Announcing: 17th International Forum on Consciousness

Means and Metrics for Detecting and Measuring Consciousness

Speakers on stage during last year's conference.

Panel speakers from last year’s Forum on Consciousness.

A diverse panel of thought leaders in neuroscience and consciousness, from the chief scientist and president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science to the principal English translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, will explore Means and Metrics for Detecting and Measuring Consciousness at the 17th International Forum on Consciousness May 17–18, 2018, in Madison, Wisconsin.  Presenters will discuss emerging technologies for looking into the phenomenon of consciousness such as sleep, wakefulness, altered states, focused attention, and coma. The Forum will ask how the ability to better measure consciousness may create opportunities to improve human function, resolve disease states, and keep the brain/mind healthier throughout all stages of life.

WHAT: The International Forum on Consciousness is a yearly event dedicated to information-sharing and discussion regarding important—and often challenging—topics related to the exploration of consciousness. It is co-hosted by the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute) and Promega Corporation.

WHEN: May 17-18, 2018

WHERE: BioPharmaceutical Technology Center, Promega Corporation, 5445 East Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg, WI 53711

REGISTRATION: The International Forum on Consciousness is open to the general public but limited to 300 participants. Registration is $265 and there are a limited number of scholarships available to assist with the cost. Forum registrants also have the opportunity to join a presenter for a small group discussion over dinner on Thursday evening, May 17 for an additional $90. For more information or to register, visit


To Meditate Perchance to Dream

First the disclosure: this blog is of course about Me.

But it’s also about You. And yours. Because as you know, we’ve become a culture that does not sleep.

Why don’t we sleep? I like to think that it is an evolutionary adaptation; not sleeping, after all, allows us more time for Facebook.

Or Etsy for you makers. Or Amazon for you shoppers. And let’s not forget our middle, high school and college students. Do they even have classrooms anymore, or are lectures all online (on screens)?

One tired pony. By Rachel C from Scotland (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

One tired pony. By Rachel C from Scotland (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Honestly, the evolutionary adaptation idea comes from how we live and work today. And no, this is not another rant/lecture on the color of light emitted by whatever non-cathode ray tubes are in our phones or tablet-like devices.

It’s just that just working in our very busy online/wired world, jumping from web page to project management software, to big-screens in meetings has us adapted to being  on: capital “O” capital “N”.

This multi-multitasking has grown (for me) a new type of neurons that are not happy unless they are gleaning new information from a screen, all the time. And these neurons don’t stop working when the screen is gone; no, they continue seeking and trying to process. For me, if there’s no screen to look at, the neurons ping-pong around behind my eyeballs, looking and searching, as if to say, “Input missing! Input missing!”

The result can be hours in bed sans sleep; it seems the racket these neurons make keeps all the other neurons up. Continue reading

Dethroning the Almighty Snooze Button

12_06_13aMy mother told me I could do anything I put my mind to. She was wrong. I cannot wake up early easily. I confess: I am a chronic snoozer. My sister is the same way. We set our alarm clocks and can press the snooze button for up to an hour! The funny thing is that I can set my alarm with the best of intentions of getting up on the first ring. I try to get the intention in my mind before I go to sleep by repeating the mantra of “I will wake up on time and be productive,” and meditate on the specific task that needs to be done early in the morning (like writing this post). Inevitably, the alarm goes off, and in the fog, I manage to justify why just 10 more minutes of sleep will be okay. My morning mind precisely contradicts my night mind. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I have slept for 10 hours or 3 hours. When I really think about this scientifically, it makes no sense. Hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes for an hour is really doing me no good. Why don’t I just set my alarm an hour later?

It turns out there are many articles on this subject, and it turns out there really is no benefit in terms of sleep that comes with a snooze function. To understand why, let’s take a look at what sleep is all about. Continue reading

Sleep Well Today to Learn Well Tomorrow

World War II Poster

Sleep, defined as a state of reversible disconnect from the environment (1), is an integral part of life. In this fast-paced life, you might think of sleep as a waste of time and unnecessary, impinging on productivity. But, nothing can be farther than the truth. Sleep researchers around the world are trying to understand what is the most important physiological function of sleep. It is too simplistic to say that sleep rests the brain, and it is not entirely true since neuronal activity in many parts of the brain do not slow down appreciably during sleep. So, what does sleep do? Continue reading

Don’t Wake Me, I am Learning

Nap time: If I learned nothing else in my college career, I learned the unequaled value of the nap. Many times I returned from class, dropped my book bag by my desk and promised I would study as soon as I had a “quick nap”. For a sleep-deprived student, the value of a nap trumped all else (admittedly, some of my college friends might argue that a nap doesn’t trump EVERYTHING, but they aren’t writing this blog). And indeed, after a refreshing twenty minutes of sleep, I could tackle my books with renewed enthusiasm. My roommate had a different approach. She would often fall asleep while studying stretched out on her bed.  I used to tell her she must learn by osmosis. Continue reading