Prof. Olaf Blanke, PhD.

Keynote: Self-Consciousness. From Neuroscience & Virtual Reality to Immersive Digiceuticals

Recent evidence has defined a minimal form of self-consciousness that is based on the integration of exteroceptive bodily signals and referred to as bodily self-consciousness (BSC). BSC is based on the integrated and multisensory perception of tactile, proprioceptive, visual signals and has been studied in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and in neurological patients (exteroceptive BSC, e-BSC). A different or opposing account of self-consciousness, interoceptive BSC (i-BSC), has highlighted the relevance of interoceptive bodily signals (such as cardiac and respiratory signals). Based on latest neuroscience evidence using different VR technologies (VR, AR, ER) in human neuroscience, I will propose an integrated neural account reconciling these two largely separated views (x-BSC) (Park and Blanke, 2019). These data show that x-BSC is an integrated system based on torso-centered signals in a distributed cortical network and delineate how x-BSC accounts for fundamental aspects of self-conscious experience such as self-location and self-identification with an individual’s body. Moreover, I will argue that the integration of VR technologies with those of human neuroscience is of fundamental importance to achieve further advances in BSC and in many other domains in human neuroscience. I will conclude by describing our current efforts in immersive digiceuticals and highlight the potential of translating these scientific insights and immersive VR technologies to several medical applications such as chronic pain and breathing discomfort.
Bio: Olaf Blanke is founding director of the Center for Neuroprosthetics and holds the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Cognitive Neuroprosthetics at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). He directs the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at EPFL and is Professor of Neurology at the University Hospital of Geneva.


Prof. Thomas D. Parsons, PhD.

Keynote: Cyberpsychology and the Brain: Practical and ethical implications of technologies extending cognition

Our technologies are progressively developing into algorithmic devices that seamlessly interface with digital personhood. This talk discusses the ways in which technology is increasingly becoming a part of personhood and the resulting ethical issues. It includes a framework for a brain-based cyberpsychology. Using this framework, Dr. Parsons investigates the practical and ethical issues that emerge in algorithmically coupled people and technologies. The ethical implications of these ideas are important as we consider the enhancements that can be afforded by our technologies. If people are intimately linked to their technologies, then removing or damaging the technology could be tantamount to a personal attack. On the other hand, algorithmic devices may threaten autonomy and privacy.

Bio: Thomas D. Parsons, PhD is a Clinical Neuropsychologist, Professor, and Director of Computational Neuropsychology & Simulation (CNS) at the University of North Texas. In addition to his patents for the Matching System, he has published five books and over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. He received the 2013 National Academy of Neuropsychology Early Career Achievement award. In 2014, he was awarded Fellow status in the National Academy of Neuropsychology.