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Pareidolia: From Ambiguity to Emergence
Antoine Bellemare Ph.D. 

Semantic Maps: Meaning in the brain
Fernanda Peréz-Gay JUaréz M.D. Ph.D.

Music pleasure and brain oscillations
Alberto Ara Ph.D. 

Making up realities in dreams
Elizaveta Solomonova Ph.D

 Pareidolia: From Ambiguity to Emergence
Antoine Bellemare Ph.D. 
Thursday, Feb 16th, 4 PM, 2023.

Have you ever recognized a familiar object in the clouds, such as an animal or a face? If so, you have experienced pareidolia, which corresponds to the experience of finding meaningful sensory patterns in random or ambiguous stimuli. It has recently been shown that pareidolia relates to creativity and that the complexity of visual stimuli interacts with the emergence of pareidolic percepts. In this talk, Antoine Bellemare ground this phenomenon in Gestalt Theory of perception and the broader concept of apophenia (i.e. the tendency to see imaginary connections of the meaning). He reviewed different examples of how pareidolia and apophenia can be manipulated and stimulated in the context of generative art, biofeedback and artificial intelligence systems. By doing so, he provided ways to expand our strategies for creative idea generation and emergent storytelling.

About Antoine:
Antoine Bellemare is a multidisciplinary artist and Ph.D. Candidate at Concordia University. He is enrolled in an Individualized program to create a dialogue between digital arts and neuroscience. His research-creation project focuses on the link between creativity, electrophysiological signals, and algorithmic compositions. His work tends to explore how sensory noise influences creative perception, and how meaning emerges from integration of ambiguous information. Poetry, neuroscience, electroacoustic, and artificial intelligence are all vectors of expression that could fulfill this same exploration. He has also been working in the design of artistic brain-computer-interfaces and the creation of tools for biosignals sonification.

Semantic Maps: Meaning in the brain
Fernanda Peréz-Gay JUaréz M.D. Ph.D. 
Wednesday, Mar 22nd, 4 PM, 2023.

Human language is made of words, and we can all agree that words are symbols. While computers manipulate and recombine symbols based merely on their form, following a series of pre-written rules, human language seems to go beyond algorithmic recombination, being able to convey shared notions of the world. For humans, words are not only abstract, interchangeable tokens; in our heads, words evoke different conscious experiences, something we refer to as "meaning". How meaning is encoded in our neural circuits has been the subject of debates in philosophy and cognitive science even before neuroscience started offering windows into the semantic brain. Is meaning purely "abstract", as the classic cognitive science view suggested? Or is meaning related to the way we interact with the world (through the body, by receiving and filtering information through the senses and interacting with objects, situations, and places)? In this talk, we will travel through the semantic brain, from the processes through which a simple word generates distributed activation of sensorimotor and emotional brain networks, to the way stories and narratives can induce "simulations" in our nervous system, providing us with imaginary, protected spaces to experience hypothetical scenarios, engage in self-directed thought and introspection, learn about our own beliefs and gain emotional awareness.

About Fernanda:
Fernanda Pérez- Gay Juárez is a medical doctor, cognitive neuroscientist and science communicator born in Mexico City. She obtained her MD degree in UNAM, Mexico and her PhD in Neuroscience from McGill University, studying the neural correlates of categorization, perception and semantic representation. Currently, she is appointed as a lecturer for the course "Introduction to Neuroscience" as well as a SSHRC funded postdoctoral fellow at the Neurophilosophy lab at McGill University, where she leads experimental projects about the link between Social Categorization and Theory of Mind (the way we read and understand other people's mental states) and whether these interactions can be modified through fiction reading. As a science communicator, she has given conferences to the general public in various settings, published more than 40 science journalism articles in Canadian and Mexican media and she wrote, directed and hosted a SINAPSIS: COnnections between art and your brain, a Youtube video series that explores some of the links between art and neuroscience.

Music pleasure and brain oscillations
Alberto Ara Ph.D. 
Thursday, Apr 20th, 4 PM, 2023.

Music is a source of great pleasure for humans, but until recently, the processes that make music rewarding were not well understood. Recent discoveries have shed light on how the brain's reward system processes music and its acoustic content through various cognitive dynamics. Understanding these mechanisms is essential to understanding how the brain assigns value to music. Given music's multidimensional nature, network dynamics have been found to best explain these mechanisms. Instead of localized brain activity, music engages a large network of brain regions that work in synchrony. State-of-the-art theories of brain function suggest that brain oscillations are the way different brain areas synchronize to perform a common task. In this talk, I will present research that explores the role of brain oscillations in musical pleasure. Results show that slow brain oscillations, in particular, play an essential role in assigning value to music. These results provide support for current theories that musical pleasure depends largely on the interplay between generating predictions and evoking surprise.

About Alberto:
Alberto Ara is a psychologist, neuroscientist, and guitarist who earned his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Barcelona, Spain. His past research studied slow neural oscillations as a brain correlate of musical pleasure. Currently, he conducts research at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, studying the mechanisms by which musical stimuli activate the brain's reward network. He focuses on two main areas of research: how neural oscillations associated with auditory predictive processes underlie musical pleasure, and the role of deep-brain areas in processing complex auditory streams such as music. In his free time, he enjoys playing heavy music on his electric guitar.

Making up realities in dreams
Elizabeta Solomonova 
Thursday, May 18th, 4 PM, 2023.

Our minds never sleep. Our sleeping selves are busy creating narratives, images, stories, perceptions. Dreams are thought to play a role in memory consolidation, in emotion regulation and in creativity and insight. In dreams, our minds remix elements from our memories and create new experiences, forming new memories. Many artists, scientists and inventors turn to dreaming as a source of problem-solving and creativity. In this talk I will introduce current theories of dream function, what is known about dream neurobiology, and will discuss how to get to know your dreaming mind through attentional practices in order to facilitate associative and innovative thinking.

            The functions of dreams are still a mystery. I will present three current scientific views on dreams. First, the dreaming mind creatively and associatively integrates sensory stimuli into an ongoing dream scenario. Second, dreams incorporate memories and help make sense of our lives. Third, our dreams can be seen as simulations where we are able to live alternative experiences. The dreamer is not entirely passive with regards to these simulations and can learn to harness the associative and creative power of the dreaming mind. I will present an active approach to dreaming as a skill and an attentional practice.

About Elizaveta:

Elizaveta Solomonova, Ph.D., is a researcher at McGill University’s Neurophilosophy Lab and at the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry. She is also a lecturer in Psychology at McGill and Concordia Universities, where she teaches courses on sleep and dreams. Elizaveta received her Ph.D. in Psychiatry and Philosophy from the University of Montreal. Her doctoral project focused on the role of sleep and dreams in memory and meditation practices. Her current research centers on states of consciousness, subjective experience, and their place in the social world. In particular, she studies how dreams, sleep and altered experiences, such as meditation, delusions and unusual beliefs, interact with physiology, psychology and the social world. She is involved in interdisciplinary projects bridging cognitive science, art, religious experiences, psychiatry and public health in Montreal, the United States, India and Nepal.

Workshop Lectures.

Coming Soon

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