Christof Koch

Christof Koch is President and Chief Scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, following twenty-seven years as a Professor at the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (MIT Press), The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach, and other books.

  • The Feeling of Life Itself

    The Feeling of Life Itself

    Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can't Be Computed

    Christof Koch

    An argument that consciousness, more widespread than previously assumed, is the feeling of being alive, not a type of computation or a clever hack.

    In The Feeling of Life Itself, Christof Koch offers a straightforward definition of consciousness as any subjective experience, from the most mundane to the most exalted—the feeling of being alive. 

    Psychologists study which cognitive operations underpin a given conscious perception. Neuroscientists track the neural correlates of consciousness in the brain, the organ of the mind. But why the brain and not, say, the liver? How can the brain, three pounds of highly excitable matter, a piece of furniture in the universe, subject to the same laws of physics as any other piece, give rise to subjective experience? Koch argues that what is needed to answer these questions is a quantitative theory that starts with experience and proceeds to the brain. In The Feeling of Life Itself, Koch outlines such a theory, based on integrated information.

    Koch describes how the theory explains many facts about the neurology of consciousness and how it has been used to build a clinically useful consciousness meter. The theory predicts that many, and perhaps all, animals experience the sights and sounds of life; consciousness is much more widespread than conventionally assumed. Contrary to received wisdom, however, Koch argues that programmable computers will not have consciousness. Even a perfect software model of the brain is not conscious. Its simulation is fake consciousness. Consciousness is not a special type of computation—it is not a clever hack. Consciousness is about being.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £22.50
  • Consciousness

    Consciousness

    Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist

    Christof Koch

    In which a scientist searches for an empirical explanation for phenomenal experience, spurred by his instinctual belief that life is meaningful.

    What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bioelectrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience. This engaging book—part scientific overview, part memoir, part futurist speculation—describes Koch's search for an empirical explanation for consciousness. Koch recounts not only the birth of the modern science of consciousness but also the subterranean motivation for his quest—his instinctual (if "romantic") belief that life is meaningful.

    Koch describes his own groundbreaking work with Francis Crick in the 1990s and 2000s and the gradual emergence of consciousness (once considered a "fringy" subject) as a legitimate topic for scientific investigation. Present at this paradigm shift were Koch and a handful of colleagues, including Ned Block, David Chalmers, Stanislas Dehaene, Giulio Tononi, Wolf Singer, and others. Aiding and abetting it were new techniques to listen in on the activity of individual nerve cells, clinical studies, and brain-imaging technologies that allowed safe and noninvasive study of the human brain in action.

    Koch gives us stories from the front lines of modern research into the neurobiology of consciousness as well as his own reflections on a variety of topics, including the distinction between attention and awareness, the unconscious, how neurons respond to Homer Simpson, the physics and biology of free will, dogs, Der Ring des Nibelungen, sentient machines, the loss of his belief in a personal God, and sadness. All of them are signposts in the pursuit of his life's work—to uncover the roots of consciousness.

    • Hardcover $28.95 £25.00
    • Paperback $17.95 £14.99
  • Visual Attention and Cortical Circuits

    Visual Attention and Cortical Circuits

    Jochen Braun, Christof Koch, and Joel L. Davis

    An attempt to derive a comprehensive theory of attention from both neurobiological and psychological data.

    The neurobiology and psychology of attention have much to learn from each other. Neurobiologists recognize that responses in sensory cortex depend on the behavioral relevance of a stimulus, but have few ways to study how perception changes as a result. Psychologists have the conceptual and methodological tools to do just that, but are confounded by the multiple interpretations and theoretical ambiguities. This book attempts to bridge the two fields and to derive a comprehensive theory of attention from both neurobiological and psychological data. It highlights situations where attention can be seen to alter both neural activity and psychophysical performance/phenomenal experience. This "bicultural" approach contributes not only to attention research but to the larger goal of linking neural activity to conscious experience.

    The book focuses mainly on the effects of visual attention on the ventral and dorsal streams of visual cortex in humans and monkeys and the associated changes in visual performance. Several larger findings emerge: attention may involve more than one neural system; attention modulates all stages of cortical visual processing; the effect of attention is constrained by the intrinsic connectivity of cortex and the resulting contextual interactions; and the notion of a "saliency map" remains central to thinking about visual attention. The book also considers several approaches to evaluating the same variable through different methods, such as behavioral measurements, functional imaging, and single-unit recording.

    Contributors Narcisse P. Bichot, Erik Blaser, Geoffrey M. Boynton, Jochen Braun, Maurizio Corbetta, Sean M. Culhane, Florin Cutzu, Sophie Deneve, Robert Desimone, John Duncan, Sunil P. Gandhi, Charles D. Gilbert, David J. Heeger, James W. Holsapple, Alexander C. Huk, Minami Ito, Laurent Itti, Christof Koch, Peter E. Latham, Nilli Lavie, D. Kathleen Lee, Zhong-Lin Lu, John H.R. Maunsell, Carrie J. McAdams, Brad C. Motter, Alexandre Pouget, Adam Reeves, John H. Reynolds, Jeffrey D. Schall, Christian Scheier, Shinsuke Shimojo, Gordon L. Shulman, George Sperling, Kirk G. Thompson, John K. Tsotsos, Katsumi Watanabe, Erich Weichselgartner, Gerald Westheimer

    • Hardcover $14.75 £11.99
  • Methods in Neuronal Modeling, Second Edition

    Methods in Neuronal Modeling, Second Edition

    From Ions to Networks

    Christof Koch and Idan Segev

    Much research focuses on the question of how information is processed in nervous systems, from the level of individual ionic channels to large-scale neuronal networks, and from "simple" animals such as sea slugs and flies to cats and primates. New interdisciplinary methodologies combine a bottom-up experimental methodology with the more top-down-driven computational and modeling approach. This book serves as a handbook of computational methods and techniques for modeling the functional properties of single and groups of nerve cells. The contributors highlight several key trends: (1) the tightening link between analytical/numerical models and the associated experimental data, (2) the broadening of modeling methods, at both the subcellular level and the level of large neuronal networks that incorporate real biophysical properties of neurons as well as the statistical properties of spike trains, and (3) the organization of the data gained by physical emulation of the nervous system components through the use of very large scale circuit integration (VLSI) technology. The field of neuroscience has grown dramatically since the first edition of this book was published nine years ago. Half of the chapters of the second edition are completely new; the remaining ones have all been thoroughly revised. Many chapters provide an opportunity for interactive tutorials and simulation programs. They can be accessed via Christof Koch's Website.

    Contributors Larry F. Abbott, Paul R. Adams, Hagai Agmon-Snir, James M. Bower, Robert E. Burke, Erik de Schutter, Alain Destexhe, Rodney Douglas, Bard Ermentrout, Fabrizio Gabbiani, David Hansel, Michael Hines, Christof Koch, Misha Mahowald, Zachary F. Mainen, Eve Marder, Michael V. Mascagni, Alexander D. Protopapas, Wilfrid Rall, John Rinzel, Idan Segev, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Shihab Shamma, Arthur S. Sherman, Paul Smolen, Haim Sompolinsky, Michael Vanier, Walter M. Yamada

    • Hardcover $92.00 £75.00
    • Paperback $50.00 £40.00
  • Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain

    Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain

    Christof Koch and Joel L. Davis

    The authors encompass a broad background, from biophysics and electrophysiology to psychophysics, neurology, and computational vision. However, all the chapters focus on a common issue: the role of the primate (including human) cerebral cortex in memory, visual perception, focal attention, and awareness.

    Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain brings together thirteen original contributions by some of the top scientists working in neuroscience today. It presents models and theories that will most likely shape and influence the way we think about the brain, the mind, and interactions between the two in the years to come. Chapters consider global theories of the brain from the bottom up—providing theories that are based on real nerve cells, their firing properties, and their anatomical connections. This contrasts with attempts that have been made by psychologists and by theorists in the artificial intelligence community to understand the brain strictly from a psychological or computational point of view. The authors encompass a broad background, from biophysics and electrophysiology to psychophysics, neurology, and computational vision. However, all the chapters focus on a common issue: the role of the primate (including human) cerebral cortex in memory, visual perception, focal attention, and awareness.

    Contributors Horace Barlow. Patricia Churchland, V. S. Ramachandran, and Terrence J. Sejnowski. Antonio R. Damasio and Hanna Damasio. Robert Desimone, Earl K. Miller, and Leonardo Chelazzi. Christof Koch and Francis Crick. Rodolfo R. Llinas and Urs Ribary. David Mumford. Tomaso Poggio and Anya Hurlbert. Michael I. Posner and Mary K. Rothbart. Wolf Singer. Charles F. Stevens. Shimon Ullman. David C. Van Essen, Charles W. Anderson, and Bruno A. Olshausen

    • Hardcover $75.00 £62.00
    • Paperback $40.00 £32.00

Contributor

  • The Cognitive Neurosciences, Sixth Edition

    David Poeppel, George R. Mangun, and Michael S. Gazzaniga

    The sixth edition of the foundational reference on cognitive neuroscience, with entirely new material that covers the latest research, experimental approaches, and measurement methodologies.

    Each edition of this classic reference has proved to be a benchmark in the developing field of cognitive neuroscience. The sixth edition of The Cognitive Neurosciences continues to chart new directions in the study of the biological underpinnings of complex cognition—the relationship between the structural and physiological mechanisms of the nervous system and the psychological reality of the mind. It offers entirely new material, reflecting recent advances in the field, covering the latest research, experimental approaches, and measurement methodologies.

    This sixth edition treats such foundational topics as memory, attention, and language, as well as other areas, including computational models of cognition, reward and decision making, social neuroscience, scientific ethics, and methods advances. Over the last twenty-five years, the cognitive neurosciences have seen the development of sophisticated tools and methods, including computational approaches that generate enormous data sets. This volume deploys these exciting new instruments but also emphasizes the value of theory, behavior, observation, and other time-tested scientific habits.

    Section editors Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Ulman Lindenberger, Kalanit Grill-Spector and Maria Chait, Tomás Ryan and Charan Ranganath, Sabine Kastner and Steven Luck, Stanislas Dehaene and Josh McDermott, Rich Ivry and John Krakauer, Daphna Shohamy and Wolfram Schultz, Danielle Bassett and Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, Marina Bedny and Alfonso Caramazza, Liina Pylkkänen and Karen Emmorey, Mauricio Delgado and Elizabeth Phelps, Anjan Chatterjee and Adina Roskies

    • Hardcover $225.00 £185.00
  • The Cognitive Neurosciences, Fifth Edition

    The Cognitive Neurosciences, Fifth Edition

    Michael S. Gazzaniga and George R. Mangun

    The fifth edition of a work that defines the field of cognitive neuroscience, with entirely new material that reflects recent advances in the field.

    Each edition of this classic reference has proved to be a benchmark in the developing field of cognitive neuroscience. The fifth edition of The Cognitive Neurosciences continues to chart new directions in the study of the biological underpinnings of complex cognition—the relationship between the structural and physiological mechanisms of the nervous system and the psychological reality of the mind. It offers entirely new material, reflecting recent advances in the field.

    Many of the developments in cognitive neuroscience have been shaped by the introduction of novel tools and methodologies, and a new section is devoted to methods that promise to guide the field into the future—from sophisticated models of causality in brain function to the application of network theory to massive data sets. Another new section treats neuroscience and society, considering some of the moral and political quandaries posed by current neuroscientific methods.

    Other sections describe, among other things, new research that draws on developmental imaging to study the changing structure and function of the brain over the lifespan; progress in establishing increasingly precise models of memory; research that confirms the study of emotion and social cognition as a core area in cognitive neuroscience; and new findings that cast doubt on the so-called neural correlates of consciousness.

    • Hardcover $200.00 £165.00
  • Single Neuron Studies of the Human Brain

    Single Neuron Studies of the Human Brain

    Probing Cognition

    Itzhak Fried, Ueli Rutishauser, Moran Cerf, and Gabriel Kreiman

    Foundational studies of the activities of spiking neurons in the awake and behaving human brain and the insights they yield into cognitive and clinical phenomena.

    In the last decade, the synergistic interaction of neurosurgeons, engineers, and neuroscientists, combined with new technologies, has enabled scientists to study the awake, behaving human brain directly. These developments allow cognitive processes to be characterized at unprecedented resolution: single neuron activity. Direct observation of the human brain has already led to major insights into such aspects of brain function as perception, language, sleep, learning, memory, action, imagery, volition, and consciousness. In this volume, experts document the successes, challenges, and opportunity in an emerging field.

    The book presents methodological tutorials, with chapters on such topics as the surgical implantation of electrodes and data analysis techniques; describes novel insights into cognitive functions including memory, decision making, and visual imagery; and discusses insights into diseases such as epilepsy and movement disorders gained from examining single neuron activity. Finally, contributors consider future challenges, questions that are ripe for investigation, and exciting avenues for translational efforts.

    Contributors Ralph Adolphs, William S. Anderson, Arjun K. Bansal, Eric J. Behnke, Moran Cerf, Jonathan O. Dostrovsky, Emad N. Eskandar, Tony A. Fields, Itzhak Fried, Hagar Gelbard-Sagiv, C. Rory Goodwin, Clement Hamani, Chris Heller, Mojgan Hodaie, Matthew Howard III, William D. Hutchison, Matias Ison, Hiroto Kawasaki, Christof Koch, Rüdiger Köhling, Gabriel Kreiman, Michel Le Van Quyen, Frederick A. Lenz, Andres M. Lozano, Adam N. Mamelak, Clarissa Martinez-Rubio, Florian Mormann, Yuval Nir, George Ojemann, Shaun R. Patel, Sanjay Patra, Linda Philpott, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Ian Ross, Ueli Rutishauser, Andreas Schulze-Bonhage, Erin M. Schuman, Demetrio Sierra-Mercado, Richard J. Staba, Nanthia Suthana, William Sutherling, Travis S. Tierney, Giulio Tononi, Oana Tudusciuc, Charles L. Wilson

    • Hardcover $65.00 £55.00
  • The Cognitive Neurosciences, Fourth Edition

    The Cognitive Neurosciences, Fourth Edition

    Michael S. Gazzaniga

    The fourth edition of the work that defines the field of cognitive neuroscience, offering completely new material.

    Each edition of this classic reference has proved to be a benchmark in the developing field of cognitive neuroscience. The fourth edition of The Cognitive Neurosciences continues to chart new directions in the study of the biologic underpinnings of complex cognition—the relationship between the structural and physiological mechanisms of the nervous system and the psychological reality of the mind. The material in this edition is entirely new, with all chapters written specifically for it.

    Since the publication of the third edition, the field of cognitive neuroscience has made rapid and dramatic advances; fundamental stances are changing and new ideas are emerging. This edition reflects the vibrancy of the field, with research in development and evolution that finds a dynamic growth pattern becoming specific and fixed, and research in plasticity that sees the neuronal systems always changing; exciting new empirical evidence on attention that also verifies many central tenets of longstanding theories; work that shows the boundaries of the motor system pushed further into cognition; memory research that, paradoxically, provides insight into how humans imagine future events; pioneering theoretical and methodological work in vision; new findings on how genes and experience shape the language faculty; new ideas about how the emotional brain develops and operates; and research on consciousness that ranges from a novel mechanism for how the brain generates the baseline activity necessary to sustain conscious experience to a bold theoretical attempt to make the problem of qualia more tractable.

    • Hardcover $39.75 £32.00