The 1,999th Meeting of the Society

October 2, 1992

I Feel Therefore I Am: The Biology of Emotion

A New Paradigm for Consciousness

Ayub Ommaya


About the Lecture

A novel hypothesis on the nature of mind will be presented and evaluated in the light of current data from neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive science. Emotion is described as foundational for consciousness, desires, and beliefs. Cognition is simply the further elaboration of the expressions of those desires and beliefs. Unconscious mental states are defined in terms of accessibility to potential or actual conscious states. In this theory, subjectivity is always prior to objectivity, i.e., "view from nowhere" types of accounts cannot develop without the prior emotional substrate of subjective states. The neurobiological mechanism for such a system will be outlined. The asymmetry between spatial and temporal experience of consciousness and the role of society (other minds) in the structure of consciousness will be briefly discussed if time permits. Implications of this paradigm will be discussed with reference to normal and abnormal human behavior, as well as for the current attempts to model the mind in the fields of artificial intelligence, neural networks, computational neuroscience, and claims made for the future capacities of mobile robots.

About the Speaker

Mr. Ommaya received his M.D. from King Edward Medical College in Pakistan in 1953 and completed his graduate work in Physiology, Psychology, and Biochemistry at the University of Oxford (Balliol College) as a Rhodes Scholar (M.A.) in 1961. From 1961 to 1980, he joined the staff of the National Institutes of Health and became Chief of Neurosurgery, studying the biomechanics and mechanisms of brain injury and memory. He has also served as Chief Medical Advisor to the Department of Transportation (NHTSA). He has patents in devices for drug delivery to the brain, protective systems for neck and head injuries and an artificial organ for replacement of hormonal deficiencies. He is a Hunterian Professor of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and is currently in active Neurosurgical practice. Mr. Ommaya also serves as Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at George Washington University Medical Center and as President of the Neuroscience Foundation in Bethesda, Maryland.