Currently a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College, David Edelman has conducted research in a wide range of areas, including mechanisms of transcriptional gene regulation, the relationship between mitochondrial transport and brain activity, and visual perception in the octopus, among others. Edelman’s exploration of the neural basis of consciousness has reinforced his view that this most complex of brain faculties has an ancient evolutionary history rooted in the rise of distance vision.
Before his current research appointment at Dartmouth, Edelman held teaching appointments at the University of California, San Diego (2015-2017), University of San Diego (2015), was a professor of neuroscience at Bennington College (2012-2014), an Associate Fellow in Experimental Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego (2008-2012) and an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at The ScrippsResearch Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla (2011-2012). Edelman received his B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Swarthmore College (1983) and his Ph.D. in paleoanthropology from the University of Pennsylvania (1997). He completed his postdoctoral training in molecular and cellular biology in 2001 (TSRI) and neuroscience in 2006 (NSI). He has published in the journals PLoS One, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Trends in Neurosciences, Consciousness and Cognition, and Physics of Life Reviews, among others.
Bernard J. Baars was a former Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Neurobiology at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. He is interested in human language, the brain basis of consciousness, volition, and a variety of related topics. Baars pioneered a cognitive theory of consciousness called Global Workspace Theory, which is widely cited in philosophy and science. Together with William P. Banks, Baars has edited the journal Consciousness & Cognition for more than fifteen years.
Author of many acclaimed books, including The Cognitive Revolution in Psychology (Guilford); A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness (Cambridge); In the Theater of Consciousness (OUP); On Consciousness: Science & Subjectivity (Nautilus Press); as well as introductory textbooks with Dr. Nicole M. Gage for cognitive neuroscience, Cognition, Brain & Consciousness: An Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (Editions 1 & 2); Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner's Guide (Editions 1 & 2). Baars was founding President of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. baarsbj @gmail.com.
Creator of The Feeling Brain VisualCME series, Natalie founded MedNeuro (medneurocme.com) to advance medical education and evolve systems of great influence by promoting better communication between highly specialized fields in science, medicine, the arts and humanities. Her decades of education design for public and private school systems, literary institutions, and the general public continue to help professionals and students thrive. Productions and appearances have been viewed worldwide in major magazines and global networks.
Natalie co-founded the Society for MindBrain Sciences, is associate editor for the new Frontiers journal Frontier in Blockchain: Blockchain for Good (frontiersin .org/research-topics/9486/inclusive-stakeholding-reimagining-incentives-to-promote-the-greater-good?), and author of Sensual Intelligence: An Introduction to Your Body’s Language. With Dr. Bernard Baars, she is editor of his latest book, On Consciousness: Science & Subjectivity, and co-author of an upcoming book for Oxford University Press about breakthroughs in consciousness science and the global work space dynamics of the brain.
Liver Pathologist, Anatomist, Adult Stem Cell Researcher
New York University School of Medicine
Neil Theise, MD is a diagnostic liver pathologist, anatomist, adult stem cell researcher, and complexity theorist in New York City, where he is Professor of Pathology at New York University School of Medicine.
Dr. Theise's most recently led the team of researchers who recently redefined the anatomy of the human interstitium indicating that it should be considered a "new" organ. This research was the 8th most reported scientific finding of 2018 in the popular media and is felt to have broad implications for cancer, inflammation, fluid and mechanical function of the every other organ. It may also serve as a conceptual bridge between diverse practices of healing such as allopathic and osteopathic medicine, acupuncture and and other sino-tibetan modalities, and ayurvedic practice.
His earlier research revised understandings of human liver microanatomy, which, in turn, led directly to identification of possible liver stem cell niches and the marrow-to-liver regeneration pathway. He is considered a pioneer of multi-organ adult stem cell plasticity and has published on that topic in Science, Nature, and Cell.
Stirring complexity theory into this mix, he has extended his work to areas of theoretical biology and more fundamental questions regarding the underlying structure of the universe. In terms of biology, these ideas suggest that alternate models of the body, other than classical ('Western') cell doctrine, may be necessary to understand non-Western approaches to the body and health.
Moreover, he models the universe as a holarchy of self-organizing complex systems from the quantum vacuum on up through all levels of scale: a view that points to consciousness as the fundamental ground of being of existence and a idealist/panpsychist perspective.
His work with physicist Menas Kafatos points to three fundamental principles underlying the self-organizing universe: complementarity, sentience (or 'creative interactivity'), and recursion, evident in different forms at every level of scale. These features map directly to insights regarding the nature of reality from contemplative practices and philosophical inquiry from diverse cultures and spiritual perspectives.
Dr. Theise is also a senior student of Zen Buddhism at the Village Zendo, New York City, under the guidance of Roshi Enkyo O’hara.
How do biological systems confront, survive, and propagate in an ever-changing world?
This is the central question that defined Charles Darwin’s scientific journey. 160 years after On the Origin of Species, Natural Selection provides a framework for understanding adaptation at many different scales of biological organization, from protein translation (e.g., ribosomes acting as mRNA message ‘filters’ which determine final protein products), to the immune response (i.e., ‘recognition’ of foreign agents or pathogens by antibodies), to organismal development (e.g., morphogenesis; embryogenesis, etc.), to the origin of species and dynamics of vast ecologies (e.g., rainforest canopies, grasslands, island biogeography, etc.).
At nearly every observable scale, biological systems are shaped by processes analogous to those guiding the character of species over the course of evolution. In any given biological system, certain elements (i.e., cells, cell populations, organisms) of the vast heterogeneous repertoire which constitutes that system are favored over others by environmental circumstances. Elements selected are then propagated over time (through either differential reproduction or amplification) while others disappear or fall silent, and the character of the entire system is shaped accordingly.
Here, we argue that the very same selectionist principles that shape complex adaptive systems as diverse as the immune response, speciation, and rain forest ecology can be extended to the generation and function of complex nervous systems. More than forty years ago, the Theory of Neuronal Group Selection (TNGS), or Neural Darwinism, was proposed by the neuroscientist Gerald Edelman to account for the development and function of the human brain.
TNGS holds that the functional circuitry of the brain is determined by selective forces operating during development and throughout the life of an organism.
First, genetically specified populations of neurons and their synaptic connections are generated during embryogenesis. The cellular events which comprise the functional milieu of the developing organism (e.g., division, differentiation, movement, death) act on these populations, favoring some synaptic connections while pruning others. This gives rise to a ‘primary repertoire’ of synaptic connections (e.g., neuronal groups) which is then shaped by salient external stimuli over a lifetime. The synaptic connections that respond most robustly to salient stimuli encountered during experience are selectively strengthened, while those that don’t are weakened. The resultant ‘secondary repertoire’ constitutes the familiar functional circuitry that characterizes different regions of the adult brain, particularly cerebral cortex.
Finally, richly interconnected groups of neurons in different parts of the brain that are temporally correlated during experience within the same narrow temporal window eventually become causally linked to one another. Such dynamic reentrant neural mappings within cortex and between cortex and thalamus are the basis of bound, unitary percepts, i.e., conscious states.
TNGS provides a biological framework for understanding higher brain function and consciousness. It explains these processes at different levels of organization, from molecular to cortical and behavioral. Here, we unpack TNGS and make the case that this theory lays out tractable biological ‘first principles’ for building a brain that learns, remembers, and experiences.
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