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Photo of robot
Darwin the robot  

At the Neurosciences Institute, founded by Nobel Prizewinner Gerry Edelman, scientists work to understand consciousness.

In "Monastery of the Mind," a robot named Darwin models how mammals learn from experience. Programmed with arbitrary preferences, Darwin quickly learns to seek out objects he "likes" while avoiding objects he doesn't. With each encounter, scientists can see the strengthening of the connections between Darwin's neurons.

Photo of Alan and Gerry Edelman
Edelman and Alda discuss the meaning of consciousness

Sitting before a screen of flickering red and blue images, Alan Alda helps researchers quantify consciousness. The colors appear simultaneously, but Alan's special glasses send the blue light into one eye and the red light into the other. Since his brain can't register two signals at once, his brain switches the awareness of each color at random. A machine detecting his brain's magnetic emissions records an image of this "flame of consciousness" as it shifts to different parts of his brain.

To learn more, see the web feature:
Profile: Gerry Edelman

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