Symbolic Systems Distinguished Speaker Event: Michael S. Gazzaniga, Dartmouth College, "Distributed Systems and Conscious Unity"

Sponsored by Symbolic Systems Program


Monday, May 23, 2005
5:00 pm –
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Kresge Auditorium (Law School)

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Event Details:

"Distributed Systems and Conscious Unity"


Split-brain studies have revealed the complex mosaic of mental processes

that participate in human cognition. And yet, even though each cerebral

hemisphere has its own set of capacities, with the left hemisphere

specialized for language and speech and major problem-solving capacities

and the right hemisphere specialized for tasks such as facial recognition

and attentional monitoring, we all have the subjective experience of

feeling totally integrated. Indeed, even though many of these functions

have an automatic quality to them and are carried out by the brain prior to

our conscious awareness of them, our subjective belief and feeling is that

we are in charge of our actions. These phenomena appear related to our left

hemisphere's interpreter, a device that allows us to construct theories

about the relations between perceived events, actions and feelings.


Michael Gazzaniga is the David T. McLaughlin Distinguished University

Professor at Dartmouth, where he is also Director of the Center for

Cognitive Neuroscience. In 1964 he received a Ph.D in Psychobiology from

the California Institute of Technology, where he worked under the guidance

of Roger Sperry, with primary responsibility for initiating human

split-brain research. In his subsequent work he has made important advances

in our understanding of functional lateralization in the brain and how the

cerebral hemispheres communicate with one another.

Dr. Gazzaniga's long and distinguished publication career includes

many books accessible to a lay audience, such as The Social Brain, Mind

Matters, and Nature's Mind. Works such as these, along with his

participation in the public television specials The Brain and The Mind,

have been instrumental in making information about brain function generally

accessible to the public. He recently published The Cognitive Neurosciences

III, from MIT Press, which features the work of nearly 200 scientists in 94

chapters and is recognized as the sourcebook for the field. His book The

Ethical Brain will be published by the Dana Press in June of 2005. Dr.

Gazzaniga is well known for his teaching and mentoring, including beginning

and developing Centers for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of

California-Davis and at Dartmouth; supervising the work and encouraging the

careers of many young scientists; and founding the Neuroscience Institute

and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of which he is the

Editor-in-Chief Emeritus.

He is much sought-after as a lively and informative speaker, and has

spoken at such distinguished venues as the Royal Institution of Great

Britain, where he presented the historic Friday Night Lecture inaugurated

by Michael Faraday. Dr. Gazzaniga is also prominent as an advisor to

various institutes involved in brain research, and is a member of the

President's Council on Bioethics.

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