Goal of the Forum
To examine the circuitry, neuronal mechanisms, and computations by which different PFC regions and associated networks mediate key component mental operations (e.g., limbic-affective, cognitive, social, and motoric) that enable higher-level thought and behavior in health and neuropsychiatric disorders.
The frontal lobes, which are most expanded in humans as compared to other species, play a critical role in higher-order thinking and the control of goal-oriented behavior, yet there is no consensus on how its neuroanatomical and functional organization enables such capabilities. Although scientists investigate the frontal lobe functions using diverse approaches, their focus is typically on one frontal area or network (i.e., the executive control network connections of the dorsolateral PFC). What is missing is an understanding of how, where, and when networks interact. The capabilities of the frontal cortex require an organization that must be able to integrate across multiple brain systems, utilizing information from each of these in a measured flexible manner, depending on task demands. A major issue is whether there is a central executive controlling region of the PFC or whether this control emerges from the interplay between autonomous processing modules in its specific anatomical subregions (or Brodmann areas).
Research on the frontal lobes is an active area of research across various fields, yet it is somewhat “siloed,” and no major meeting has been held on the topic for a decade. This Forum will promote extensive discussion and collaboration across fields, as researchers collectively explore how frontal cortical networks interact and work together to develop appropriate control over actions and thoughts.
This Forum will explore how digital ethology—the study of human behavior as captured by its digital footprint—can be used to quantify the human environment and facilitate understanding of its impact on health and well-being. The behavior that we seek to understand can be direct (e.g., tweets) or indirect, as inferred by its effect on the physical environment (e.g., broken windows on Google Street). Key concepts will be examined, as will methods needed to quantify the human environment from existing data sources at the aggregate (e.g., neighborhood) level. Requirements for using the resultant information, in conjunction with individual-level data derived from administrative databases, will be explored, as will privacy issues and ethical, legal, and societal implications. Ways of linking aggregate- and individual-level data through geospatial coding will be examined at different levels of spatial granularity. In summary, this Forum aims to:
Examine ways through which digital data can broaden research into human behavior and support future comparative behavioral studies across species
Construct a conceptual and methodological framework for integrating various data sources
Expand understanding of how the environment shapes human development across the life span
Goal of the Forum
To identify areas in the translation of genomics to neurobiology where a systematic, consensus-based and collaborative approach to experimental science can help reveal the key neurobiological mechanisms associated with genetic risk for mental illness and foster translation of this knowledge into clinically useful approaches.
The genetic basis of psychiatric illnesses was for decades a mystery despite considerable evidence for heritability. After many failed attempts at hunting for psychiatric risk genes, the realization that psychiatric disorders are polygenic, coupled with collaborative efforts to amass immense samples and characterize them with genome-wide association studies (GWAS), has finally revealed the genetic architecture of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and autism, among other diagnoses. Hundreds of risk loci for these disorders have been identified, the vast majority of them being common alleles of very small effect sizes – raising risk by a few percentage points rather than several fold, as in mendelian disorders (even those with incomplete penetrance). Add to these hundreds of common alleles several dozen rare mutations of larger effect sizes (mostly copy number variants with multiple genes deleted or duplicated, with the exception of some monogenic forms of autism with intellectual disability) and you have many clues to the origins of psychiatric disease risk, but very little understanding of how to turn these clues into neurobiological understanding of the chain of events leading to mental illness.
In attempting to forge a pathway leading from this increased genetic understanding through neurobiological understanding to novel therapies, the field faces several important controversies:
Whether and how to explore additional genetic and non-genetic risk factors.
How to exploit these genetic clues in order to identify and characterize the underlying molecular, cellular, circuit, and systems-level biology of relevance to psychiatric disorders.
Whether and how our current genetic understanding can be used in the near term to improve clinical science and clinical practice.
These controversies play out amidst a backdrop of excitement that originates from an explosion of promising new tools in other areas of psychiatric science. These include the development of large datasets (e.g., the UK Biobank, iPSYCH, psychENCODE, and others) and powerful computational approaches to studying them; a plethora of molecular tools to engineer human and animal experimental systems and causally test hypotheses across multiple levels of analysis; and mathematical methods to analyze complex and interacting network phenomenon at the molecular and circuit levels. All of these factors converge upon the possibility that discussions focused on establishing a framework for prioritizing and evaluating progress in furthering the translation of genomics to neurobiology and treatment will be fruitful in the near term.
To this end, the 31st Ernst Strüngmann Forum will bring together experts in epidemiological and statistical genetics, systems biology, experimental and translational neuroscience, and translational and clinical psychiatry to discuss how best to explore and exploit our newfound and hard-won understanding of the genetic risk for psychiatric disorders.
Goals of the Forum
To explore the commonalities and differences in collaboration as observed in biological, social, and technological systems,
To identify core drivers of and constraints on collaboration and the conditions for its emergence, stabilization, and fractionation,
To outline putative generic architectures for processes of collaboration, and
To model how commons may be created, consumed, and destroyed during collaboration.
Integrating diverse perspectives, the Forum will work to develop a comprehensive framework to support future work.
The stability of social systems depends critically on realizing sustainable methods of “collaboration,” yet how and by which means collaboration is achieved is not clearly understood; neither are the conditions or processes that lead to its breakdown or failure. [For context, collaboration is understood as cooperation between agents toward mutually constructed goals.] Part of the reason for our lack of understanding is that the phenomenon of collaboration is, by nature, a highly multidisciplinary problem, and effective research into its complexities has been difficult to achieve across the broad range of scientific and technical disciplines involved.
The need for a fundamental understanding of collaboration, however, has become increasingly important. Not only does humankind demand answers as it attempts to address critical challenges at multiple scales (e.g., climate change, migration, enhanced automation, social and economic inequality), but ever-increasing technological and economical means of interconnecting people and societies are disrupting long-established, familiar patterns of how we interact. Radical technological changes that are ongoing have the potential to reshape collaboration in ways that are currently hard to predict or influence (e.g., by altering configurations in interaction, information creation, and modes of communication). On one hand, such changes could disrupt hitherto stable forms of collaboration by affecting critical communication channels and traditional roles, as can be observed in the rapidly changing patterns in governance, commerce, and social interaction. On the other, technology could lead to the emergence of novel, successful forms of collaboration that deviate from traditional “hierarchical” architectures. Evidence of this can be seen in areas as diverse as highly automated manufacturing plants, the open science movement, collaborative software repositories, user-centered services, and the sharing of economy-based modes of organization. Without a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms, processes, and boundary conditions of collaboration, it is not possible to evaluate or predict which of these possible scenarios are sustainable or even plausible.
To remedy this knowledge gap requires a comprehensive research program. At its core, a theoretical framework must link pertinent aspects of collaboration across spatiotemporal scales and contexts. This task is a tall order, yet given current pressures on human–human, human–machine, and future machine–machine collaboration, we believe that an attempt must be made for a first survey.
Goals of the Forum
To scrutinize the relationships between stigma and migration-generated diversity
To explore the linkages that underpin stigma in the context of migration-generated diversity at multiple levels (e.g., interpersonal, intrapersonal, structural) and from diverse perspectives (e.g., social, cultural, economic, historical, political)
Myriad factors motivate individuals to leave their homes and migrate to new areas: economic opportunity, war or persecution as well as instability brought on by climate change, economic recession, political turmoil, and pandemics. Based on global trends, it is unlikely that migration will lessen in the future, and there are reasons to believe that it could accelerate. Historical and contemporary events demonstrate that migration-generated diversity (Kesler and Bloemraad 2010; Eger and Breznau 2017) presents numerous challenges to individuals and societies. Differences in ethnicity, race, language, religion, and/or traditions interact with political institutions to create multiple conflicts (e.g., legal status, citizenship, well-being of subsequent generations).
A plethora of social science research has established that majority group reactions and migrant experiences differ across and within countries, as well as over time. Although much is known about the origins of prejudice and patterns of social mobility among minority groups, a number of empirical puzzles are still hard to explain: (a) empirical patterns of self-reported discrimination and the “integration paradox” (Verkuyten 2016 Buijs et al. 2006), (b) inequality among certain second-generation immigrant groups but not others, (c) selection of specific behaviors or traditions (e.g., wearing a veil) for sanction group over others.
To address these issues, we believe that an integrative approach is needed, grounded in scholarship from the stigma and migration research communities—two well-established, yet independent fields. Interaction between these fields has to date been sparse. Thus, this Forum presents a unique opportunity to link expertise and examine collectively the relationships inherent to stigma and migration-generated diversity. Importantly, we expect the resultant transdisciplinary discourse to reveal gaps in current knowledge and be used to establish the groundwork for future research.
Using intrusive thinking as an exemplar endophenotype, this Forum will explore how basic neurobiological/molecular dysfunctions revealed by the endophenotype approach can advance the discovery of neuropsychiatric treatments and lead to a broadening of social perspectives on psychiatric disorders. This core issue needs to be addressed to validate (or not) the use of endophenotypes as a strategy for developing new treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders and to determine whether the endophenotype construct can be sociologically extended to influence social norms. Answering this fundamental question speaks not only to a strategy for developing clinical cures, but to basic sociological and philosophical constructs of human behavior.
Knowledge is valued; knowledge is sought. Western history of thought and literature abounds with examples. Yet our very ability to generate and disseminate knowledge also creates the possibility of choosing not to know.
Consider, for instance, individuals at risk of Huntington disease: Nearly everyone with the defective gene who lives long enough will develop this devastating condition, yet only 3–25% of those at high risk opt to take a near-perfect test to identify whether they are carriers of the gene (Creighton et al. 2003; Yaniv and Sagi 2004). Is this intentional ignorance individually rational because no treatment is available? Do at-risk individuals fear that the knowledge of having the defective gene will ruin their healthy years? Would they be better advised to take the test because a negative result could liberate them from existential anxieties, whereas a positive result would allow them to make meaningful preparations for the illness during their healthy years?
Consider also individual and collective decisions to obtain or forgo knowledge about others’ past behaviors that were (from today’s perspective) morally offensive or even criminal. After Reunification, for example, the German government granted individuals access to files left by the communist East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi. Many of those entitled to view their records decided they did not want to know who had spied on them, whereas others declared that they did not read their files because they expected to find that they had been betrayed by people close to them. Meier (2010) has argued that many societies in transformation opt to “forget” (or deliberately not to find out about) and not prosecute past perpetrators (beyond the past regime’s top echelon), in an effort to break a vicious circle of revenge and retribution (see also Rieff 2016).
The law sometimes mandates deliberate ignorance, as in the way it regulates access to information about past criminal convictions is regulated. In German courts, a defendant’s criminal record is routinely read out at the beginning of court procedure. In the United States, however, such a reading conflicts with Rule 404 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, designed to ensure that a jury’ s view of a defendant is not prejudiciously biased. Similarly, to avoid age discrimination, it is common practice in some countries not to disclose one’s age when applying for a job, and for employers not to ask for this information. Further manifestations of deliberate ignorance, as well as references to experimental studies, are delineated by Hertwig and Engel (2016).
To date, however, science has focused primarily on the generation, acquisition, and dissemination of knowledge. Little attention has been paid to the wish not to know, the desire not to search for information and knowledge, and the preference for uncertainty over certainty, for ambiguity over clarity.
This Forum will examine the epistemic choice of deliberate ignorance; identify and model the motivational, cognitive, and affective processes that underlie deliberate ignorance; and discuss the normative implications and institutional responses. It offers a unique opportunity for a joint examination of the underpinnings, rationality, and ethics of deliberate ignorance, as well as its sociocultural and institutional implications. Four topics—predictive genetic testing; truth and reconciliation in society; selection processes to counteract stereotypes/bias; and negotiations—will be prepared as starting points for examination by the working groups.
Goals of the Forum
To understand the nature of emergent psychopathology underlying causal factors and mechanisms
To develop a framework for prevention and early intervention
To identify gaps in knowledge, key questions, and strategies to guide future research
Mental disorders continue to constitute one of the largest disease burdens worldwide. One reason for the continued bottleneck in improving mental health has been the long-held assumption that the most effective approach in targeting mental disorders is a focus on conditions once they are fully manifested as opposed to preventive efforts aimed at reducing incidence of major syndromes. The latter has gained significant support through a growing awareness and empirical evidence that the large majority of major mental health conditions emerge during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This is furthermore supported by an increasing recognition that the brain is developing rapidly during this period, providing neurobiological windows of vulnerability and resilience for emerging psychopathology.
This Forum addresses these fundamental challenges by integrating data from different disciplines: basic neuroscience, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, psychiatry, and sociology. Its overall goal is to establish a coherent framework for a novel approach toward youth mental health that will target basic scientists, neuroscientists, clinicians, epidemiologists, and policy-makers.
Recent advances in novel and powerful methods have revolutionized neuroscience and led to an exponential growth of the database on the structural and functional organization of the brain. This is particularly true for the cerebral cortex which appeared late in evolution, exhibits exceedingly complex circuitry, and is held responsible for the emergence of cognitive functions specific to humans. Yet, our concepts have advanced less than our ability to characterize and intervene with neural circuits at ever greater resolutions.
Understanding the acquisition of new tasks through natural interaction is a fundamental unsolved problem. It is an inherently multidisciplinary challenge, which impedes progress due to the fractionated state of the relevant scientific and technical disciplines. This Forum will be a catalyzing event to achieve the following goals:
Define the problem of interactive task learning from diverse perspectives.
Identify the most important scientific gaps that must be addressed to understand interactive task learning in humans and achieve the vision for interactive task learning in artificially intelligent systems.
Identify a variety of possible scientific and technical approaches to closing those gaps, drawing from a multiplicity of scientific fields.
Relate the closing of those gaps to concrete new capabilities needed in assistive robotics, healthcare, education, training, and gaming.
Establish a diverse international community of scientists committed to the study of interactive task learning.
Insights gained from this Forum will provide a foundational reference and organizing framework for global research and development in interactive task learning.
To extend the exploration of dynamic brain coordination and synchrony, and their underlying mechanisms, using a developmental perspective.
To explore the possibility that abnormalities in neuronal synchronization and dynamic integration might be causal in developmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), language-learning disorders (LLDs), schizophrenia, and autism.
To foster synergies and changes in research foci concerning dynamic coordination across development to move the field forward and produce a lasting, meaningful impact across the fields of behavioral and systems neuroscience, cognitive science, computational neuroscience, genetics, molecular biology, neurology, and psychiatry.
To consolidate and advance the multidisciplinary foundations of science and scholarship on agrobiodiversity
To examine the inkages among key focal areas
To develop an integrated scientific framework of agrobiodiversity to address sustainability amid global change
The overall aim is to advance essential understanding and formulate key research questions to guide future query, governance initiatives, and practical interventions.
To understand how differences in framing environmental problems are driven by differences in normative and theoretical positions; and
To conceptualize attachment theory so as to include cross-cultural and cross-species perspectives and research.
To devise research strategies as gold standards for programmatic change in future attachment research.
To explore the implications of a new paradigm for practice and policy and communicate these to policy makers and stakeholders.
This Forum will scrutinize the underlying philosophical and ideological assumptions of attachment theory. It will not rehash the contributions of Bowlby and Ainsworth nor revisit the basic mammalian biology of bonding (e.g., Carter et al., 2005). It will explore how perspectives from cross-cultural and cross-species research can be included into a conceptualization of attachment: one that embraces new concepts of attachment, such as the basic necessity of infants to develop trust in the social environment as a primary and universal developmental task; and one that incorporates new information on epigenetics and neuroscience. Such a reformulation will have implications for theory, research, and practice.
To explore real-life cases and theoretical models that deal with impacts of “social parasitism” in humans and other organisms.
To bring together evolutionary biologists, economists and other social scientists to benefit from commonalities between them.
To work toward a common synthesis that would promote a unified framework and explore implications for public health, natural resource use, and the design of institutions.
We will approach these goals from four perspectives:
Ecological and Economic Conditions of Parasitic Strategies
Governance of Natural Resources
We start from the idea that computational psychiatry entails a reciprocal interaction between theoretical/computational neuroscience and psychiatry. We believe that these two disciplines are mutually informative and have much to learn from each other.
We define theoretical neuroscience as a formal description of mechanisms that underlie measured behavioral and brain processes. Computational approaches are a key component of the formalisms that underlie theoretical neuroscience. These formal descriptions can provide new perspectives about brain-behavior relationships and enable predictions that can be used to guide experimental design and interpretation. The hypothesis guiding this meeting is that these formal descriptions will prove to be useful in psychiatry, by informing classification, outcome-prediction, and therapeutics.
To discuss how new computational perspectives might be used to broaden our mechanistic understanding of psychiatric dysfunction and improve identification and treatment of psychiatric disorders.
To extend the theoretical foundation of economics and public policy by integrating complex systems theory and evolutionary theory
To put a synthesis of complex systems theory and evolutionary theory to work in solving problems of basic research as well as real-world applications ranging from individual behavior to global economic systems.
In cognitive science, we are currently witnessing a "pragmatic turn" away from the traditional representation-centered framework toward a paradigm that focuses on understanding cognition as "enactive," as a form of practice. A key premise of this view holds that cognition should not be understood as serving to make models of the world, but rather as subserving action and being grounded in sensorimotor skills. Accordingly, cognitive states and their associated neural activity patterns should be studied primarily with respect to their functional role in action generation. Such an action-oriented paradigm seems not only conceptually viable, but is already supported by much experimental evidence. Numerous neurobiological findings demonstrate either overtly the action-relatedness of cognitive processing or can be reinterpreted in this new framework. Moreover, new vistas on the functional relevance and the presumed "representational" nature of neural processes are likely to emerge from this paradigm.
The goal of the proposed Forum would be to examine the key concepts of an emerging action-oriented view of cognition and the consequences of such a paradigm shift.
This Forum would contribute to this paradigm shift by enabling a collective discussion and elaboration of key concepts involved in this pragmatic turn, which in turn could be applied and ultimately result in novel approaches in a number of fields, including cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, robotics, and philosophy of mind. While action-oriented views are currently beginning to emerge in these individual fields, strong links across these domains are mostly lacking. Bringing together leading proponents from these fields to a Strüngmann Forum would substantially speed up interdisciplinary interactions and, by confronting different approaches and types of data, enable novel and more integrated perspectives.
Translational neuroscience is at a critical juncture and could take us down two paths: extinction or revolution. The unique challenges and numerous failures to treat complex and often slowly developing diseases of pathological neural circuits have been disheartening. Yet, profound progress is unfolding through discoveries and techniques to understand the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of nervous system diseases.
What is to be done? The goal of this Forum is to envision a conceptual roadmap that will create an effective, credible, and productive path that will take us from the bedside to the lab and back again. Over the past decade, breakthrough approaches and technologies have emerged that allow unprecedented insights into central and peripheral nerve function and, consequently, are expected to enable the discovery and development of new drugs, as well as therapeutic devices. The combined progress in genetics, biomarkers, live imaging, circuit analysis and modulation, stem cell technologies, neurostimulation devices are promising to revolutionize novel therapies.
We envision that the synergistic discussions between the leading minds in the neurosciences and neuropsychiatry communities will constitute a landmark and serve academic research for decades to come as well as yield new therapies for humanity.
To understand the linkage between heavy metals1 and the pathogenesis of infectious diseases and to address the underlying mechanisms that moderate the outcome of infection.
1 Heavy metals are defined as metals with a density higher than 5 g/cm3. Of 90 naturally occurring elements, 53 can be regarded as heavy metals. Based on their solubility under physiological conditions, about 20 of them are available to living cells and among these, only eight are known to be essential in human biology (iron, molybdenum, manganese, zinc, nickel, copper, vanadium, cobalt, and selenium), while the others appear in cells as a result of their wide distribution in various ecosystems. Regardless of their essentiality to life, however, most heavy metals can be toxic to cells and invading pathogens when their concentrations increase above a certain level.
To assess child development in the context of familial and group relations, and its role in building pathways to peace.
To identify gaps in knowledge and communication.
To reinvent land change science by integrating new theoretical concepts with emerging real world trends in land use, urbanization, and globalization.
To understand the growing competition for access to and use of productive land given finite land resources.
To identify the new forms of distal land connection in the 21st century and their implications for global land use and society.
To identify the effects of increasing global land connections and competition on local land use decisions and emergent global land governance.
To identify new agents and practices in global land use.
To make explicit the normative evaluations (efficiency, equity, justice, etc.) as applied to land use.
To explore novel ways of conceptualizing the disorder, integrating data across levels of analysis, and accelerating advances in treatment development and prevention efforts.
To explore the role of cultural evolution in explaining human social structure, technology, language and religion
What can we explain by means of cultural evolution that does not follow from other perspectives, such as memetics and innatist theories?
Can we sketch roughly how general models of cultural evolution will come to differ as they are specialized to fit various domains?
Is there a detectable signature of cultural evolution that can be observed across all domains?
How can researchers and scholars in different areas of enquiry benefit from adopting cultural evolutionary tools?
How can variations in the rates of cultural evolution across the broad sweep of human history and prehistory be explained?
Are different domains amenable to different degrees of cultural engineering?
Program Advisory Committee
Peter Hammerstein, Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University, Invalidenstr. 43, Invalidenstr. 43
Jeffrey R. Stevens, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
John McNamara, School of Mathematics, University of Bristol, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TW, U.K.
Reinhard Selten, Juridicum, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24–42, 53113 Bonn
Nick Chater, Institute for Applied Cognitive Science, University College London, U.K.
To initiate an alternative to the existing axiom-based decision theory by developing a theory of decision making founded on evolutionary principles.
How do music and language convey meaning about the practical and social world, including the interplay of the emotions? And how do brain mechanisms supporting music and language in humans relate to mechanisms for communicative and song-like behavior in other species. This Forum will explore harmonies, the processes shared by language and music (and by songs with words and dance), as well as dissonances, mechanisms of brain and body that music seems not to share with language, and vice versa.
Framing the Discussion
If an archeologist from another era were to come across several musical scores, how might he determine he was not seeing fragments of a written language? And if he were to find samples of written language, how would he decide they were not a musical notation? In today's world, music can become abstract and language knows many variations, yet a good basic criterion might be that musical texts are those characterized in great part by variations on a theme while a written text in general does not.
In terms of our own experience, music can stir the emotions yet cannot convey unambiguous information about actions, agents and events, whereas language can represent such items clearly or with calculated ambiguity and lead us to an emotional response which builds upon that more or less explicit knowledge it conveys.
And when we turn to songs with words, we find music and language intertwining, as the language inherits more of the themes and variations of the music and each reinforces the emotional power of the other. Moreover, memory of words and music may each support the other, as we remember a word because it fits both the semantic envelope of other words and the rhythmic structure of the music. In opera, we see the powerful integration of words, music, scenery and action to engage us in drama and comedy with a heightening of emotions though perhaps at the expense of some level of narrative subtlety.
And finally we note when we speak, our vocal gestures are enriched by prosody which makes the words say more than the words alone, and by facial and manual gestures that can both enrich what we say and add emotional shading. On the other hand, music can engage our body in many ways, whether in tapping out the rhythm or swaying to the dance. As such, music has a strong social component, extending beyond the dyadic nature of face-to-face conversation.
The proposed Forum would focus investigation of the scientific challenges which these comparisons and differences present for studies of the evolution and function of the modern human brain. This Forum, while self-contained in its interlocking themes, would also serve to extend discussion from the Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax, chaired by Derek Bickerton and Eörs Szathmáry (July 13–18, 2008), where the underlying assumption was that syntax was the key to language and a main focus was on the evolution of syntax in abstracto. The present proposal will be based on the view that this perspective is too limiting – both because it gives too restrictive a view of language, and because it limits our insights into brain mechanisms that are not specific to language and yet are crucial to the processes of language performance and understanding, with all their social and emotional underpinnings. This Forum will consider syntax as only one aspect of a broader investigation: how do music, including song and dance, and language convey meaning about the practical and social world including the interplay of the emotions. For just one example of the neurological challenge here, we note that human brain imaging and lesion studies have implicated different coalitions of brain regions in syntax, semantics and phonology, and yet the role of Broca's area in relation to musical structure may well overlap its role in language, a role that further implicates other cortical areas and the basal ganglia. What further commonalities and differences will the discussion reveal?
To explore the conserved properties of both behavior and adaptive expectations in search behaviors in different domain-specific environments (e.g., spatial, visual, memory, social).
To work toward conceptual understanding of the possible neural, molecular, and adaptive origins of search behavior in human and animal cognition.
To aim for comparison of species and areas, in search of common principles.
To establish future research directions for understanding the breadth and limits of generalized cognitive search processes.
To assess the state of the art in comparative cognition by bringing together experts from comparative animal behavior, neuroscience, experimental psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science focusing on four specific areas:
planning, memory and decision making;
To clarify points of disagreement and progress within each area and to compare the structure of the problems and issues across areas.
To aim for comparison of species and areas, in search of common principles
Background, Purpose, and Need for this Forum
Mankind will always have a fascination with the eradication of diseases and scourges from the human population. Disease eradication was achieved for the first (and only) time in 1980 when the World Health Assembly declared the world free of smallpox following a campaign lasting more than ten years. Success in eradicating smallpox worldwide led to an increasingly intensive examination of the concepts and definitions associated with disease eradication with development of general and specific criteria as predictors of success for particular candidate diseases. The Carter Center International Task Force for Disease Eradication initiated a formal review of candidate diseases in 1988 and is currently completing a second review. The criteria for eradication were comprehensively examined at a workshop in 1997 on The Eradication of Infectious Diseases (Dowdle and Hopkins 1998), followed in 1998 by an expanded global forum on Disease Eradication and Elimination as Public Health Strategies (WHO 1998). More than a decade has passed since the basic eradication concepts and issues have been systematically addressed. Meanwhile, considerable experience has been gained in efforts to eradicate polio and dracunculiasis; and in efforts to eliminate such diseases as measles, maternal and neonatal tetanus, onchocerchiasis, and lymphatic filariasis. Concepts of disease eradication have continued to evolve, influenced by scientific advances, field experiences, societal issues, and economic realities.
The need to convene a workshop on disease eradication is especially timely since heightened interest in the potential eradication of various infectious diseases is once again moving front and center. For example, at the May 2008 meeting of the Executive Board (EB) of the World Health Assembly, the Board requested that WHO examine the feasibility of global measles eradication and report back to the EB in 2010. Also in 2008, both WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation publicly called for development of a program of work to achieve malaria eradication in the longer term. These examples are illustrative of the ongoing fascination with the concept of eradication. They also demonstrate the continuing need to ensure that such initiatives are carefully considered based on a full understanding of the biological, political, social, and economic complexities associated with a successful eradication program. With increasing interest in identifying candidate diseases for eradication, these complexities need to be addressed for the benefit of public health decision-makers, politicians, scientists, and the world at large. The proposed workshop can provide a forum to develop a framework for a priority-setting process to identify the most worthy candidates for disease eradication (the "what?") and the critical factors for success (the "how?"). The rapid accumulation of knowledge since the 1990s, together with radical changes in the global landscape, requires an in-depth, systematic reassessment and re-examination of eradication in the context of global health in the 21st century.
To analyze systematically the scope of the problem, its causes, and the ways in which cognitive, medical, and economic sciences might contribute to improve health literacy.
To explore the mechanisms and manifestations of distributed dynamic coordination in the brain and mind across species and levels of organization.
Key questions and issues to be explored include:
What is the nature of coordination?
Is coordination dictated or self-organized?
Are the mechanisms of coordination universal? If so, do they operate in all cognitive domains and cortical regions?
To what extent are coordinated states pre-ordained by evolved behavioral patterns, generated by learning or by situation-specific dynamic mechanisms?
How are novel groupings formed to meet novel circumstances?
What is the role of the context of current situations and tasks in producing coherent states?
How can neural systems combine flexibility with reliability?
To what extent are neurological or psychiatric disease states an expression of disturbed coordination?
This Forum, and the book that resulted from it, were designed to address the question "How well can we take the measure of the stocks of Earth's resources, their rates of use, and the ways in which these numbers might be altered by concerted action?" Other factors will be crucial in moving to concerted action: issues of equity, policy, governance, and the like. We recognize their importance, but did not plan to address them in the Forum. Our mission was simply to measure the parameters related to sustainability on Earth, as best we could, and to think about how to take their interactions into account, so that the aspects of sustainability that are not as readily quantifiable can rest on a solid base.
The origin of the capacity for human language represents the last major evolutionary transition in which natural selection on genetic variation must have played a role. Overt and covert proto-linguistic capacities in some animals reinforce the idea that the crucial breakthrough was the emergence of syntactic operation on linguistic input and output. This Forum will investigate the nature of human syntax in a form that is linguistically and biologically constrained at the same time. The nature of the selective forces guiding the origin of such a complex trait will be part of the discussion. Since experimentation in this field is strongly constrained by the uniqueness of natural language and the severe regulations concerning human and nonhuman primate laboratory manipulations, we shall take a careful look at what brain imaging, occasional lesion studies, comparative genomics and proteomics, and genetics can tell us about the biological foundations of language. This will be complemented by an examination of deliverables through the analysis and synthesis of real and artificial neuronal networks and embodied communicating agents (robots). In short, we will examine what constraints the various contributory fields set for one another and what kind of synergies there are to help us solve this major conundrum of human intellectual enquiry.
Two primary goals of the Forum will be (a) to clarify points of disagreement and (b) to provide a baseline for further research.
Points of disagreement to be addressed will include, but not be limited to:
the most plausible date for the emergence of syntax;
whether such emergence was gradual or (relatively) abrupt;
whether components of syntax evolved separately, and if so which and in which order; alternatively, whether different components would have entailed one another; if the latter, whether all components can be deductively derived from one or two basic principles or processes;
whether antecedent capacities played significant roles in the emergence of syntax (e.g., through some form of exaptation or by autocatalytic interaction); if so, what antecedent capacities were involved;
whether any version of strictly localized modularity (e.g., the traditional Broca's/Wernicke's account) can be maintained in the face of brain-imaging studies and, if not, what are the relative merits of a connectionist or constructivist account versus non-localized, "network" modularity.
Resolving even one of these issues would provide a firmer basis for further inquiry in a field that has remained chaotic, in part because of interdisciplinary problems, in part because of the relative paucity of factual constraints on speculation. Moreover, in some cases, resolution of one issue would carry strong implications for other issues: for instance, a finding of strong interdependence between components of syntax would argue forcefully for an abrupt rather than a gradual emergence; conversely, a finding that such components could have evolved independently of one another would have a contrary implication. Any such results would sharpen the focus of subsequent research, curtailing the "riding-off-in-all-directions" tendency that has long plagued the field.
To assess the temporal and spatial variability of clouds,
To understand the physical processes controlling cloud evolution,
To examine the extent and nature of anthropogenic perturbations of clouds and cloud-related processes, and thereby
To assess the current understanding and quantification of clouds in the changing climate system and to formulate strategies to reduce the critical uncertainties.
Guiding questions for all working groups:
What are the key mechanisms?
Which scaling issues are involved?
How can we distinguish between natural and anthropogenic effects?
How can we distinguish between forcings and responses?
Where will progress be dependent on experimental versus modeling approaches?
What is the relationship between magnitude and stability of global albedo?
What are the responsibilities of a researcher vis á vis the public and/or policy makers?
To explore the implications of the human ability to reach decisions
both by conscious and subconscious processing of information.
Institutions, in general, and the law, in particular, can be seen as emerging, as given by history to those living today. This idea has never fully disappeared. Since the advent of legal positivism at the end of the 19th century and since the adoption of written constitutions almost everywhere in the world, this is no longer the dominant view. Formal institutions typically are the result of purposeful design, be it by the legislator or by some other authority under constitutional control. Consequently, the predominant canon for interpreting written law is teleological. It attempts to assess the function of the rule. The rule is assumed to address some true social problem. It is further assumed that the legal intervention into freedom or property is instrumental for social betterment. This functionalist perspective is even more obvious in other formal interventions, like the introduction of tradable permits for the discharge of noxious substances into the environment or the artificial increase in the cost of so doing by imposing a tax on such activities.
Functionalists must get two things right: the analysis of the social problem and the predictions about the effect of intervention on the behavior of its addressees. The second is bound to be a decision under considerable uncertainty. Nobody can claim to truly predict the future. The former, i.e. problem definition, is rarely just speculative. For the legislator to become active, in the public perception, there must be a true social problem. Very often, however, the legislator only vaguely knows by which causal mechanism the socially disliked outcome is produced. Even if the analysis is precise for the past, what the legislator is actually aiming at is impacting on behavior in the future. It depends on many contextual factors whether behavior tomorrow can be expected to be identical to behavior today. For these reasons, a functionalist institutional designer cannot but rely on models about human behavior. This even holds if the social problem ultimately is presented to man by nature, for changing behavior is all that institutions can achieve.
Over the last decades, one conceptual tool has dominated institutional analysis and institutional design: the rational choice model, as developed in economics. In its standard form, it assumes all cognitive problems away (or translates them into motivational ones, as in the analysis of information asymmetries). Moreover, all human action is assumed to be driven by interest (or formally by the terms in the individual's utility function). Psychologists and experimental economists are critical of this view. They have uncovered a whole catalogue of "biases," i.e., systematic deviations from the predictions of the rational choice model. These critics have not been without their own critics. Psychologists claim that the implicit norm underlying the biases approach is inadequate. What looks faulty from the perspective of rational choice analysis turns out, more often than not, to be quite functional for individuals that have to survive in a fundamentally uncertain world. In such an environment, often "less is more." Fast and frugal heuristics turn out to be a smart response, even if they go wrong in occasional highly unusual settings.
This psychological criticism rests on one fundamental assumption about the human mind: human cognitive abilities are highly limited. Only "rational demons" are able to live up to the precepts of rational choice theory, in general, and to its norms for decision making under uncertainty, in particular. Subjective expected utility, or the application of Bayes' rule, do not seem within human reach. Actually, it is not difficult to prove that ordinary individuals make gross statistical errors. Moreover, the sheer complexity of the intellectual task visibly seems mind-boggling. Yet both findings exclusively look at conscious and deliberate decision making. This ignores neuropsychological and neurobiological research, demonstrating that humans as well as animals can intuitively handle a vast amount of information, and that they do so in a way that comes pretty close to the axioms of statistics, and of Bayes' rule. From this, the leading hypothesis of this Forum is derived: institutional analysis and institutional design are misled by neglecting the powerful human ability to handle information subconsciously.