PLENARY

ASTROBIOLOGY AND ASTROCONSCIOUSNESS 

Dante Lauretta, U Arizona

Regents Professor, Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry • University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory

Dante Lauretta is principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission and a regents professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. His research interests focus on the chemistry and mineralogy of asteroids and comets, and he is an expert in the analysis of extraterrestrial materials, including asteroid samples, mete-orites and comet particles.

Dr. Lauretta fosters the advancement of the next generation of scientists, engineers, and other space leaders through mentorship and taught coursework which apply his expertise in planetary science and spacecraft mission design & implementation. Dr. Lauretta heads the OSIRIS-REx research team at UArizona working on this mission, which has included more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students. This project will help ensure that the University of Arizona remains at the forefront of planetary exploration for the next decade.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission

The OSIRIS-REx mission was selected in 2011. The spacecraft launched in September 2016 and began its journey to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft rendezvoused with Bennu in 2018 and successfully obtained a sample in October 2020. The spacecraft embarked on its return voyage to Earth on May 10, 2021. On Sept. 24, 2023, the spacecraft will jettison the sample capsule and send it onto a trajectory to touch down in the Utah desert. Sample analysis will continue until 2025. These samples will be the first for a U.S. mission and may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. The University of Arizona leads the mission for NASA and will provide sample analysis laboratories for the returned samples. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft. United Launch Alliance built the mission’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The mission is in an exciting phase right now as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues its return journey to Earth.                 w w w . A s t e r o i d M i s s i o n . o r g   

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Paul Davies, Arizona State U

Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and best-selling science author. He has published about 30 books and hundreds of research papers and review articles across a range of scientific fields. He is also well-known as a media personality and science popularizer in several countries. His research interests have focused mainly on quantum gravity, early universe cosmology, the theory of quantum black holes and the nature of time. He has also made important contributions to the field of astrobiology, and was an early advocate of the theory that life on Earth may have originated on Mars. For several years he has also been running a major cancer research project, and developed a new theory of cancer based on tracing its deep evolutionary origins. Among his many awards are the 1995 Templeton Prize, the Faraday Prize from The Royal Society, the Kelvin Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics, the Robinson Cosmology Prize and the Bicentenary Medal of Chile. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in the 2007 Queen's birthday honours list and the asteroid 6870 Pauldavies is named after him. His more recent books include "What's Eating the Universe?", "The Demon in the Machine", "About Time", "The Origin of Life", "The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?", "How to Build a Time Machine" and "The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?"

Education:

  • BSc First Class in Physics, University College London, 1967
  • PhD, Physics Department, University College London, 1970
  • DSc honoris causa, Macquarie University, Sydney (2006)
  • DSc honoris causa, Chapman University, California (2009)
  • DSc honoris causa, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (2019)

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Sir Roger Penrose, U Oxford - Nobel Laureate 

Roger Penrose was born, August 8, 1931 in Colchester Essex UK. He earned a 1st class mathematics degree at University College London; a PhD at Cambridge UK, and became assistant lecturer, Bedford College London, Research Fellow St John’s College, Cambridge (now Honorary Fellow), a post-doc at King’s College London, NATO Fellow at Princeton, Syracuse, and Cornell Universities, USA. He also served a 1-year appointment at University of Texas, became a Reader then full Professor at Birkbeck College, London, and Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University (during which he served several 1/2-year periods as Mathematics Professor at Rice University, Houston, Texas). He is now Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor, Fellow, Wadham College, Oxford (now Emeritus Fellow). He has received many awards and honorary degrees, including knighthood, Fellow of the Royal Society and of the US National Academy of Sciences, the De Morgan Medal of London Mathematical Society, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, the Wolf Prize in mathematics (shared with Stephen Hawking), the Pomeranchuk Prize (Moscow), and one half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, the other half shared by Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez. He has designed many non-periodic tiling patterns including a large paving at entrance of Andrew Wiles Mathematics Building, Oxford, and the Transbay Center, San Francisco, California. Sir Roger is widely acclaimed for fundamental advances in understanding the universe. His 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics was bestowed for showing that black holes are robust predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Roger has also proposed a solution to the measurement problem in quantum mechanics (‘objective reduction’, ‘OR’), which he suggests is also the origin of consciousness, leading to a theory of brain function (‘orchestrated objective reduction’, ‘Orch OR’). And Roger’s concept of Conformal Cyclic Cosmology (‘CCC’) posits a serial, eternal universe, with the Big Bang preceded by a previous aeon which had its own Big Bang, that aeon preceded by another and so on. The webinar will cover these 4 major interrelated areas of Roger’s work. 

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BRAIN CONNECTIVITY  

Jean-Rémi King, CNRS 

I am a CNRS researcher at Ecole Normale Supérieure, currently in detachment at Facebook AI Research. My group focuses on understanding the computational bases of human cognition. For this, we develop paradigms, methods and models to analyze brain activity.

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Zirui Huang, U Michigan  

Dr. Zirui Huang is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and a member of the Center for Consciousness Science at the University of Michigan Medical School. He has a multidisciplinary background including psychology, biology, cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging. His primary research interest lies in investigating the neural substrates of consciousness. He studies the mechanistic role of large-scale brain networks in conscious cognition and its alteration by means of pharmacologic, neuropathologic and psychiatric manipulations of consciousness using functional MRI. He earned his Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. After his Ph.D., he continued his research for two postdoc periods at the University of Ottawa and the University of Michigan.  To-date, he has published 45+ scientific articles. Among those, 20+ first/co-first author articles that have been published in Science Advances, Cell Reports, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, The Journal of Neuroscience, Cerebral Cortex, NeuroImage, etc. He also serves as Ad Hoc Reviewer for prestigious scientific journals, such as Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Advanced Science, Molecular Psychiatry, The Neuroscientist, etc.  Media interviews: The Scientist: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/alternate-activation-of-two-b... Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/constant-shifts-between-menta...

Abstract:  Macroscale brain dynamics, gradients, and the gate to consciousness, Zirui Huang, University of Michigan Medical School

Evidence from noninvasive functional neuroimaging studies has pointed to two distinct cortical systems that may mediate the ongoing stream of human consciousness, an internally directed system – default mode network and an externally directed system – dorsal attention network. During Dr. Huang’s talk, he will discuss how the two systems unfold over time in the conscious brain, and how they are disrupted when consciousness is diminished. He will elaborate the concept of “temporal circuit," which is characterized by a set of trajectories along which the dynamic brain activity occurs (Huang et al., 2020, Science Advances). Next, Dr. Huang will present an extended work, in which the level and content of consciousness were manipulated using independent task-fMRI protocols. He will show that the anterior insula, situated between unimodal and transmodal cortical areas along the brain’s primary functional gradient, regulates the default mode – dorsal attention network transitions, and gates conscious access of sensory information (Huang et al., 2021, Cell Reports). Finally, Dr. Huang will talk about the brain’s multidimensional functional landscape, and introduce a common macroscale neurofunctional framework that can account for both normal and altered states of consciousness.Evidence from noninvasive functional neuroimaging studies has pointed to two distinct cortical systems that may mediate the ongoing stream of human consciousness, an internally directed system – default mode network and an externally directed system – dorsal attention network. During Dr. Huang’s talk, he will discuss how the two systems unfold over time in the conscious brain, and how they are disrupted when consciousness is diminished. He will elaborate the concept of “temporal circuit," which is characterized by a set of trajectories along which the dynamic brain activity occurs (Huang et al., 2020, Science Advances). Next, Dr. Huang will present an extended work, in which the level and content of consciousness were manipulated using independent task-fMRI protocols. He will show that the anterior insula, situated between unimodal and transmodal cortical areas along the brain’s primary functional gradient, regulates the default mode – dorsal attention network transitions, and gates conscious access of sensory information (Huang et al., 2021, Cell Reports). Finally, Dr. Huang will talk about the brain’s multidimensional functional landscape, and introduce a common macroscale neurofunctional framework that can account for both normal and altered states of consciousness.

 

 

Anirban Bandyopadhyay, NIMS  

Anirban Bandyopadhyay is Principal Research Scientist at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Tsukuba, Japan. He earned his Ph.D. in Supramolecular Electronics at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata, 2005. From 2005 to 2008 he was ICYS research fellow at the ICYS, NIMS, Japan, and worked on the brain-like bio-processor building. In 2008, Anirban joined as a permanent scientist at NIMS, working on the cavity resonator model of human brain and design-synthesis of brain-like organic jelly. From 2013 to 2014 he was a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. Awards include: Hitachi Science and Technology award 2010, Inamori Foundation award 2011–2012, Kurata Foundation Award, Inamori Foundation Fellow (2011–), and Sewa Society international member, Japan.

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SLEEP, WAKEFULNESS & ANESTHESIA  

Giancarlo Vanini, U Michigan

Giancarlo Vanini is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and a member of the Center for Consciousness Science and Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Michigan. He has dual training in medicine and neuroscience. Research in the Vanini Laboratory focuses on understanding the brain circuitry underlying the regulation of arousal states of sleep and wakefulness, and how these neural systems contribute to (1) the fluctuation of consciousness levels across spontaneous sleep-wake states, (2) the recovery of consciousness from general anesthesia, (3) the sleep-pain interface, and (4) the relationship between postoperative sleep disturbances and cognitive function. To this end, the lab combines behavioral assays, analysis of EEG rhythms and dynamics, neurochemical monitoring, recordings of calcium-dependent neuronal activity, viral tracing for identification of projection pathways, as well as chemogenetic/optogenetic tools to identify and probe neural networks controlling sleep, wakefulness and pain.

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Matthew Larkum, Humboldt U

Professor Matthew Larkum, Neuroscientist & Director of the Larkum Lab, Berlin. He is Professor of “Neuronal Plasticity”, Department of Biology, Humboldt University of Berlin.  Matthew Larkum graduated with a degree in physiology from the University of Sydney and completed his Ph. D. at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

I graduated from Sydney University with a thirst for solving the brain and was lucky to be a post-doc in the laboratory of Nobel prize-winner Bert Sakmann for 6 years. It was here that I cut my teeth on hardcore electrophysiological and imaging techniques for understanding the computational properties of cortical neurons. I continued this focus upon starting up my own laboratory in Switzerland and more recently in Berlin where the laboratory has grown to accommodate a more comprehensive investigation of the contribution of single-cell computation to the process of cognition, learning and memory. The aims of the lab are based on a unifying hypothesis that the incredible cognitive power of the cortex derives from an associative mechanism built in at the cellular level such that the architecture of the cortex is tightly coupled with the computational capabilities of single cells. In essence, this hypothesis places new importance on the computational power of neurons that has ramifications for our understanding of cognition and for neurodegenerative diseases that disturb neuronal properties.

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Alex Proekt, U Pennsylvania  

Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care

Department: Anesthesiology and Critical Care

Education:  B.S. (Biological Sciences) Carnegie Mellon University, 1998. 

M.D. Ph.D. (Neuroscience/Medicine) Mount Sinai School Of Medicine, 2006.

Description of Clinical Expertise:  General Anesthesia, Anesthesia for Neurosurgery, Neuromonitoring during Anesthesia

Description of Research Expertise:  Neuroscience, Neurophysiology, Computational Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience

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PSYCHEDELIC MECHANISMS 

Alex C Kwan, Yale U

Alex Kwan is a neuroscientist whose work is focused on the neurobiology of antidepressants. He is known for using sophisticated optical imaging methods to show how drugs, such as ketamine and psilocybin, modify the structure and function of brain circuitry. His research has been published in top peer-reviewed journals including Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, and Biological Psychiatry. He has a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University. Website: http://alexkwanlab.org/  Twitter: @kwanalexc

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Katrin Preller, U Zurich/Yale U

Katrin Preller received her M.Sc. (Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychology) from University of Konstanz, Germany. She joined the University of Zurich where she investigated the neurobiological long-term effects of cocaine, MDMA, and heroin use. After completing her PhD, she investigated the effects of psychedelics at the Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging Lab. She received a SNSF PostDoc mobility fellowship and worked at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, London, and Yale University, New Haven. Subsequently, she was appointed as Group Leader at the University of Zurich, and holds a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale University. She is investigating the mechanistic effects of psychedelics and their therapeutic potential in various clinical populations.

Abstract: The neurobiology of altered states of consciousness, Katrin Preller, University of Zurich; Yale University

Due to their unique effects on consciousness, psychedelics offer the opportunity to investigate the neuropharmacological mechanisms underlying alterations in perception and cognition important for increasing our understanding of psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, renewed interest in the potentially beneficial clinical effects of psychedelics warrants a better understanding of their underlying neuropharmacological mechanisms. However, major knowledge gaps remain regarding the neurobiology of psychedelics in humans.

In our studies we show that LSD and psilocybin modulate brain connectivity and subjective effects via agonistic activity on the serotonin 2A receptor in humans. Furthermore, we elucidate the neuropharmacology of self-relevance and meaning processing, as well as the intertwined relationship between self-processing and social cognition via the administration of LSD and psilocybin. We additionally show that the neural correlates of psychedelic-induced states differ from non-pharmacologically induced altered states of consciousness.

Our results thus attenuate major knowledge-gaps regarding the neurobiology and neuropharmacology of psychedelics. Furthermore, they increase our mechanistic understanding of cognitive and emotional processes and therefore offer important directions regarding the development of novel therapeutics.



ORIGINS OF LIFE 

Sara Walker, Arizona State U

Professor Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist interested in the origin of life and how to find life on other worlds. While there are many things to be solved, she is most interested in whether or not there are ‘laws of life’ - related to how information structures the physical world - that could universally describe life here on Earth and on other planets.  At Arizona State University she is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also Co-founder of the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet.org, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances at the World Science Festival and on "Through the Wormhole" and NPR's Science Friday.

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Steen Rasmussen, U Southern Denmark

Professor and Director of the FLinT Center

  • 2007 - Present: Center Leader Fundamental Living Technology & Research Director, SDU.
  • 2004 - 2005: Guest Professor Molecular Biochemistry and Genetics, University of Copenhagen.
  • 2004 - Present: External Research Professor, Santa Fe Institute (SFI).
  • 2002 - 2007: Team Leader Self-Organizing Systems, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)

Education

  • 1985: Ph.D., (Physics) Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
  • 1982: M.Sc., (Physics & Physical Chemistry) Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
  • 1978-1981: Philosophy studies at University of Copenhagen.

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Stuart Hameroff, U Arizona

Stuart Hameroff MD is a clinical anesthesiologist and researcher on how the brain produces consciousness, and how anesthetics act to erase it. In medical school in the early 1970s, Hameroff became interested in consciousness, and in protein structures called microtubules inside brain neurons which he came to believe processed information supporting consciousness. In the mid- 1990s he teamed with Sir Roger Penrose to develop the controversial ‘Orch OR’ theory in which consciousness derives from “orchestrated” (“Orch”) microtubule quantum vibrations linked to processes in spacetime geometry, the fine scale structure of the universe, leading to “Penrose objective reduction” (“OR”, hence “Orch OR”). And he has further proposed the ‘microtubule quantum vibration’ theory of anesthetic action. Hameroff organizes the well-known conference series ‘The Science of Consciousness’, has written or edited 5 books and over a hundred scientific articles, and appeared in films and various TV shows about consciousness. With University of Arizona colleagues Jay Sanguinetti, John JB Allen and Shinzen Young, Hameroff is developing transcranial ultrasound (‘TUS’) for treatment of mental and cognitive dysfunction (TUS may resonate endogenous megahertz vibrations in brain microtubules). Penrose- Hameroff Orch OR is one of a group of major theories of consciousness in the Templeton World Charity Foundation project ‘Accelerating Research on Consciousness’, and is currently being tested experimentally. 

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ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS 

Emma Huels, U Michigan  

Emma Huels obtained her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis in 2016. Following graduation, Emma worked at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examining brain activity in patients with postoperative delirium or those undergoing electroconvulsive therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Emma is a currently a doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Michigan, where is she is studying the role of prefrontal and parietal cortices in consciousness using psychedelic and anesthetic drugs in an animal model. She is also interested in non-pharmacological altered states of consciousness, with a focus on shamanic practice.

Abstract: Neural Correlates of the Shamanic State of Consciousness

Emma Huels, U Michigan; Co-Authors:  Hyoungkyu Kim; UnCheol Lee; Tarik Bel-Bahar; Angelo V. Colmenero; Amanda Nelson; Stefanie Blain-Moraes; George A. Mashour; Richard E. Harris

Psychedelics have been recognized as model interventions for studying altered states of consciousness. However, few empirical studies of the shamanic state of consciousness, which is anecdotally similar to the psychedelic state, exist. We investigated the neural correlates of shamanic trance using highdensity electroencephalography (EEG) in 24 shamanic practitioners and 24 healthy controls during rest, shamanic drumming, and classical music listening, followed by an assessment of altered states of consciousness. EEG data were used to assess changes in absolute power, connectivity, signal diversity, and criticality, which were correlated with assessment measures. We also compared assessment scores to those of individuals in a previous study under the influence of psychedelics. Shamanic practitioners were significantly different from controls in several domains of altered states of consciousness, with scores comparable to or exceeding that of healthy volunteers under the influence of psychedelics. Practitioners also displayed increased gamma power during drumming that positively correlated with elementary visual alterations. Furthermore, shamanic practitioners had decreased low alpha and increased low beta connectivity during drumming and classical music and decreased neural signal diversity in the gamma band during drumming that inversely correlated with insightfulness. Finally, criticality in practitioners was increased during drumming in the low and high beta and gamma bands, with increases in the low beta band correlating with complex imagery and elementary visual alterations. These findings suggest that psychedelic drug-induced and non-pharmacologic alterations in consciousness have overlapping phenomenal traits but are distinct states of consciousness, as reflected by the unique brain-related changes during shamanic trance compared to previous literature investigating the psychedelic state

 

Charlotte Martial, U Liège

Charlotte heads the projects on the phenomenon of near-death experiences (NDEs) at the Coma Science Group (GIGA-Consciousness, University of Liège, BE). More generally, Charlotte’s work aims to investigate various states of disconnected consciousness (being conscious without experiencing the external world). She studies conditions in which people are outwardly unresponsive such as during general anesthesia or cardiac arrest, but ‘disconnected’ and/or ‘connected’ to the world, as testified by the detailed subjective reports upon awakening. She also explores the neural correlates of other altered or modified states of consciousness, such as disorders of consciousness and hypnosis (mainly using behavioral assessments, MRI and EEG techniques). She joined the Centre for Psychedelic Research (Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, UK) in 2019 to investigate the overlap between the phenomenology of the classical psychedelic experiences and NDEs. Charlotte is also affiliated to the Psychology and Neuroscience of Cognition Research Unit (PsyNCog) from the University of Liège (BE). Next to her neuroscientific interest, she is also involved in the clinical management of patients suffering from disorders of consciousness (e.g., vegetative/unresponsive state, minimally conscious state).

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Elizabeth Krasnoff, CIHS  

Elizabeth W. Krasnoff, PhD, was born and raised in New York, living now on the west coast in San Francisco and in NY city. Her doctorate is in Transformative Studies, with a focus in Consciousness Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). Her dissertation reviews the transformative effects of sound, specifically "The Effects of Auditory Binaural Beats on Consciousness and the Human Nervous System."  In 2015, she became a certified Energy Healer through the Academy of Intuition Medicine® Master Certification program (MIM), and received her Sound Healing and Therapy Certificate from the Globe Institute. Elizabeth is also a certified Heartmath® Practitioner. Her MA is in Depth Psychology and Mythology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her BA in English with a Russian concentration was received from Boston College, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa cum laude. From 1994-1998 she lived abroad in Russia refining her comprehension of the Russian language.

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