Panel discussion

Are we smart enough to understand our brains?

Can we really understand the organ that makes each of us uniquely “Us”? What does it mean to understand the brain? Can we understand any brains, if not humans? What are the current challenges in understanding the brain in its entirety? And do we, in neuroscience, ever expect to completely understand the brain?

These questions loom large over the field of neuroscience in its endeavor to comprehend the human brain. This panel discussion will bring together a diverse group of panelists from various fields, ranging from cognitive neuroscience and computer science to philosophy, to discuss their perspectives and ideas on these questions and many more as we try to gain a deeper insight into our ability to understand ourselves (our brains). 

Chaired by:

Dr. Stefan Treue

German Primate Center
Göttingen

Who is on the panel?

Marta Caravà

Ruhr-Unversität Bochum

Lucia Melloni

Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics Frankfurt and NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Catrin Misselhorn

University of Göttingen

Fabian Sinz

University of Tübingen and University of Göttingen

Stefan Treue

German Primate Center and University of Göttingen

Research at the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory is aimed at understanding the neural basis of visual perception. The accurate representation of visual motion in the environment is one of the most important tasks of the visual system. We try to elucidate this ability as a model for sensory information processing in general. Here, attention plays a special role, as it enables us to filter out unwanted information and concentrate the brain´s processing abilities on relevant information. Correspondingly, the focus of my lab is to study the role of attention in visual information processing in humans and non-human primates. While our emphasis is on electrophysiology, i.e. the recording of the activity of neurons in the visual cortex of macaque monkeys and measuring human perceptual abilities with psychophysical methods, we also use theoretical approaches and study social influences on visual perception and do research aimed at assessing and improving the welfare of primates in neuroscience research.

Get to know the panel:

Marta Caravà

Ruhr-Unversität Bochum

Dr. Marta Caravà specializes in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of cognitive science and philosophical psychology. Her main areas of interests include the embodied approach to cognition and emotions, enactivism, and ecological psychology. She works in these areas by combining methods in analytic philosophy and empirically informed philosophy.  

She did her PhD at the University of Bologna, with a research stay at the University of Memphis. She defended her dissertation on the topic of mental representations in the embodied approach to cognitive science in 2018.

From 2018 to 2020 she was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bologna, where she did research on the affective components of affordance perception and the role of material objects in emotion-regulation. 

In 2021 she was a visiting research fellow at the Research and Training Group ‘Situated Cognition’ at the Ruhr University Bochum and then a visiting post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Philosophy II at the same university, where she worked on a project on embodied episodic memory. 

She is currently pursuing three main research lines: 

  1. How the active and controllable aspects of forgetting enhance psychological wellbeing;
  2. How material objects afford different kinds of cognitive and affective experiences;
  3. How we experience absences in perception and memory.

Lucia Melloni

Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics Frankfurt and NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Prof. Lucia Melloni is a Group Leader at Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Department of Neuroscience, Frankfurt and a Research Professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Her lab is broadly interested in understanding the neural underpinnings of how we see (perception), how and why we experience what we see (consciousness), and how those experiences get imprinted in our brain (learning and memory) – as well as the interplay between these processes. She uses multiple methods to address these questions, ranging from electrophysiological and neuroimaging methods to behavioral techniques and online surveys. Her lab is committed to team science and open science practices and leads a large-scale adversarial collaboration to unravel the neural basis of consciousness and what makes us humans.

Catrin Misselhorn

University of Göttingen

Catrin Misselhorn is professor of philosophy at the University of Göttingen. She is working on philosophical problems of AI, robot- and machine ethics. She aims at giving a philosophical assessment of what AI can and should do, and where its limits are from a theoretical as well as moral point of view. For her, AI is a valuable philosophical tool to improve our understanding of ourselves and of what matters to us. She discusses justified ethical concerns and tries to give guidelines for a development of an AI that can promote human autonomy, dignity and responsibility.

Catrin Misselhorn is the author and editor of several books and journal articles in the philosophy of AI. Her book “Basic Issues in Machine Ethics” was third on the shortlist for the best non-fiction books by ZDF, DIE ZEIT, and Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

Fabian Sinz

University of Tübingen and University of Göttingen

Dr. Fabian Sinz is a Professor for Machine Learning, University Göttingen. His group uses artificial intelligence both as a testbed and a tool on large scale neuro-physiological and -anatomical data to better understand the constituent elements of neuronal intelligence. Despite huge advances in artificial intelligence (AI), the mammalian brain is still unrivaled in terms of sustainability and speed of learning, and robustness in inference. One central goal of AI research is to build intelligent systems that exceed the capabilities of biological brains. However, to date we know very little about how computations in neuronal circuits give rise to biological intelligence. Dr. Fabian Sinz is inspired by the idea that a deeper understanding of computational motifs in cortical circuits can help build the next generation of intelligent systems.

Please find more info on: sinzlab.org