Information Integration Theory of Consciousness

Information Integration Theory of Consciousness

According to this theory, consciousness corresponds to the capacity of a system to integrate information [1]. There are two main concepts which are central to this theory: differentiation and integration.

Indeed, in this context consciousness is characterized as a balance between differentiation and integration. Differentiation refers to the availability of a huge repertoire of possible conscious experiences. Each particular experience is differentiated (or discriminated) from the others.  Integration refers to the unity of each of these experiences, i.e. conscious contents are experienced as a unity, even though they might be composed by many dimensions.

Tononi introduced the Φ value as a measure of the quantity of consciousness available to a system. Actually, as consciousness is characterized as the ability to integrate information, Φ provides a measure of the amount of information that a system can integrate. From [1]: “Φ is the amount of causally effective information that can be integrated across the informational weakest link of a subset of elements”.

The main implication of the hypothesis proposed by Tononi is that any physical system able to integrate information is conscious to the extent indicated by the Φ measure. This implies that also artificial implementations able to integrate information and having a high Φ would have conscious experiences. See The Possibility of Building Conscious Machines.

Read more about Information Integration Theory:

[1] Tononi, G. An information integration theory of consciousness. BMC Neuroscience 2004, 5:42. 2004.


TNGS – Theory of Neuronal Group Selection

TNGS – Theory of Neuronal Group Selection

TNGS and the dynamic core hypothesis have been proposed by Gerald M. Edelman as an explanation for the neural correlates of consciousness. As its name indicates, the theory is based on the concept of selection.

A huge number of neuronal pathways are generated in the brain and a reduced and valuable subset of these pathways or circuits has to be selected in order to generate adaptive behaviors. In other words, the brain is a selectional system. The selection is based on development and experience. That is the reason why neuronal circuits differs greatly from one individual to another.

During brain development and learning, groups of neurons that tend to fire together are generated. Vast numbers of these groups or circuits are selected according to their value as originators of adaptive and useful behaviors.

TNGS explain consciousness in terms of the Dynamic Core, which consists on extensive reentrant interactions in the thalamocortical system. Here, the concept of reentry refers to the dynamic process of rapid and reciprocal interaction between neuronal maps and nuclei in the brain. Edelman and Tononi believe that consciousness is produced by these reentrant processes, which would be able to provide the required discriminatory capability of consciousness experience as well as its integration. In short, TNGS advocates for a dynamic characterization of consciousness, where neurnal correlates of consciousness cannot be identified in any specific brain spot, but associated to the reentrant dynamics in the thalamocortical system.

To read more about TNGS:
– Edelman, G and Tononi, G. A Universe of Consciousness. How Matter becomes Imagination. Basic Books. 2001.
– Edelman, G. Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter Of the Mind. Basic Books. 1993.


The Singularity. Could robots take over the world?

The Singularity. Could robots take over the world?

Madrid Science Week talk by Raul Arrabales. FNAC Parquesur. November 12, 2009. 19:00.

Current developments in AI and Artificial Cognitive Systems, specifically those based on Machine Consciousness, make us wonder what could be the implications of successful designs. Isn’t it dangerous to build conscious machines? How could they affect society? This talk will address these topics introducing concepts like the Singularity. Arguments in favor and against the possibility of a radical social change caused by technological advances will be discussed.

Venue. FNAC Parquesur. Thursday, November 12, 2009. 19:00. Free Entrance. Language: Spanish

NIPS International Workshop for Scientific Study of Consciousness

NIPS International Workshop for Scientific Study of Consciousness

The NIPS international workshop for Scientific Study of Consciousness (NIPS-SSC) will be held at the Okazaki Conference Center (Aichi, Japan) in Sep 19-20, 2009. This workshop is an official satellite event for the 32nd international neuroscience conference “Neuroscience 2009” (Nagoya. Sep 16-18, 2009).

Further information:
Date: September 19th-20th, 2009
Deadline: July 15th, 2009

Organizers: Masatoshi Yoshida, Nao Tsuchiya (
Registration and abstract submission for poster presentation is open till July 30. (all the presentations will given be in English).

Tentative themes:

1) Time and consciousness
2) Electrophysiological approach towards consciousness
3) Reliability of subjective reports on phenomenology
4) Consciousness vs. Attention
5) The role of thalamus in consciousness

Confirmed speakers:

Ralph Adolphs (Caltech), Ned Block (NYU), Olivia Carter (U of
Melbourne), John-Dylan Haynes (Humboldt-University Berlin), Ryota
Kanai (UCL), Christof Koch (Caltech), Shin’ya Nishida (NTT
Communication Science Lab), Petra Stoerig (Heinrich-Heine-University
Düsseldorf), Naotsugu Tsuchiya (Caltech), Melanie Wilke (Caltech,
NIMH), Takamitsu Yamamoto (Nihon Univ.), & Masatoshi Yoshida (NIPS)

Corresponding Author: Nao Tsuchiya (
Further information:
Date:September 16th-18th, 2009

Plenary Lectures

– Christof Koch, Professor (Caltech)
– Barry W. Connors, Professor (Brown Univ.)

Special Lectures

– Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Professor (Primate Research Institute, Kyoto
University, Japan)

There will be two associated symposia, closely related to the topic of the neuronal basis of consciousness:

1. Frontier of neuroscientific research on consciousness

2. Neuronal mechanisms of visual illusions : empirical approaches from psychophysics, brain stimulation, electrophysiology, and pharmacology

BICA. Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures 2009

AAAI 2008 Fall Symposium Series
Arlington, Virginia — November 5–7, 2009

The challenge of designing a human-level learner is central to creating a real-life computational equivalent of the human mind. It demands the level of robustness and flexibility of learning that today is available in biological systems only. Therefore, it is essential that we better understand at a computational level how biological systems naturally develop their cognitive and learning functions. In recent years, biologically inspired cognitive architectures (BICA) have emerged as a powerful new approach toward gaining this kind of understanding. The impressive success of BICA-2008 was clear evidence of this trend. As the second event in the series, BICA-2009 continues our attack on the challenge, with the overall atmosphere of excitement and potential, brainstorming and collaboration.


–  Bridging the gap between AI and biology: robustness, flexibility, integrity.
–  BICA models of learning: bootstrapped, self-regulated (SRL), meta-learning.
–  Scalability, limitations and ‘critical mass’ of cognitive vs. subcognitive learning.
–  Biological constraints vital for learning.
–  Physical support of conscious experience.
–  Formal theory of cognitive architectures.
–  Emotional feelings and values in artifacts.
–  Measuring minds of machines and humans.

Symposium Focus and Spirit

The challenge addressed by this symposium is stated above. The narrow focus is on the idea to replicate in artifacts the phenomenon of natural cognitive growth (human-like learning and cognitive development), using models of learning borrowed from biology, neuroscience, cognitive / developmental psychology, cognitive linguistics, educational and social sciences. Specific tasks include: to identify critical components of human-like learning mechanisms that enable transformative cognitive growth in BICA; to understand at a computational level the leverage of biological constraints in self-regulated cognitive growth; to design curricula, tests and scalability metrics for artifacts and a roadmap to solving the challenge.

The spirit of the symposium is science (and, indeed, its focus is on a fundamental scientific problem). This symposium is not about the closed DARPA program or its successors, it is not a formal presentation event, not a publishing venue, not a funding opportunity forum, and not an industry teaming day (while all these elements may be present in it to some extent). It is a working seminar where researchers come together with new ideas and have a discussion.

Therefore, the majority of presentations will be short and exciting, while longer talks will be used to set the stage for discussion panels (see the Format section below).

Continue reading “BICA. Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures 2009”

BICS 2010. Brain-Inspired Cognitive Systems Conference

{mosimage} BICS 2010: Brain-Inspired Cognitive Systems Conference

Madrid, Spain, July 14-16, 2010
Ricardo Sanz, General Chair
Sponsored by ICSC

[Due to several requests, the submission deadline for BICS 2010 has been extended to: January 18, 2010] 

BICS 2010 is a multitrack conference organised around four strongly related symposia (NC 2010, BIS 2010, CNS 2010 and MoC 2010). The three previous BICS conferences were BICS 2008 (Sao Luis, Brasil), BICS 2006 (Lesbos, Greece) and BICS 2004 (Stirling, UK).

Conference Symposia

– Sixth International ICSC Symposium on Neural Computation (NC 2010) Fifth International ICSC
– Symposium on Biologically Inspired Systems (BIS 2010).
– Fourth International ICSC Symposium on Cognitive Neuroscience (CNS 2010).
– Third International ICSC Symposium on Models of Consciousness (MoC 2010).


Brain Inspired Cognitive Systems – BICS 2010 aims to bring together leading scientists and engineers who use analytic and synthetic methods both to understand the astonishing processing properties of biological systems and, specifically those of the living brain, and to exploit such knowledge to advance engineering methods for building artificial systems with higher levels of cognitive competence.

BICS 2010 is a meeting point of cognitive systems engineers and brain scientists where cross-domain ideas are fostered in the hope of getting new emerging insights on the nature, operation and extractable capabilities of brains. This multiple approach is necessary because the progressively more accurate data about brains is producing a growing need of both a quantitative and theoretical understanding and an associated capacity to manipulate this data and translate it into engineering applications rooted in sound theories.

BICS 2010 is intended for both researchers that aim to build brain inspired systems with higher cognitive competences, and as well to life scientists who use and develop mathematical and engineering approaches for a better understanding of complex biological systems like the brain.

BICS 2010 is organized around four major interlaced focal symposia that are organized into patterns that encourage cross-fertilization across the symposia topics. This emphasizes the role of BICS as a major meeting point for researchers and practitioners in the areas of biological and artificial cognitive systems. Debates across disciplines will enrich researchers with complementary perspectives from diverse scientific fields.

Continue reading “BICS 2010. Brain-Inspired Cognitive Systems Conference”