting topics, especially in animals. Actually, I think its interesting the think about in any other living organism other than yourself, because one can never REALLY know the mind of another.

The concept of colorblindness used to really confuse me. I used to think, what if someone just grew up being told that this color placed in front of them is called red, and this other color placed in front of them is called green. How would we know that one person’s perception of red is the same as another persons? We don’t really know, because we can’t experience the mind of another. But then, wouldn’t it be cool if we all saw the world in a completely different way, but we would never know it? I used to imagine having a super power of being able to “walk in someone else’s shoes,” but in every sense of the phrase. When I stepped into their shoes, I would think like them, act like them, feel like them, everything. But I would still be able to retain my own train of thought so I could make a comparison between their mind and my mind. How insanely cool would that be if that were possible?! I would be able to know and feel what it’s like to be truly artistic, or innately athletic. I would know what it feels like to walk with a straight spine, be 5 feet tall, or 7 feet tall. I could see if we really saw colors in the same shades, if we really felt the impact of our surroundings in the same degree, if we really thought in the same manner and feared the same fears. The thing is though, we will never really know. So when it all comes down to it, we in a sense don’t really KNOW, we just have too much in favor of it, and not enough, or absolutely nothing against it.

One of the topics brought up during discussion that I thought was really cool was the video of the elephant painting a picture of an elephant. Its cool to watch the elephant perform such a humanistic act, but I believe it was merely an unconscious, or trained behavior. If you guide the elephant in to painting that exact picture over and over again, he will eventually be able to do it on his own. It makes for a cool one-time video, but if you give the elephant a new piece of paper, I bet he could only draw the same exact elephant again. Then the elephant isn’t thinking on its own and being creative, it is simply responding to a task.

I think to truly be conscious of what it is doing, it should be able to draw something else other than this specific picture. As discussed in discussion however, this also all depends on your definition of consciousness.

We can have unconscious behaviors, like sneezing, but in the same sense, we are conscious of the fact that we made an unconscious act. In another view of the topic, if we are completely unconscious of ourselves, we wouldn’t be able to consciously report about our unconsciousness. This reminds me of the Terry Schiavo case. She was diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state, but her parents believed she was still conscious. Her husband wanted to remove her life support because he believed she didn’t want to stay on it for so long, but her parents took him to court, saying that she still wanted to be on life support, and was still conscious. After over 7 years of legal issues, her husband won the battle, and her life support was removed. In the autopsy, her cause of death was undetermined, but it was evident that Schiavo’s brain weighed less than half of what it was supposed to, due to severe loss of brain tissue.

I think consciousness is an interesting topic to discuss and study, but is amongst the list of things we can never REALLY understand.

week7- consciousness-wei han ouyang

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

What is time represented in the brain. Why does that one-second seem so long when you feel the earthquake? Sometimes when you play sports, you feel like hitting that volley took you the longest time ever when it was less than a second? Can our brains be trained to slow down time? I think we can. What is time represented in the brain? To me, I say time does not represented in the brain. The brain will slow down the time that we are experiencing when we are in danger, when the reflexes in our body need help. Can human be trained to dodge bullets? Can reflects be trained to the level that we are faster than speed of sound?
knife fight
In this last clip was a professional training of knife fighting. Even though it was slowed down, the participant will learn the techniques first, and will improve his reflex in combat as the instructor move on to faster pace. In a sense, yes, our brain could be trained to be faster, but on the other and, the brain is trained to know what to react to certain movements. It’s like playing an instrument, as one learn to play music, he or she will practice from slow to fast. Get the brain to know the keys, and then fasten the tempo to train the brain, then after that stage, the brain will slow the normal pace down so the participant will hear and perfect the keys that he or she is playing. I do not believe though, that someone can master the skills of jumping and start flying.

On the other hand, what is consciousness? It defines us; it makes us realize who we really are. But a good question is does one remain his or her consciousness if he or she is drugged? In another words, are we still we when we are under some kind of influence? In one of my favorite youtube videos, a kid was drugged from his dentist appointment and the after effect and his reaction to it was hilarious.
after dentist
As someone would say, David was freaking out because he was “high.” And one can see that he is not really acting like normal 7 years olds would normally act. A good question would be does he still have consciousness. I think he still remain his consciousness because he was asking questions and pointing things out. He probably just felt out of it. It is interesting to look at this kind of reactions because when I was young I had the same experience. After dentist appointments I would always feel that the car ride is very fast when mom was only driving 20 miles per hour. I would get really anxious and told her to slow down and stop so we can get some food so I have some other things to focus on. When one remains his or her consciousness, I’d say that he or she questions him or herself weather the reality is true. And when one is under some influence, he or she will ask even more about the truth of this world.

Josh bohbot sec B- Alzheimer’s rat

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Biotech is now helping to understand disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The robot we saw in class that was controlled by rat brain cells was used to observe how disrupting the neurons in the robots rat brain what it remembered. The creators of the robot taught it, through the brain cells, to recognize its surroundings. Once it knows how to this the brain tissue will damage to simulate brain disease and memory loss. Looking at simple small tissue can definitely enlighten on how our brains handle memory and memory loss. I’ve seen how disease like Alzheimer can affect people, my grandfather would many times think to be somewhere else or misrecognize people he knew. If this artificial brain reacts in similar it can broaden our understanding of the disease.

Week 7_Conscious and Memory_Wenjing WU

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Maze-Solving Ameoboid Organism

Maze-Solving Ameoboid Organism

Sorry for being this late to post the blog. I found the issue on cognitive science very intriguing in arousing a deeper sense of morality in human nature. As a science student, I understand the principle of consciousness and memory as a series of electrical signals and chemical intereactions among the neurons located in our cerebral cortex. However, in the lecture on Tuesday, I learned about the history of cognitive science and the various views and thoughts from not only scientists but also philosophers. In the section discussion after that and the lecture given by Dr. Ramakrishnan, animals’ consciousness were introduced and described to reexamine human complacency about being the unique intelligent creature on earth. Dr. Ramakrishnan’s talk on octopus consciousness was extremely interesting and also connected me to another question: What about consciousness of plants and microorganisms? Of course they also respond to their changing environment. But can those responses be called consciousness or intelligence? How should we view them while we begin to view non-human animals as intelligent enough to be admired? This again, reminded us of the notion of Gaia system introduced in the former week. Some Japan artists had already been pondering over the relationship between human and mother nature by producing the animation “Mushi-shi”, which presents a form of ancient yet intelligent creature dwelling in unseen shadows. This is an amazing animation that exerted deep influence on my view towards the nature and the living beings aound me. I start to appreciate all creatures more even though I still have to be a predator in order to be alive. Actually, in the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize winners, six scientists shared the Prize of Cognitive Science for their discovery of “Maze-solving Slime Molds”in year 2000. They inferred this achievement to the clue of developing organic robots.mushishi_volume_1

 Another inspiration to me from the week 7 lectures is the searching for connection between subconciousness and art. Yes, we talked about what it is like to be conscious. Then how about when we lose control of our own consciousness? I found a remarkable talk from neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, who got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. I was particularly attacted by the part of the description of what happened on the morning of her stroke, the weird yet vivid scene of one’s consciousness being extracted away from one’s physical existence. Though Jill narrated her story in a very humorous and relaxed manner, her strengh of being able to recover from the brain damage shocked every one. Fortunately most of us don’t need to  go through a stroke to observe our own subconscious mind.

haystack by Sarah Austin

haystack by Sarah Austin

From Jonah Lehrer’s talk on his new book “How we choose”, which was provided by Prof. Vesna, I learned that my brain actually knows more than I know. If I totally trust my brain to conduct art activity,  what kind of art form will be created under a subconscious or unconscious state without artist’s intention? The website of artist Sarah Austin displays art pieces from her subconscious mind and I found them amazingly beautiful, especially the photographs.


Another example is the Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, which at the same time proved Auguste Rodin’s saying of “It is not a lack of beauty of life. It is our lack of discovery”.


Week 7: Conciousness by Dennis Yeh

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

This week’s lecture included several videos I thought were fascinating, such as how bees would work together as a collective in order to take down intruding wasps.  When I saw this video, I couldn’t help but wonder how such creatures were able to teach and execute a complex plan.  As humans, we communicate and learn through vision and hearing.  Bees communicate through their dance.  But are bees inbred with this dance knowledge, or is it taught to them?  If the dance is taught, could bees potentially learn or dance patterns or skills?  The discussion on animal conciousness constantly reminded me of a book I used to read in elementary school: The Animorphs.  In this book series, a group of teenagers have the ability to morph into animals that they have touched, and when they first morph into another animal, the animal’s mind tries to take over, and they must learn to tame it.

In addition to animal consciousness, another topic that was brought up was the idea of machine consciousness, an idea which is played upon constantly in Hollywood, with movies such as The Matrix, Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, AI, Wall-E, etc.

But what about examples of machine consciousness in real life?  Our technology has advanced considerably in the last century, resulting in the complete transformation of the world.  Inventions such as the internet, which was non-existent 20 years ago, are propelling the fields of science and engineering every day.  Eventually, our science fiction may one day be a reality.  Advances in nanotechnology, robotics, biotech, etc. may one day make machines that learn, think, and interact.

Three graduate students create a robot that learns hand movements:

A snake-like robot that can climb buildings and inspect parts of the building that would be be dangerous for a human to be. -

Spanish researchers make predictions on the future with regards to robots and their impact on society. -

Before we can judge how others such as machines or animals are conscious, it is helpful to first determine how humans are conscious.  In the Psych 10 class I took last year, we learned one theory about consciousness: Freud’s structural model of consciousness and personality: the ego, id, and super-ego.

The id is every person’s “pleasure principle.”  In other words, the id is the part of our mind that tells us what we want, and it is focused on achieving instant gratification regardless of whether it would be “good,” “bad,” or appropriate to do so.  On the totally opposite end of the scale, we have our super-ego, which aims to achieve perfection, and constantly strives to achieve our goals, ideals, morals, and spiritual beliefs, and our conscience.  The super-ego and id are constantly in a battle between behaviors that are pleasurable and behaviors that are moral.  In the middle, the ego is what mediates between the super-ego and the id, and it tries to satisfy both the needs of the super-ego and the id.  If we think about all of our behaviors and actions in this way, we can see that the super-ego and the id constantly influence our behavior, such as when we decide to go to class instead of sleeping in, or finishing homework instead of hanging out with friends or going to the beach.

Therefore, in order for animals or machines to be “conscious,” they must possess the capacity to learn, think, and interact intelligently with its surroundings.  Machines that are programmed to run a simple script cannot be considered conscious, because they are not capable of independent thought.  However, if a robot such as the Terminator is programmed to scan its surroundings and process the information in order to determine its behavior, then it can be considered conscious.  Many of the examples shown in class, such as the squirrel / giant squid obstacle courses, demonstrate how animals have the capacity to learn and adapt to its surroundings, it is unfortunate that more examples regarding current work being done with artificial intelligence in machines was not presented.

-Dennis Yeh

week 7- matt kramer

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

This week’s focus on consciousness was extremely interesting.  It definitely made me think a lot about the subject from a ton of different angles.  First off, it is very difficult to conceptualize what consciousness exactly is.  In my opinion it is having an active mind; emotionally, imaginatively, and critically.  But since there is a debate over whether animals are conscious like humans, it makes it even harder to describe the different facets of consciousness.  I think animals are without a doubt conscious creatures, but still not in the same way we humans are.  I do not think animals are as aware of their environment as much as humans are.  At least in the sense that they are unable to communicate with humans in their surroundings so they often have no clue about their intentions.  Animals are surely smart, but also helpless.  Siddharth Ramikrishnan’s lecture made me think a lot about how animals are conscious and also frequently abused, hunted, and killed by humans.  It is very sad to think that an animal knows what is happening to them when they are being slaughtered and whatnot, and they definitely do.

Nonetheless, it is a very hard debate to have on whether animals should be killed since they can surely feel pain.  On one hand animal rights activists argue that we should treat animals fairly, not causing them to suffer.  And on the other hand the very valid argument of “survival of the fittest” people state that we need to continue to kill animals because of their nutritional importance.  Animals are indeed lower on the food chain than humans are, and we need them for food, but there still should be more humane steps to preparing and killing animals because they are conscious too.  We need to realize that the pain we cause in animals is equal to the pain we can cause in humans.

All animals, not just pets, have extreme significance in the lives of their human co-habitants.  This week made me think about animal consciousness in a way I never had before, and judging my a lot of my classmates’ blogs, they too agree that we should begin to treat animals with more regard for their feelings and emotions.  I have even begun to start thinking on whether it’s morally right to have pets.  I think humans definitely make their pets happy and vice versa, but there seems to be something wrong in domesticating animals and confining them to our small homes and so on.  I need to continue to develop these thoughts further because it is a very complicated issue.  I definitely would not want to let go of my dog just yet and I hope he would not want to leave either.

 -matt kramer

Week 7 Consciousness_ PIero Vallarino Gancia

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009



The other day while walking to my class in the math sciences building I witnessed one of the most incredible things in my life.

As I was going up Bruin Walk, I spot this squirrel walking by my side. If you have ever been up before 7 o’clock on campus, you may have noticed the large quantity of blackbirds and squirrels roaming around.

The squirrel followed me for quite some time when it stopped right next to the radio desk. Clearly it was looking for food, it would not take its eyes off of the bin where a blackbird was eating.

I stopped to observe its attitude and see what it would do.

Believe me, what happens next would seem as unlikely to you as it did to me.

Positioned behind one of the legs of the desk, the squirrel gave me a glance and immediately looked back at the bin. It repeated this for a few times before it started walking towards me.

It froze and went back behind the desk where it stared again at the bin.

I knew what it wanted. I started walking towards the bin to scare the blackbird off. As soon as it flew away, the squirrel went into the bin and got his food.

As it spawned out of the bin with a piece of bread in its hands it gazed back at me and went up a tree.


Animals certainly have a consciousness. This squirrel knew it could count on a human being for doing something it would not have been able to. This demonstrates a very high degree of consciousness and memory. The animal has taught itself that it can rely on things outside its own power to be able to solve some of the challenges in its life.


The most astounding aspect of this event, was that the squirrel knew it could rely on me, a creature with its own free will to help it. The squirrel knew it could influence my actions by doing what it did; it lured me into assisting it.


Surely, it must have been through a similar situation before. However, the fact that it knew how to explore the variables of its environment proves a very high degree of consciousness and memory, since situations like these are not embedded into the animal’s instincts.


Another good example of animal consciousness commented on by Siddharth Ramakrishnan is the elephant that looked at itself on the mirror and touched a fleck it had on its face. The animal was completely aware there was a flaw on its face and that it should not be like that. It is unlikely that we discover if the animal was trying to take the thing off because it thought it posed a problem for its health or because it had a sense of image and did not want to look bad. What we can conclude though, is that it knew that mark was not supposed to be there. This shows it had a good enough memory to remember its face without the mark, and that it knew how to use a mirror, something not every animal would find self-intuitive.



Animal Cognition by Brandon Aust

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I found the lecture given on Thursday to be very thought provoking. I’m sure that we have all wondered how animals think and what they are fully aware of. Those of us with pets surely do. I, myself, have an African grey parrot, and I know it is said to have the cognitive mind of a six year old and that it can say a large amount of phrases, but sometimes I wonder which phrases the bird actually gives a meaning to. I believe that it gives some sort of meaning to certain phrases. For instance, my bird has always eaten dinner with my family at the dinner table and it always gets excited when it smells food and starts saying, “Dinner! Dinner!” I find it very intriguing that the bird is capable of having a high sense of smell to be aware that food is cooking, and then connect the word dinner with this realization. Irene Pepperberg, a scientist who researches in the field of animal cognition, believes that African greys are indeed capable of somewhat understanding the meaning behind human words. Although, this may be disputed by some, it is indeed very interesting. I don’t know whether or not they do understand the exact meaning behind these words, but they can at least have some sort of association with the words. So with the example given above, the bird may not know that dinner is when we eat food together as a family at night, but it may be aware that when we say dinner it means it will be getting food. Here is a video of an African grey on a television show. The bird is very intelligent and entertaining since it can respond to a wide variety of words so quickly. Hopefully, with further research we will be more capable of understanding if the bird knows the actual meaning behind these words, or if it is just intelligent enough to be trained to give a reaction.


I also found the topic of octopus cognition interesting in class because I have personal experience with understanding the intelligence of an octopus. I used to volunteer at a site called the Sea Lab in my home town. The site was created because the power plant in my town used the ocean water in order to cool its systems, and when they realized sea life was being sucked in by the machines they used in the cooling, they built the center in order to help injured animals and to inform the community about various forms of sea life. The site had an octopus, and when cleaning the tank, I had to be very careful about how I placed the objects located it the tank because the octopus could potentially use these objects as a way of escaping. I also viewed its movement, and the way in which it changed its color to its surroundings. The way in which it even looked at me reminded me of a wise old man. I think it was a sort of eye opening experience for me. As human beings, it is very easy to get caught up in ourselves as a species and not recognize the world around us. And at the times we do take a look around us it is just to get a feel of the beauty of nature, but I think it Is very rare that we really think about the intelligence of the nature around us. Since we are so advanced in our technologies and the way in which we live, it is sometimes hard to notice the grand intelligence and efficiency that other life forms have and the way in which they use these gifts in their journey of survival.

-Brandon Aust

Lucid Dreaming…and so can you! Nicole Carnarius

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


This week we had a very interesting lecture about consciousness and the consciousness of animals. I have a fascination with dreams, and so I wanted to research why it is so hard to remember your dreams. Not much came up. Basically the best ways to remember your dreams are if you are aroused during your dream, if you wake up during your dream or shortly after, or if you practice a technique to build your awareness of dreams. The method for building awareness of dreams is known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is the art of being awake while you dream. It was first developed in Tibet when monks, already mastering awareness of two consciousnesses, one of normal living and the other of deep meditation, began investigating other realms of consciousness. Through will power, these monks would awaken in their dreams, where they would have limitless potential. They usually would meditate in their dreams once they reached lucidity so they could achieve enlightenment even faster. There are certain methods of meditation and concentration that they would perform just before sleep that can be found in the book Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep.  However, in order to lucid dream, it is not necessary to perform these methods. Most people have already become lucid in their dreams by accident, and it is usually remembered as a very pleasurable experience. When you are lucid, you have the ability to control what happens in your dreams. People who have really mastered the techniques can fly, make flowers grow, may things multiply, basically do anything they want. You can also interact with dream characters, and they will interact back with you. This puts into question what the identity of these dream characters is. It is commonly believed that dreams are based on the memories of what happened during they day coming into contact with the memories of the rest of your life. The whole expanse of your subconscious and memory is open to you when you lucid dream. There are dream communities online who report meeting dream character who have taught new techniques for lucid dream. Members of these dream communities also participate in “group dreaming.”

There are some tips for lucid dreaming that anyone can use. First it is a good idea to keep a dream journal to help your grasp on the memory your dreams. Next, try to develop a consistent sleep schedule, which will allow you to have more dreams at night. Before going to bed each night, say affirmations to yourself such as, “Tonight I go to sleep with the purpose of dreaming. I will realize that I am asleep, and I will become lucid.” Repeat this ten times. Next you have to learn to recognize hypnogagia. Hypnogagia is the jumble of random images, sounds, and physical sensations that you experience as you are first falling asleep. This mixture of sensory projections is meant to send your conscious mind into a trance. People normally experience this every night when they go to sleep and seemingly the next moment wake up. If you are able to stay conscious during the period of hypnogagia (saying your name and full address was recommended), you can easily stay lucid as you transition into actual dreaming. If you do not stay conscious than your only option is to recognize you are dreaming. Try asking yourself, “Is this a dream?” Ask yourself this even when you are awake in normal life or in a lucid dream. Finally relax and stay open to the experience. Let go of your physical body and trust that it will go on breathing and taking care of itself.


A method that my friend, Bobby Wickersham, felt was very successful was to stay up very late until the body is desperate for sleep. Drink coffee during the night so the mind is active even though the body is exhausted. Lay in bed in a position where you won’t want to move for a very long time. You might not feel tired, but lie in bed without moving, focusing on lucid dreaming. Say the affirmations in your head and focus on the black space in front of your eyes. You should start to see the hypnogagic images. As they get more intense stay detached from them. Focus on seeing in the blackness. In the dream, remind yourself that you are lucid. Flick a light switch on and off or open and close a door. Stay lucid as long as you can. Keep reminding yourself you are in a dream. Go out, meet dream characters. You can do what ever you want in your dreams! 

Week 6- Memory + Consciousness by Morgan Oberstein

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Thursday’s lecture was very interesting and thought provoking. His slides were very visually pleasing, and the way he presented his ideas kept me very entertained and interested to hear more. Like all of the lectures and ideas presented in this class, it really opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and made me second guess the way in which I was thinking in the first place. Siddharth Ramakrishnan lectured about the idea of consciousness. When I think of the word “consciousness”, I automatically associate it with human beings and our ability to make conscious decisions and be conscious of things that are happening around us. Before this lecture I did not know the extent and complexity of human consciousness. Ramakrishnan’s lecture however, convinced me that consciousness is not just something that human’s have, but animals as well.


Although we are both mammals and have minor similarities, I think of animals as obviously being very different from human beings. However, these thoughts were somewhat altered as I walked out of class last Thursday. Through his lecture, Ramakrishnan showed us examples of animal consciousness, including bees and octopus, chimpanzees and elephants. I found his example of an octopus to be the most interesting.   

An octopus has thousands of tiny pores called cephalopods which enable it to change color and camouflage with its surroundings. An octopus uses its conscious as a process of survival and self protection. It must aware and conscious of its surroundings in order to sense or acknowledge any predators. If or when it does, the octopus becomes conscious that it is in danger and rather than just running away or fleeing, as a human would do, it consciously changes color to blend in with its surroundings. However, the octopus does not just automatically change colors to match its surroundings perfectly, it must be consciously aware of the surrounding and change to the color that will most blend in with the surrounding environment.


            The way in which animals use their conscious varies from animal to animal. For example, when a bee becomes consciously aware that it is in danger, it doesn’t have the ability to change colors to blend in with its environment. Instead, it makes a conscious decision to sting its predators, using its stinger as a defense mechanism. It was very interesting to learn about the conscious decisions that animals make every day. When I think of a bee stinging someone, I think of it as a simple, quick process. Although the process is quick, it isn’t as simple as some may think because the bee is in fact making a conscious effort to protect itself. I think that it is very common for human beings to doubt other species because we feel that we are consciously and intelligently superior, but we do not give other species such as animals close to enough credit as they deserve for the intelligence and consciousness they posses.



By Morgan Oberstein