On May 3rd, 2019, the Brain Institute hosted Dr. Michael Posner for a lecture with a topic of "Enhancing Brain Networks of Conscious Control". This lecture is sponsored by The Federico & Elvia Faggin Foundation and is the inaugural lecture of this Faggin Lectures Series.
Michael I. Posner is an American psychologist, the editor of numerous cognitive and neuroscience compilations, and an eminent researcher in the field of attention. He is currently an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, and an adjunct professor at the Weill Medical College in New York.
The problem of consciousness can be divided into awareness and control. This lecture concentrates on the mechanisms of control. Control of behavior is exercised through a brain network involving the anterior cingulate, anterior insula and underlying striatum. The efficiency of this network can be examined through the ability to resolve conflict among competing responses. This network develops in early childhood and comes to control our voluntary responses. Pathways through which this mechanism operates can be improved by experience, for example, by 2-4 weeks of meditation training. Meditation training enhances intrinsic frontal theta. We have shown in mice, inducing frontal theta with optogenetics enhances white matter connectivity. We are testing the possibility that enhancing intrinsic theta may improve white matter anywhere in the human brain. If this is possible we may be able to help people with disorders that involve reduced connectivity. By dividing the study of consciousness into more elementary issues considerable progress has and can be made.