CORTEX conference by Y. Frégnac and E. Macaluso
Friday, December 15, 2017 - 10:30am

The next CORTEX conference will be composed of two talks from speakers invited by Henry Kennedy:

10.30am - The role of fronto-parietal regions during overt orienting in complex and dynamic conditions - By Emiliano Macaluso (ImpAct team)

Fronto-parietal regions are traditionally associated with the control of visuo-spatial attention. Extensive investigation showed that both stimulus- and task-related factors can modulate the activity of these areas. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the previous studies made use of stereotyped paradigms (e.g. using repeated presentations of simple geometrical shapes) that emphasise aspects of attention control that may be specific to such artificial situations, while missing other types of signals that are relevant for orienting in natural, everyday-life situations. Here I will present a series of studies where we investigated the role of (external) stimulus-related and (internal) knowledge-related signals for overt spatial orienting in complex and dynamic situations. We employed short video-clips depicting natural scenes and virtual environments involving active exploratory behavior. We characterized the sensory input associated with these complex stimuli by computing saliency maps ("external" signals) and by categorizing distinctive objects/events as a function of their "internal" relevance (task, semantics, memory). Using functional neuroimaging we asked how these different types of signals affect the activity of fronto-parietal areas. We sought to further corroborate our findings by examining orienting behavior in neglect patients with lesioned ventral regions. Overall our results link the processing of "internal" knowledge-related signals with ventral fronto-parietal areas, while dorsal regions appear to engage primarily when "external" sensory signals guide spatial orienting. Albeit still in its early days, experimentation with complex and dynamic material provides us with a tool to bridge the gap between results obtained in the laboratory and the understanding of brain functions - and dysfunctions - in real world conditions.

11.30 am - Industrialisation of neuroscience and artificial intelligence: from brain modeling to the myth of transhumanism - By Yves Frégnac (UNIC)

New technologies in neuroscience generate reams of data at an exponentially increasing rate, spurring the design of very-large-scale data-mining initiatives. Several supranational ventures are contemplating the possibility of achieving, within the next decade(s), full digital simulation of the human brain. This "opinion" review questions the scientific and strategic underpinnings of the runaway enthusiasm for Big Data and industrial-scale projects at the interface between “wet” (biology) and “hard” (physics, microelectronics and computer science).

I will focus on four major issues:
(i) Are Big data produced by the industrialization of neuroscience and New algorithms in artificial intelligence the soundest way to achieve substantial progress in understanding the brain?
(ii) Do we have a safe “roadmap” to build a Mega-Science of the Mind based on a scientific consensus? (iii) Irrespectively of technological feasibility, what could be the main conceptual bottlenecks ? (iv) Do these large-scale approaches announce a new trend in scientific conduct, fueled by economics of promises and promoting futurist mythology (theory of singularity and transhumanism)

ISC Amphi on December 15th from 10.30am, please register for the conference and the lunch buffet by sunday 10th december.