Why You Are Not Your Brain? A Conversation on Consciousness with Alva Noe, Ph.D.

Our of Our Heads? A Conversation with Alva Noe at Bridging the Gaps

Human Consciousness is a fascinating research topic. Discussed previously in a number of Bridging the Gaps conversations, cutting edge research on consciousness – an ungrasped concept and an unsolved problem in science today – will keep appearing here at this Portal for Curious Minds.

It is widely accepted that consciousness arises as an emergent property of the human mind. An important question is where does consciousness arise; does this arise from a single seat in the brain or is this a distributed phenomenon involving various interconnected parts and networks of the brain. Whatever is the answer to this question, most researchers relate this phenomenon with the working of human brain. Alva Noe – part philosopher, part cognitive scientist, part neuroscientist – restates and re-examines the problem of consciousness and proposes that we should abandon “200-year-old paradigm that places consciousness within the confines of the brain”.

Alva Noe is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center of New Media. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1995.

The focus of this conversation with Alva Noe is his book “Out of Our Heads: Why You are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness”. One of the main concepts that Alva Noe presents in this book is that consciousness does not happen in the brain and it is not located in our brains; he suggests that rather than being something that happens inside us, consciousness is something we do. In this conversation we discuss in detail this “fresh attempt at understanding our minds and how we interact with the world around us”.

By |April 24th, 2017|Podcasts|

Upcoming Podcasts at Bridging the Gaps

Multiple Intelligences, Future Minds, and Characteristics and Expectations of 21st Century Learners with Dr Howard Gardner

Dr Howard Gardner is professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University. He is a senior director of Harvard Project Zero. Professor Garnder has received honorary degrees from thirty colleges and universities; he has twice been selected by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines as one of the hundred most influential public intellectuals in the world. He is the author of twenty-nine books translated into thirty-two languages and has published several hundred articles. In this podcast we discuss Dr Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences in detail. We also discuss the idea of future minds presented by Dr Gardner and the characteristics and expectations of 21st century learners.

On the Research on Exoplanets with Professor Sara Seager

Professor Sara Seager is an astrophysicists and planetary scientist at MIT. Her science research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets. Her research has introduced many new ideas to the field of exoplanet characterization, including work that led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere. She is the author of two text books on these topics. She was part of a team that co-discovered the first detection of light emitted from an exoplanet and the first spectrum of an exoplanet. In twenty thirteen she was awarded a MacArther Fellowship. In this podcast we discuss the past, present and future of research on exoplanets. We also discuss the possibility of finding earth like planets.

By |February 16th, 2015|Podcasts|

On the Seven Sins of Memory with Daniel Schacter


What exactly is a memory? How much do we know about the processes that a human brain executes to store and retrieve a memory? An individual memory may contain different elements such as explicit information, one or many contexts, relevant emotions; does the brain pre-process all individual elements of a memory and then stores this processed memory as one single entity? Or, are different elements of an individual memory stored at different locations in the form of a connected structure or network, and are post-processed at the time of retrieval? In this case what are the chances that during this post processing of different elements of a memory, the retrieved memory gets contaminated resulting in a false memory that reshapes the past? How do non-conscious memories affect and shape our behavior? Daniel Schacter is a cognitive psychologist and is professor of psychology at Harvard University. His research explores the relation between conscious and unconscious forms of memory, the nature of memory distortions, how we use memory to imagine possible future events, and the effects of aging on memory. In this podcast at Bridging the Gaps professor Daniel Schacter shares and discusses cutting edge research on these topics.

Research shows, explains Schacter, that the process of remembering and retrieving memories is a constructive activity. He points out that human memory system is not perfect. The system has its shortcomings and we are all affected by memory’s shortcomings in our everyday lives. In his book “Seven Sins of Memory” Schacter systematically classifies various memory distortions into seven basic categories. According to Schacter these seven memory distortion categories are: transience, absentmindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence.

In this discussion Schacter explains these memory distortions in detail, one by one. He emphasizes that “these memory distortions should not be viewed as flaws in system design, instead these distortions can be conceptualized as by-products of otherwise desirable features of human memory”. Schacter explains this statement. He then discusses the experiments and research studies to measure, estimate and understand these shortcomings of memory. I ask him that can we use the estimates of these seven shortcomings of memory for an individual to gauge the individual’s ability or lack of it to reconstruct memories? If we succeed in developing reliable techniques to make such measurements, these techniques can be used to improve the way we manage, document and process eyewitness testimonies in legal proceedings. Schacter shares his views on this.

An interesting point that Schacter highlights in his presentations, and discusses in this podcast is that there is evidence of memory serving the needs of present, and the past being reshaped by current knowledge, beliefs and emotions. He shares his research findings on this.

Remembering the past and imaging the future depend on a common network in the brain, known as the Default Brain Network. Shacter describes the Default Brain Network and discusses the research that focuses on the question that how this one network manages these two different processes.

Just before finishing our discussion, I ask Daniel Schacter his views on human consciousness and on the question of how brain creates mind. Finally, I finish this podcast by asking Daniel Schacter what are major developments and breakthroughs that he envisages in the field of his research in the near future.


  • Schacter Memory Lab.
  • Schacter Daniel L. (2002). “The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers”, Mariner Books; 1st edition
  • Schacter Daniel L. (1997). “Searching For Memory: The Brain, The Mind, And The Past”, Basic Books.

(2001). The seven sins of memory: how the mind forgets and remembers, Choice Reviews Online, 39 (04) 39-2484-39-2484. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/choice.39-2484

Schacter Daniel L. (1996). Searching for memory: the brain, the mind, and the past Choice Reviews Online, 34 (04), 34-34 DOI: 10.5860/CHOICE.34-2465

By |January 17th, 2015|Podcasts|