Symposium on Sleep and Consciousness

Our symposium on “Sleep, Lucid Dreaming and Consciousness” at the University of Texas at Austin on the 14th of May gathered more than 100 participants of diverse academic and non-academic backgrounds, who engaged in discussion with world class experts on the subject [click on the links below to view videos on youtube].

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The room was full and the lectures must have been screened to another one

At the beginning, Dr. Michael Schwartz spoke of consciousness as our “mode of access” to the world and the troubles that we are having with sleeping due to electric lights.

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“Contemporary civilization undermines our natural patterns of sleep” – Michael Schwartz

Dr. Stephen LaBerge presented his research on lucid dreaming and spoke of the uncanny reality of dreams. Isn’t it – as he claimed – that perception and dreaming have a lot in common? Dreaming is perception unconstrained by sensory input and perception is dreaming constrained by sensory input.

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“Perceiving is dreaming true, dreaming is perceiving free” – Stephen LaBerge

Dr. David Presti gave the overview of the what we know and – most importantly – what we still don’t know about the brain and the mind-brain-body connection. How are we related to what we call reality? There is now a greater amount of evidence that the brain as a whole – rather than its particular parts – interacts with itself, the body and the environment. More research is needed, but we can be sure that what we call knowledge today will become obsolete in a few hundred years from now, as it has been in the past – Presti emphasized.

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“Thinking that we know almost everything is a manifestation of hubris of contemporary science” – David Presti

Dr. Wallace Mendelson spoke about sleep disorders – narcolepsy, cataplexy, obstructive sleep apnea and others that are becoming more prevalent these days than in the past. An interesting example is a subjective insomnia, in which one is physiologically sleeping, while being convinced and reporting not sleeping through the night at all, and being exhausted as a result. What an intriguing case for the mind-body problem.

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Wallace Mendelson (on the right, with a microphone) discusses sleep problems with the audience

There was a panel discussion at the end, which you can view here. 

The symposium was a success and another one is being planned for next year – one in which the alternate states of consciousness will be explored in greater detail and scope.

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The Symposium was organized by Robert Abzug, Marcin Moskalewicz and Michael Schwartz thanks to a generous grant by Robert J. Barnhart. The organizers would like to thank Alba Lara and Belinda Mendoza for their kind assistance in management of the event.

 

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