A conversation with Björn MERKER about consciousness and the brain

Event Start Date:
22. January 2018
Event End Date:
22. January 2018
Event Venue:

Open meeting in Forum for Consciousness Research and  The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters,

Monday, 22 January, 2018, 18:00:

 A conversation with Björn Merker about consciousness and the brain

 Place: The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Drammensveien 78, Oslo

Time: Monday 22 January, 2018, 18:00 – 20.15


18.00- 18.10:  Welcome and introduction by Johan F. Storm, Neurophysiology, University of Oslo

18.10 – 18.30: Introduction by Björn Merker

18.30 – 19.00: Panel discussion I and questions from the audience

Panel: Björn Merker, Kenneth Hugdahl (Univ.of Bergen), Sebastian Watzl (Philosophy, UiO), J.F. Storm (UiO).

19.00 – 19.15: Coffee break

19.15 – 20.15: Panel discussion II and questions from the audience

Björn Merker, born 1943, is a neuroscientist and independent interdisciplinary scholar who is knownfor his work on behavior and apparent consciousness in children that are born without almost any cerebral cortex (hydranencephaly; Merker, 2007), and his ideas about possible subcortical origin of consciousness (Merker, 2013).

Merker studied psychology and brain science in the U.S., receiving a B.A. in psychology at Queens College of the City University of New York (1975), and a PhD in psychology and brain science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980 for work on midbrain orienting mechanisms. He then worked on oculomotor physiology in cats at UCLA and on the primary visual cortex of macaques at New York University. An interest in comparative behavioral biology led him to study song development and mirror self-recognition in gibbons, and eventually to research on the biological roots and evolutionary background of human music and language. With Nils Wallin and Steven Brown he edited the interdisciplinary volume The Origins of Music. In retirement, he continues active work on theoretical topics that include the analysis of brain macrosystems and their interaction, countercurrent modelling of cortical memory, the subcortical foundations of brain mechanisms of attention and consciousness, and the biological background to human music and language.

Selected articles and books

  • Merker, B. (2013). The efference cascade, consciousness, and its self: Naturalizing the first person pivot of action control. Frontiers in Psychology 4, article 501: 1-20.
  • B. Merker (2012): From probabilities to percepts. A subcortical “global best estimate buffer” as locus of phenomenal experience”. In: S. Edelman, T. Fekete and N. Zach (Eds.): Being in Time. Dynamical models of phenomenal experience. (pp. 37–79). Amsterdam. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • B. Merker (2013): “Cortical gamma oscillations: the functional key is activation, not cognition”. In: Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 37 (2013) 401–417
  • B. Merker (2007): “Consciousness without a cerebral cortex: a challenge for neuroscience and medicine.” Target article, commentaries and author’s response. In: The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30: 63-134
  • B. Merker (2004). “Cortex, countercurrent context, and dimensional integration of lifetime memory.” Cortex, 40: 559-576. Preprint at: http://cogprints.org/6456/
  • M. Ujhelyi, B. Merker, P. Buk & T. Geissmann (2000). “Observations on the behavior of gibbons in the presence of mirrors.” Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114: 253-262.
  • B. Merker & C. Cox (1999): “Development of the female great call in Hylobates gabriellae: A case study.” Folia Primatologica, 70: 96-106.
  • E. Schwartz & B. Merker (1986). “Computer aided neuroanatomy: Differential geometry of cortical surfaces and an optimal flattening algorithm.” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 6: 36-44.
  • B. Merker & J. Schlag (1985): “Role of intralaminar thalamus in gaze mechanisms: Evidence from electrical stimulation and fiber sparing lesions in cats.” In: Experimental Brain Research, 59: 388-394.
  • B. Merker (1980): “The Sentinel Hypothesis – A role for the mammalian superior colliculus.” Doctoral Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge, Mass


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