Christof Koch (/kɑːx/; born November 13, 1956) is a German-American neuroscientist best known for his work on the neural bases of consciousness. He is the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. From 1986 until 2013, he was a professor at the California Institute of Technology.
Christof Koch, 2008
|Born||November 13, 1956|
|Alma mater||University of Tübingen|
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
|Fields||Biophysics and Neural correlates of consciousness|
|Doctoral advisor||Valentin Braitenberg|
|Doctoral students||Laurent Itti, Virgil Griffith, Fei-Fei Li, Anthony Zador|
Koch was born in the Midwestern United States, and subsequently was raised in the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and Morocco. Koch is the son of German parents; his father was a diplomat, as is his older brother Michael. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended a Jesuit high school in Morocco. He received a PhD in nonlinear information processing from the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany in 1982. He worked for four years at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT before joining, in 1986, the newly started Computation and Neural Systems PhD program at the California Institute of Technology.
In 1986, Koch and Shimon Ullman proposed the idea of a visual saliency map in the primate visual system. Subsequently, his then PhD-student, Laurent Itti, and Koch developed a popular suite of visual saliency algorithms.
For over two decades, Koch and his students have carried out detailed biophysical simulations of the electrical properties of neuronal tissue, from simulating the details of the action potential propagation along axons and dendrites to the synthesis of the local field potential and the EEG from the electrical activity of large populations of excitable neurons.
Since the early 1990s, Koch has argued that identifying the mechanistic basis of consciousness is a scientifically tractable problem, and has been influential in arguing that consciousness can be approached using the modern tools of neurobiology. He and his student Nao Tsuchiya invented continuous flash suppression, an efficient psychophysical masking technique for rendering images invisible for many seconds. They have used this technique to argue that selective attention and consciousness are distinct phenomena, with distinct biological functions and mechanisms.
Koch's primary collaborator in the endeavor of locating the neural correlates of consciousness was the molecular biologist turned neuroscientist, Francis Crick, starting with their first paper in 1990 and their last one, that Crick edited on the day of his death, July 24, 2004, on the relationship between the claustrum, a mysterious anatomical structure situated underneath the insular cortex, and consciousness.
Over the last decade, Koch has worked closely with the psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi. Koch advocates for a modern variant of panpsychism, the ancient philosophical belief that some form of consciousness can be found in all things. Tononi's Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness differs from classical panpsychism in that it only ascribes consciousness to things with some degree of irreducible cause-effect power, which does not include "a bunch of disconnected neurons in a dish, a heap of sand, a galaxy of stars or a black hole," and by providing an analytical and empirically accessible framework for understanding experience and its mechanistic origins. He and Tononi claim that IIT is able to solve the problem in conceiving how one mind can be composed of an aggregate of "smaller" minds, known as the combination problem. His paper with Tononi is the most accessible current introduction to IIT.
Koch writes a popular column, Consciousness Redux, for Scientific American Mind on scientific and popular topics pertaining to consciousness.
Koch co-founded the Methods in Computational Neuroscience summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole in 1988, the Neuromorphic Engineering summer school in Telluride, Colorado in 1994 and the Dynamic Brain summer course at the Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island in 2014. All three summer schools continue to be taught.
In early 2011, Koch became the chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, leading their ten-year project concerning high-throughput large-scale cortical coding. The mission is to understand the computations that lead from photons to behavior by observing and modeling the physical transformations of signals in the visual brain of behaving mice. The project seeks to catalogue all the building blocks (ca. 100 distinct cell types) of the then visual cortical regions and associated structures (thalamus, colliculus) and their dynamics. The scientists seek to know what the animal sees, how it thinks, and how it decides. They seek to map out the murine mind in a quantitative manner. The Allen Institute for Brain Science currently employs about 270 scientists, engineers, technologists and supporting personnel. The first four years of this ten-year endeavor to build brain observatories were funded by a donation of $300 million by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen.
Koch used to be a proponent of the idea of consciousness emerging out of complex nervous networks, but in 2014 he published a short discussion work, In which I argue that consciousness is a fundamental property of complex things, where he introduced the concept that consciousness is a fundamental property of networked entities, and therefore cannot be derived from anything else, since it is a simple substance.
Anthony M. Zador is an American neuroscientist and the Alle Davis Harris Professor of Biology and Chair of Neuroscience at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is a co-founder of the Computational and Systems Neuroscience (COSYNE) conference. Dr. Zador's research has focused on understanding the circuits of the auditory cortex in rodents. More recently, he has pioneered a new approach to connectome mapping using the methods of molecular biology, which may dramatically decrease the cost and improve the speed of mapping neuronal circuits at the single cell level.Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC) is a professional membership organization that aims to encourage research on consciousness in cognitive science, neuroscience, philosophy, and other relevant disciplines in the sciences and humanities, directed toward understanding the nature, function, and underlying mechanisms of consciousness.Christof
Christof is a masculine given name. It is a German variant of Christopher. Notable people with the name include:
Christof Babatz (born 1974), German former professional footballer
Christof Duffner (born 1971), German former ski jumper
Christof Ebert (born 1964), German computer scientist and entrepreneur
Christof Heyns, South African academic
Christof Innerhofer (born 1984), Italian alpine ski racer
Christof Koch (born 1956), American neuroscientist
Christof Lauer (born 1953), German saxophonist
Christof Lindenmayer (born 1977), American former soccer player
Christof Marselis, (1670s – 1731), Polish-Dutch architect
Christof Mauch, German historian
Christof Migone, Swiss-born experimental sound artist and writer
Christof Perick (born Christof Prick, 1946), German conductor
Christof Plümacher or Christof Pluemacher (born 1963), German photographer
Christof Putzel, American journalist
Christof Schwaller (born 1966), Swiss curler
Christof Unterberger (born 1970), Austrian cellist and composer
Christof Wandratsch (born 1966), German swimmer
Christof Wetterich (born 1952), German theoretical physicistCloser to Truth
Closer to Truth is a television series on public television originally created, produced and hosted by Robert Lawrence Kuhn. The original series aired in 2000 for two seasons, followed by a second series aired in 2003 for a single season. The third series of the program, Closer to Truth: Cosmos. Consciousness. God, launched in 2008, with 15 full seasons to date. Closer to Truth has had over 150,000 station broadcasts.
The show is centered on on-camera conversations with leading scientists, philosophers, theologians, and scholars, covering a diverse range of topics or questions, from the cause, size and nature of the universe (or multiverse), to the mystery of consciousness and the notion of free will, to the existence and essence of God, to the mystery of existence (i.e., why there is anything at all).The Closer to Truth website features extensive conversations in addition to those that have been broadcast on TV (approximately 4,000 videos). It is the world's largest archive of video interviews with leading experts in the philosophy of cosmology and physics, consciousness, and the philosophy of religion.
Robert Lawrence Kuhn is the creator, executive producer, writer and presenter of the series. Peter Getzels is the co-creator, producer and director.Computation and Neural Systems
The Computation and Neural Systems (CNS) program was established at the California Institute of Technology in 1986 with the goal of training Ph.D. students interested in exploring the relationship between the structure of neuron-like circuits/networks and the computations performed in such systems, whether natural or synthetic. The program was designed to foster the exchange of ideas and collaboration among engineers, neuroscientists, and theoreticians.Computational neuroscience
Computational neuroscience (also known as theoretical neuroscience or mathematical neuroscience) is a branch of neuroscience which employs mathematical models, theoretical analysis and abstractions of the brain to understand the principles that govern the development, structure, physiology and cognitive abilities of the nervous system.Computational neuroscience focuses on the description of biologically plausible neurons (and neural systems) and their physiology and dynamics, and it is therefore not concerned with biologically unrealistic disciplines such as connectionism, machine learning, artificial neural networks, artificial intelligence and computational learning theory.In theory, computational neuroscience would be a sub-field of theoretical neuroscience which employs computational simulations to validate and solve the mathematical models. However, since the biologically plausible mathematical models formulated in neuroscience are in most cases too complex to be solved analytically, the two terms are essentially synonyms and are used interchangeably. The term mathematical neuroscience is also used sometimes, to stress the quantitative nature of the field.The mathematical models formulated in computational neuroscience are useful since they capture the essential features of the biological system at multiple spatial-temporal scales, from membrane currents, proteins, and chemical coupling to network oscillations, columnar and topographic architecture, and learning and memory. Furthermore, these computational models frame hypotheses that can be directly tested by biological or psychological experiments.Consciousness
Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something "that it is like" to "have" or "be" it, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. As Max Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness: "Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives."Western philosophers, since the time of Descartes and Locke, have struggled to comprehend the nature of consciousness and identify its essential properties. Issues of concern in the philosophy of consciousness include whether the concept is fundamentally coherent; whether consciousness can ever be explained mechanistically; whether non-human consciousness exists and if so how it can be recognized; how consciousness relates to language; whether consciousness can be understood in a way that does not require a dualistic distinction between mental and physical states or properties; and whether it may ever be possible for computing machines like computers or robots to be conscious, a topic studied in the field of artificial intelligence.
Thanks to developments in technology over the past few decades, consciousness has become a significant topic of interdisciplinary research in cognitive science, with significant contributions from fields such as psychology, anthropology, neuropsychology and neuroscience. The primary focus is on understanding what it means biologically and psychologically for information to be present in consciousness—that is, on determining the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness. The majority of experimental studies assess consciousness in humans by asking subjects for a verbal report of their experiences (e.g., "tell me if you notice anything when I do this"). Issues of interest include phenomena such as subliminal perception, blindsight, denial of impairment, and altered states of consciousness produced by alcohol and other drugs, or spiritual or meditative techniques.
In medicine, consciousness is assessed by observing a patient's arousal and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from full alertness and comprehension, through disorientation, delirium, loss of meaningful communication, and finally loss of movement in response to painful stimuli. Issues of practical concern include how the presence of consciousness can be assessed in severely ill, comatose, or anesthetized people, and how to treat conditions in which consciousness is impaired or disrupted. The degree of consciousness is measured by standardized behavior observation scales such as the Glasgow Coma Scale.Francis Crick
Francis Harry Compton Crick (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004) was a British molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist. In 1953, he co-authored with James Watson the academic paper proposing the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Together with Watson and Maurice Wilkins, he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". The results were based partly on fundamental studies done by Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling and Wilkins.
Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist and played a crucial role in research related to revealing the helical structure of DNA. He is widely known for the use of the term "central dogma" to summarize the idea that once information is transferred from nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) to proteins, it cannot flow back to nucleic acids. In other words, the final step in the flow of information from nucleic acids to proteins is irreversible.During the remainder of his career, he held the post of J.W. Kieckhefer Distinguished Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. His later research centered on theoretical neurobiology and attempts to advance the scientific study of human consciousness. He remained in this post until his death; "he was editing a manuscript on his death bed, a scientist until the bitter end" according to Christof Koch.Laurent Itti
Laurent Itti (born December 12, 1970 in Tours, France) is a computational neuroscientist. He received his MS in "Image Processing" from the École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Paris in 1994, and a PhD in Computation and Neural Systems from Caltech in 2000. He is currently an Associate Professor of Computer Science, Psychology, and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, where he has been since 2000.
As a PhD student under the tutelage of Christof Koch, Itti developed a computer model that simulates brain mechanisms involved in the deployment of visual attention ,
. This so-called saliency model has been cited by hundreds of peer-reviewed publications. The software implementation of this model is part of the iLab Neuromorphic Vision Toolkit, which is freely distributed under the GNU general public license.
Itti has also been very active in developing computer vision applications, particularly in the context of autonomous vehicles (both terrestrial  and underwater ), as well as in comparing model simulations to empirical measurements based on a wide spectrum of techniques, including eye tracking, psychophysics, neuroimaging, and electrophysiology .
Itti is credited with authoring several dozens of peer-reviewed publications , and 3 image processing patents . He also co-developed the Coregistration for Neuroimaging Systems software package, a suite of image processing tools for analyzing neuroimaging data, which is routinely used by several hospitals and research labs in the U.S. and Europe.List of Closer to Truth episodes
Closer to Truth is a continuing television series on PBS & public television originally created, produced and hosted by Robert Lawrence Kuhn. The first premiere series aired in 2000 for 2 seasons, followed by a second series aired in 2003 for a single season.
The current / third series of the program, Closer to Truth: Cosmos. Consciousness. God, launched in 2008, with 18 full seasons to date. Robert Lawrence Kuhn is the creator, executive producer, writer and presenter of the series. Peter Getzels is the co-creator and producer / director.The show is centered on on-camera conversations with leading scientists, philosophers, theologians, and scholars, covering a diverse range of topics or questions from the size and nature of the universe (or multiverse), to the existence and essence of God, to the mystery of consciousness and the notion of free will.Numinous
Numinous () is an English adjective, derived from the Latin numen, meaning "arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or awe-inspiring". The term was popularized by the German theologian Rudolf Otto in his influential 1917 German book Das Heilige, which appeared in English as The Idea of the Holy in 1923.Patrick Wilken
Patrick Wilken (born 17 March 1966, Melbourne, Australia) was a scientist, active in the promotion of consciousness studies.
He completed his doctoral studies at the University of Melbourne in 2001 under the supervision of Jason Mattingley and William Webster, where he developed models of visual short-term memory. He subsequently worked for three years as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Christof Koch at the California Institute of Technology, and then for two years as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Jochen Braun, at Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg.
His primary research interest was limits in information processing within high-level vision. He argued along with his collaborator Wei Ji Ma that the capacity limits commonly seen in visual short term memory and change blindness are caused, not by a high-level bottleneck in the number items that can be attended and/or stored in memory, but by an increase in neuronal noise in stimulus representations as complexity of visual information increases.
He has been active in the promotion of consciousness as an area of academic study since the early 1990s. In 1992, he founded the electronic journal Psyche, which in addition to publishing peer-reviewed papers and book reviews, acted as an online forum for discussion of consciousness studies via its lively mailing list Psyche-D. He acted as editor-in-chief of the journal until 2002, when he handed over executive editorship to the philosopher Tim Bayne.
After attending the first Toward a Science of Consciousness meeting in Tucson in 1994, he promoted the idea of setting up a professional organization to organize future consciousness conferences. This idea grew into the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. He has been active in the organization in various ways, including being a key organizer (along with William Banks) of both the first meeting of the association in 1997, and the most recent meetings organized with Christof Koch at Caltech 2005, Geraint Rees in Oxford in 2006 and Michael Pauen in Berlin in 2009. He sat on the Board of the ASSC from its foundation, and in 2002 took over from David Chalmers as its chair; later being appointed its first executive director.
In 2007, to avoid possible conflict of interest issues associated after he was appointed an editor at Cell Press (where he worked on the journals Neuron, Trends in Cognitive Sciencess and Trends in Neurosciences), he stepped down both as Director and from the Board of the ASSC. However, while at Cell Press he remained active with the ASSC (e.g., visiting Taipei twice to help the local organizers of the 2008 meeting). In late 2008, he quit his job at Cell Press, and relocated to Berlin, in order to co-organize the 2009 Berlin meeting of the ASSC. However, internal politics on the Board lead to his being frozen out of further involvement with the organization he had created at the completion of the meeting.Posterior cortical hot zone
The term posterior cortical hot zone was coined by Christof Koch and colleagues to describe part of neocortex closely associated with the minimal neural substrate essential for conscious perception. The posterior cortical hot zone includes sensory cortical areas in the parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. It is the “sensory” cortex, much as the frontal cortex is the “action” cortex.
When parts of the posterior cortex are damaged, whole modalities of sensory experience disappear from both waking and dreaming. For example, individuals with a lesion in the Visual area V4 often do not perceive color and dream in black-and-white; those with a lesion in the Visual area V5/MT do not perceive motion and do not dream of motion; subjects with a lesion to fusiform gyrus are impaired in face perception and also do not dream of faces. Compare that to lesions of the cerebellum or frontal cortex that have little effect on sensory experience.Science and Consciousness Review
Science and Consciousness Review (SCR) is a website presenting publicly accessible summaries of scientific studies of consciousness and related issues. SCR is one of a number of web resources about the scientific study of consciousness, including the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and the Center for Consciousness Studies of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Scientific journals focused on conscious cognition include the Elsevier journal Consciousness and Cognition.
Current editors are Bernard J. Baars, Thomas Ramsoy, and Alice Kim. Technical support is provided by Virgil Griffith and Sidney d'Mello. A number of well-known scientists and scholars serve on the Editorial Board, including Ned Block, Stan Franklin, Patricia Churchland, Allan Combs, Walter Freeman, and Christof Koch.Shimon Ullman
Shimon Ullman (שמעון אולמן, born January 28, 1948 in Jerusalem) is a professor of computer science at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Ullman's main research area is the study of vision processing by both humans and machines. Specifically, he focuses on object and facial recognition, and has made a number of key insights in this field, including with Christof Koch the idea of a visual
saliency map in the mammalian visual system to regulate selective spatial attention.Skeptic (U.S. magazine)
Skeptic, colloquially known as Skeptic magazine, is a quarterly science education and science advocacy magazine published internationally by The Skeptics Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. Founded by Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, the magazine was first published in the spring of 1992 and is published through Millennium Press.
Shermer remains the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the magazine and the magazine’s Co-publisher and Art Director is Pat Linse. Other noteworthy members of its editorial board include, or have included, Oxford University evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond, magician and escape artist turned educator James “The Amazing” Randi, actor, comedian, and Saturday Night Live alumna Julia Sweeney, professional mentalist Mark Edward, science writer Daniel Loxton, Lawrence M. Krauss and Christof Koch.
Skeptic has an international circulation with over 50,000 subscriptions and is on newsstands in the U.S. and Canada as well as Europe, Australia, and other countries.The Quest for Consciousness
The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach is a 2004 book on consciousness written by Christof Koch.The Skeptics Society
The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit, member-supported organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. The Skeptics Society was founded by Michael Shermer as a Los Angeles-area skeptical group to replace the defunct Southern California Skeptics. After the success of its magazine, Skeptic, introduced in early 1992, it became a national and then international organization. The stated mission of Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine "is the investigation of science and pseudoscience controversies, and the promotion of critical thinking."Tomaso Poggio
Tomaso Armando Poggio (born September 11, 1947 in Genoa, Italy), is the Eugene McDermott professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, a member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and director of both the Center for Biological and Computational Learning at MIT and the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines, a multi-institutional collaboration headquartered at the McGovern Institute since 2013.