Bernard J. Baars

Bernard J. Baars
The Neurosciences Institute · CEO

PhD

About

186
Publications
56,966
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Introduction
Bernard J. Baars currently works at the Editor-in-Chief of the Society for MindBrain Sciences. Dr. B does research and theoretical integration, specifically on the psychobiology of conscious brains and its numerous ramifications. Recent directions include Biological Psychology, Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology. The brain basis of conscious cognition is now emerging with remarkable evidence and some useful theory. At the same time, I'm afraid that the volume of non-empirical and fantasy-based discussion is going through the roof. I don't blame people for having a passionate beliefs on the subject, but it has to be self-disciplined, either empirically or formally. I'm afraid that most of the ungrounded discourse is misleading. Without self-discipline we get lost so easily!
Additional affiliations
January 2010 - January 2016
Society for Mind-Brain Sciences
Position
  • Chief Executive Officer
Description
  • non-profit science education corporation
January 2000 - present
The Neurosciences Institute
Position
  • Fellow
June 1989 - June 2005
The Wright Institute
Position
  • Institute Faculty Professor

Publications

Publications (186)
Chapter
Global Workspace Theory (GWT) can be compared to a theater of mind, in which conscious contents resemble a bright spot on the stage of immediate memory, selected by a spotlight of attention under executive guidance. Only the bright spot is conscious; the rest of the theater is dark and unconscious. GWT has been implemented in a number of explicit a...
Chapter
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Conscious experiences While conscious (cs) experience has been discussed throughout history, the late 19th century saw a rise in physicalistic reductionism, which, in its more extreme forms, declared "consciousness" and kindred terms to be unscientific. In the 1920’s B.F. Skinner defined the goal of "radical behaviorism" as the complete eliminatio...
Research
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This is an updated version of the 1988 Glossary from A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness (Baars, Cambridge University Press). It is freely available.
Article
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Neurofeedback (NFB) is emerging as a promising technique that enables self regulation of ongoing brain oscillations. However, despite a rise in empirical evidence attesting to its clinical benefits, a solid theoretical basis is still lacking on the manner in which NFB is able to achieve these outcomes. The present work attempts to bring together va...
Article
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This joint article reflects the authors' personal views regarding noteworthy advances in the neuroscience of consciousness in the last 10 years, and suggests what we feel may be promising future directions. It is based on a small conference at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, USA, in July of 2012, organized by the Mind Science Foundation of S...
Article
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All mammals show the physiological correlates of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Many contemplative traditions propose a fourth state of consciousness, “silent consciousness,” defined as consciousness without reportable contents. For example, the Mandukya Upanishad, one of the root texts of Vedanta philosophy, explicitly claims a fourth state of “...
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A global workspace is a hub of binding and propagation in a population of loosely coupled signaling elements. Global workspace (GW) architectures recruit many distributed, specialized agents to help resolve focal ambiguities. In the brain, conscious experiences may reflect a global workspace function. For animals the natural world is full of fitnes...
Article
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Significant debate on fundamental issues remains in the subfields of cognitive science, including perception, memory, attention, action selection, learning, and others. Psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence each contribute alternative and sometimes conflicting perspectives on the supervening problem of artificial general intelligenc...
Article
Natural phenomena are reducible to quantum events in principle, but quantum mechanics does not always provide the best level of analysis. The many-body problem, chaotic avalanches, materials properties, biological organisms, and weather systems are better addressed at higher levels. Animals are highly organized, goal-directed, adaptive, selectionis...
Article
Feinberg (2012) [8] suggests that science so far cannot "reduce critical features of consciousness to neural processes." But this poses an unrealistic standard. If science required full reductive explanations, neither Newton nor Darwin would be remembered today, since neither gave a reductive account of gravity or heredity. Indeed, we do not have s...
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The biological cost of consciousness
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Some philosophers maintain that consciousness as subjective experience has no biological function. However, conscious brain events seem very different from unconscious ones. The cortex and thalamus support the reportable qualitative contents of consciousness. Subcortical structures like the cerebellum do not. Likewise, attended sensory stimuli are...
Article
Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience, winner of a 2013 Most Promising New Textbook Award from the Text and Academic Authors Association, offers a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide to cognitive neuroscience. Chapters in this introductory text cover all aspects of the field-the neural framework, sight, sound, consciousness, learning/memory, pr...
Article
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We propose that human cognition consists of cascading cycles of recurring brain events. Each cognitive cycle senses the current situation, interprets it with reference to ongoing goals, and then selects an internal or external action in response. While most aspects of the cognitive cycle are unconscious, each cycle also yields a momentary "ignition...
Article
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The Dynamic Core and Global Workspace hypotheses were independently put forward to provide mechanistic and biologically plausible accounts of how brains generate conscious mental content. The Dynamic Core proposes that reentrant neural activity in the thalamocortical system gives rise to conscious experience. Global Workspace reconciles the limited...
Article
When researchers use the term mind wandering for task-unrelated thoughts in signal detection tasks, we may fall into the trap of believing that spontaneous thoughts are task unrelated in a deeper sense. Similar negative connotations are attached to common terms like cognitive failures, resting state, rumination, distraction, attentional failures, a...
Book
This is the fully revised and updated second edition of the very sucessful introductory textbook on cognitive neuroscience. Written by two leading experts in the field, this book takes a unique thematic approach to introduce concepts of cognitive neurosciences, guiding students along a clear path to understand the latest findings whether or not the...
Chapter
Bernard J. Baars is former senior research fellow in theoretical neurobiology at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego (www.nsi.edu) His PhD is in cognitive psychology from UCLA. He is interested in human language, the brain basis of consciousness, volition, and a variety of related topics including the history of scientific studies of conscious...
Chapter
Bernard J. Baars is former senior research fellow in theoretical neurobiology at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego (www.nsi.edu). His PhD is in cognitive psychology from UCLA. He is interested in human language, the brain basis of consciousness, volition, and a variety of related topics including the history of scientific studies of consciou...
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We argue that the functions of consciousness are implemented in a bio-computational manner. That is to say, the conscious as well as the non-conscious aspects of human thinking, planning, and perception are produced by adaptive, biological algorithms. We propose that machine consciousness may be produced by similar adaptive algorithms running on th...
Article
The currently leading cognitive theory of consciousness, Global Workspace Theory,1,2 postulates that the primary functions of consciousness include a global broadcast serving to recruit internal resources with which to deal with the current situation and to modulate several types of learning. In addition, conscious experiences present current condi...
Article
Carruthers claims that "our knowledge of our own attitudes results from turning our mindreading capacities upon ourselves" (target article, Abstract). This may be true in many cases. But like other constructivist claims, it fails to explain occasions when constructed knowledge is accurate, like a well-supported scientific theory. People can know th...
Chapter
IntroductionGlobal Workspace TheoryVoluntary and Non-Voluntary Memories“Conscious” Software AgentsThe IDA ArchitectureThe IDA Cognitive CycleIdeomotor Theory and Its Implementation as Volition in IDAVoluntary Versus Non-Voluntary Episodic Memories in Humans and in IDAWanted Versus Unwanted Non-Voluntary Memories in Humans and in IDAConclusion Notes...
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I agree with Uzi Awret that Diego Velasquez's seminal painting, Las Meninas, is an expression of self-consciousness in many different ways. But my first response was to the feeling tone Velasquez evokes in his work, which felt dark and rather grim to me. I think this painting may be a meditation on the mortification of the flesh, a theme that was s...
Chapter
This chapter contains section titled:
Article
While neural net models have been developed to a high degree of sophistication, they have some drawbacks at a more integrative, "architectural" level of analysis. We describe a "hybrid" cognitive architecture that is implementable in neuronal nets, and which has uniform brainlike features, including activation-passing and highly distributed "codele...
Article
Our aim in this reply is to defend Global Workspace theory (GWT) from the challenge of Block's article. We argue that Block's article relies on an outdated and imprecise concept of access, and perpetuates a common misunderstanding of GWT that conflates the global workspace with working memory. In the light of the relevant clarifications, Block's co...
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“And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me ... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents...
Article
This study examined laboratory-induced spoonerisms; the type of speech error in which a phoneme unit from one word switches position with a phoneme unit from another word. Three experiments test hypotheses which assume that spoonerism errors are facilitated by the presence of certain inherent differences between the switched phonological units. Exp...
Article
van der Velde & de Kamps make a case for neural blackboard architectures to address four questions raised by human language. Unfortunately, they neglect a sizable literature relating blackboard architectures to other fundamental cognitive questions, specifically consciousness and voluntary control. Called “global workspace theory,” this literature...
Chapter
Connectionism - Connectionism is a framework in cognitive science, according to which all of the processes achieved by the mind can be modeled by parallel and distributed processing among simple operational units. It is mostly based on the development of artificial neural networks, and it has been traditionally opposed to the position that mental p...
Conference Paper
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In an attempt to illustrate the application of cognitive science principles to hard AI problems in machine learning we propose the LIDA technology, a cognitive science based architecture capable of more human-like learning. A LIDA based software agent or cognitive robot will be capable of three fundamental, continuously active, human-like learning...
Article
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In this paper we present the LIDA architecture as a working model of cognition. We argue that such working models are broad in scope and address real world problems in comparison to experimentally based models which focus on specific pieces of cognition. While experimentally based models are useful, we need a working model of cognition that integra...
Article
The subject of this article is the frame problem, as conceived by certain cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind, notably Fodor for whom it stands as a fundamental obstacle to progress in cognitive science. The challenge is to explain the capacity of so-called informationally unencapsulated cognitive processes to deal effectively with inform...
Article
In humans, conscious perception and cognition depends upon the thalamocortical (T-C) complex, which supports perception, explicit cognition, memory, language, planning, and strategic control. When parts of the T-C system are damaged or stimulated, corresponding effects are found on conscious contents and state, as assessed by reliable reports. In c...
Article
The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relativ...
Article
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the 'dynamic core'). These interactions, which permit high-order discrimina...
Article
Most early studies of consciousness have focused on human subjects. This is understandable, given that humans are capable of reporting accurately the events they experience through language or by way of other kinds of voluntary response. As researchers turn their attention to other animals, "accurate report" methodologies become increasingly diffic...
Article
The life sciences in the 20th century were guided to a large extent by a reductionist program seeking to explain biological phenomena in terms of physics and chemistry. Two scientists who figured prominently in the establishment and dissemination of this program were Jacques Loeb in biology and Ivan P. Pavlov in psychological behaviorism. While nei...
Article
Global workspace (GW) theory emerged from the cognitive architecture tradition in cognitive science. Newell and co-workers were the first to show the utility of a GW or "blackboard" architecture in a distributed set of knowledge sources, which could cooperatively solve problems that no single constituent could solve alone. The empirical connection...
Article
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Conscious events interact with memory systems in learning, rehearsal and retrieval (Ebbinghaus 1885/1964; Tulving 1985). Here we present hypotheses that arise from the IDA computional model (Franklin, Kelemen and McCauley 1998; Franklin 2001b) of global workspace theory (Baars 1988, 2002). Our primary tool for this exploration is a flexible cogniti...
Article
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The metacognitive stance of Smith et al. (2003) risks ignoring sensory consciousness. Although Smith et al. rightly caution against the tendency to preserve the uniqueness of the human mind at all costs, their reasoned stance is undermined by a selective association of consciousness with high-level cognitive operations. Neurobiological evidence may...
Article
perception has blossomed into an active interdisciplinary endeavor, including the fields of psychophysics, neurophysiology, sensory perception, psycholinguistics, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and sociolinguistics. 1. Psychophysics of Speech Perception In any domain of perception, one goal is to determine the stimulus properties responsible...
Article
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Conscious perception, like the sight of a coffee cup, seems to involve the brain identifying a stimulus. But conscious input activates more brain regions than are needed to identify coffee cups and faces. It spreads beyond sensory cortex to frontoparietal association areas, which do not serve stimulus identification as such. What is the role of tho...
Article
In the last decade, careful studies of the living brain have opened the way for human consciousness to return to the heights it held before the behavioristic coup of 1913. This is illustrated by seven cases: (1) the discovery of widespread brain activation during conscious perception; (2) high levels of regional brain metabolism in the resting stat...
Article
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The GW theory suggests that consciousness enables multiple networks to cooperate and compete in solving problems, such as retrieval of specific items from immediate memory. The overall function of consciousness is to provide widespread access, which in turn may serve functions of coordination and control. Consciousness is the gateway to the brain,...
Article
Active components of classical working memory are conscious, but traditional theory does not account for this fact. Global Workspace theory suggests that consciousness is needed to recruit unconscious specialized networks that carry out detailed working memory functions. The IDA model provides a fine-grained analysis of this process, specifically o...
Article
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Why was Ivan Pavlevich Pavlov so widely celebrated in the decades after 1900? As his story of the 'freedom reflex' illustrates, Pavlov often overstated his observations. By calling all innate behaviour a reflex and all learned behaviour a conditional reflex, he meant to eliminate consciousness and volition from science. Pavlov's universal reflex ex...
Article
B.F. Skinner was the voice of radical behaviourism for some five decades, fighting relentlessly against consciousness as a scientific question. While in public he always argued the case for behaviourism, in fact Skinner was deeply at odds with himself, as he reveals in several books. Surprisingly, as a college student he was deeply interested in be...
Article
Consciousness is both the most obvious and the most hotly debated topic in psychology and brain science. All healthy humans are conscious of sights and sounds, of some mental images, of inner speech and emotional feelings, and of some of our goals and beliefs. Essentially all biopsy-chological experiments involve consciousness in one way or another...
Article
I am grateful to all my commentators, but particularly to Mrs Julie Vargas, B.F. Skinner's daughter, who takes this opportunity to set the record straight about her father. I accept her personal testimony without reservation. Some specifics are discussed in this article.
Article
Consciousness might help to mobilize and integrate brain functions that are otherwise separate and independent. Evidence for this 'conscious access hypothesis' was described almost two decades ago, in a framework called global workspace theory. The theory had little impact at first, for three reasons: because consciousness was controversial; the ev...
Article
Surgical patients under anesthesia can wake up unpredictably and be exposed to intense, traumatic pain. Current medical techniques cannot maintain depth of anesthesia at a perfectly stable and safe level; the depth of unconsciousness may change from moment to moment. Without an effective consciousness monitor anesthesiologists may not be able to ad...
Article
The limited capacity of immediate memory “rides” on the even more limited capacity of consciousness, which reflects the dynamic activity of the thalamocortical core of the brain. Recent views of the conscious narrow-capacity component of the brain are explored with reference to global workspace theory (Baars 1988; 1993; 1998). The radical limits of...
Article
Revonsuo argues that current brain imaging methods do not allow us to ‘discover’ consciousness. While all observational methods in science have limitations, consciousness is such a massive and pervasive phenomenon that we cannot fail to observe its effects at every level of brain organization: molecular, cellular, electrical, anatomical, metabolic,...
Article
Recent scientific findings indicate that consciousness is a fundamental biological adaptation. The known brain correlates of consciousness appear to be phylogenetically ancient, going back at least to early mammals. In all mammals, alertness and sensory consciousness are required for the goal-directed behaviours that make species survival and repro...
Article
Recent scientific findings indicate that consciousness is a fundamental biological adaptation. The known brain correlates of consciousness appear to be ancient phylogenetically, going back at least to early mammals. In all mammals alertness and sensory consciousness are required for the goal-directed behaviors that make species survival and reprodu...
Article
A common confound between consciousness and attention makes it difficult to think clearly about recent advances in the understanding of the visual brain. Visual consciousness involves phenomenal experience of the visual world, but visual attention is more plausibly treated as a function that selects and maintains the selection of potential consciou...
Article
Responds to O. G. Cameron's (see record 1998-02297-005) comments that examining the function of consciousness has been overlooked in the study of consciousness. The author contends that useful biological metaphors often have functional implications, and, in the case of his theatre metaphor of consciousness, one implied use might be a publicity fun...
Article
Scientific metaphors have long provided heuristic tools for approaching novel problems. Today, the neurobiology of consciousness and attention is a central concern, presenting formidable conceptual and empirical challenges. Many current ideas f it the broad theme of a theater metaphor; this idea can be worked out in detail, resulting in relevant, t...
Article
This paper explores a remarkable convergence of ideas and evidence, previously presented in separate places by its authors. That convergence has now become so persuasive that we believe we are working within substantially the same broad framework. Taylor’s mathematical papers on neuronal systems involved in consciousness dovetail well with work by...
Article
Considerable progress is being made in interdisciplinary efforts to develop a general theory of the neural correlates of consciousness. Developments of Baars' Global Workspace theory over the past decade are examples of this progress. Integrating experimental data and models from cognitive psychology, AI and neuroscience, we present a neurocognitiv...
Article
When "divided attention" methods were discovered in the 1950s their implications for conscious experience were not widely appreciated. Yet when people process competing streams of sensory input they show both selective processes and clear contrasts between conscious and unconscious events. This paper suggests that the term "attention" may be best a...
Article
When “divided attention” methods were discovered in the 1950s their implications for conscious experience were not widely appreciated. Yet when people process competing streams of sensory input they show both selective processesandclear contrasts between conscious and unconscious events. This paper suggests that the term “attention” may be best app...
Article
With today's explosion of on-line services and the anticipated emergence of broadband services, traffic demand will grow quickly, requiring a huge increase in transmission capacity. Wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) is receiving considerable attention from network operators as an efficient and cost-effective solution to provide high-capacity p...
Article
Full-text available
The study of conscious experience has seen remarkable strides in the last ten years, reflecting important technological breakthroughs and the enormous efforts of researchers. Although still embroiled in debate, scientists are now beginning to find common ground in their understanding of consciousness, which may pave the way for a unified explanatio...
Article
Response to commentary by author of original keynote article.

Questions

Question (1)
Question
Just send me an email, please. I'd be delighted to work together. 

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Projects (2)
Project
A general educated audience book for Oxford University Press. See my other publications on PubMed, etc.
Project
Hi David et al, I'm delighted that others are interested. When I got started thinking about the scientific evidence wrt consciousness, it was (a) taboo, and (b) interpreted in very specific ways. For example, a common euphemism was "perception" _ because that was safe. But when you compare cs vs. ucs perception (as in backward masking) you get visual cortex activation with lower amplitude and spread, as shown by Dehaene and colleagues. That tell us something new, and I believe it replicates for audition. (Systematic replications should be much more common). Another problem was circular explanation. "Conscious access" was called "awareness" or "attention to" something. But that explains nothing UNLESS you have an independent source of evidence to break the circularity. Other confusions were rife. The conscious (waking) STATE was confused with consciousness OF something. Visual imagery was not fully recognized until Steve Kosslyn, and so on. Attention was used interchangeably with consciousness. All that has cleared up now, either explicitly, or implicitly, by usage. For example, my impression is that attention is used for voluntary control of access to some conscious content. As in voluntary head movements, but not for spontaneous, unconsciously directed eye movements (most fast eye movements are that). As long as these practical usages are clear, they are good enough to avoid confusion. Recent work coming from animal and human electrophysiogy is fabulous. Buszaki's book is important reading. Invasive e-physiology has 1000x the S/N ratio as scalp recording. Both deep sleep and waking look strikingly different at that resolution. Animal researchers have known that for years, but human e-phys researchers were held back by the ethical constraints of working with humans. Penfield was right. Other methodologies are reaching that kind of spatiotemporal resolution, and have their own pros and cons, of course. Our 2013 Frontiers overview still holds water, mostly. My Scholarpedia article is still mostly up to date. But the frontier is moving fast. It's very exciting. Theorists need to integrate the wealth of evidence, clarify ambiguous usages and confusions, and so on. There are still many of them. I believe our theory writing needs much improvement, with the emphasis on INDUCTIVE thinking. (Some writers seem to think this is a form of math, but that's indefensible empirically). A recent article confused the brainstem nuclei involved with the STATE of consciousness with the mostly cortical regions that support CONTENTS of consciousness, like the ventral visual stream. There is appropriate debate about the region of visual integration (MTL or PFC? or both?). I guess I'm a "corticocentrist," but that does NOT rule out other regions, especially given the long evolutionary history of csns -- at least 200 million years for neocortex. Walter Freeman, our late friend, convinced me that paleocortex (incl hippocampus) has to be involved with gustatory-olfactory consciousness. The work on the anterior insula strongly implicates interoceptive consciousness, as in feelings of nausea. Generalization between species is now much more convincing because we have the human and macaque, plus rodent genome. The avian pallium is now considered to be much like cortex in mammals. So there is a TON of work to do. Each question deserves discussion and debate, based on the best evidence available. I HOPE YOU JOIN !!!!