Des Moines, Iowa – April 30, 2008 – Internationally respected scientists will gather next week for a symposium in Des Moines to explore how a brain creates a mind and to emphasize the need for $4 billion in federal support for scientific research over the next 10 years. Presented by Great Ape Trust of Iowa, Decade of the Mind III: Emergence of Mind will draw internationally recognized research pioneers from a variety of disciplines May 7-9 for a symposium exploring the topics of consciousness and mind in nonhuman primates with an emphasis on great apes.
“This is an extremely important field of inquiry offering new insight into how the brain creates the mind, language, rational thought,” U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in a videotaped message to be delivered at Decade of the Mind III. Harkin, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has championed research efforts at the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.
“I am committed to a robust federal role in supporting basic, long-term scientific research – the kind of research that the private sector can’t always do by itself,” he added.
The Decade of the Mind initiative was established at George Mason University’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, following the model established by Decade of the Brain from 1990 to 2000. During that period, quantum leaps in neuroscience spurred development of technologies that gave researchers the tools to look non-invasively into the living, conscious brain and develop a blueprint of its structure.
The Decade of the Mind initiative takes this scientific inquiry further, providing greater understanding of how a brain creates a mind and how the mind thinks and acts. Such an understanding addresses vital U.S. interests including, but not limited to science, medicine, economic growth, security and well-being.
“We have an opportunity to change the way America invests in ‘mind’ science,” said Dr. James Olds, director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. “As the Human Genome Project opened up a window into our genetic make-up, the Decade of the Mind will open up a window into what it means for us to be self-aware, and how that self-awareness emerges from the brain.”
The topics to be discussed in nine plenary sessions complement Great Ape Trust’s cognitive and behavioral research with nonhuman primates to better understand their mental processes and capabilities, according to Dr. Rob Shumaker, co-organizer of the event and director of orangutan research at Great Ape Trust.
Decade of the Mind III: Emergence of Mind is open to the public and there are no registration fees. Registrations are accepted at www.GreatApeTrust.org/decadeofthemind/ and limited to 200 attendees.
Dr. Giulio Tononi, a professor of psychiatry at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a pioneer in studies of the neural basis of consciousness and the function of sleep, will give the keynote address, “Consciousness and the Brain,” at the three-day symposium, the third in the Decade of the Mind series. Tononi’s breakthrough research includes a finding that the fading of consciousness during dreamless sleep seems to occur as the different regions of the cerebral cortex that mediate perception, thought and action become functionally disconnected.
Tononi will make his remarks on the opening night of the symposium at the Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave., where all sessions will be held. A tour of Great Ape Trust facilities, followed by a reception and casual dinner, are also scheduled.
Other speakers are:
GREAT APE TRUST BACKGROUND
Great Ape Trust of Iowa is a scientific research facility in southeast Des Moines dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence. When completed, Great Ape Trust will be the largest great ape facility in North America and one of the first worldwide to include all four types of great ape – bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans – for noninvasive interdisciplinary studies of their cognitive and communicative capabilities.
Great Ape Trust is dedicated to providing sanctuary and an honorable life for great apes, studying the intelligence of great apes, advancing conservation of great apes and providing unique educational experiences about great apes. Great Ape Trust of Iowa is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization and is certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). To learn more about Great Ape Trust of Iowa, go to www.GreatApeTrust.org.
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