Keynote Michael J. Morgan: Representation of Space in the Brain (Sonic Acts XIII, 2010)

Sonic Acts is a biannual festival at the intersection of arts, science, music & technology. As Descartes realized, there is no obvious reason why an image has to represented as another image in the brain. Yet, it is, at least in the early stages of representation. Reasons that have been advanced for this topographical representation include the need to establish ‘local sign’ during the development of the brain; the advantages of short-range connections over long nerve tracts; the simple mapping of sensory information onto motor maps; and the need to keep the maps from different senses in register. A philosophical tradition started by Berkeley and continued by Rudolf Hermann Lotze suggests that our spatial sense is in reality a representation of action, hence the close connection of the senses with motor maps. Recently, a counter-suggestion has been that the mechanisms of perception and action are separated into distinct dorsal and ventral streams of processing. The evidence for and against the dual process theory will be discussed. Michael John Morgan (UK) researches the experimental psychology of vision, from neuroanatomy to perception and psychophysics. His 2001 book The Space Between Our Ears won the Wellcome Trust book prize for science writing. Currently professor of Visual Psychophysics at the City University, London.

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