Christof Koch

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Christof Koch
ChristofKoch.jpg
Christof Koch, 2008
Born (1956-11-13) November 13, 1956 (age 57)
Kansas City, Missouri
Nationality American
Fields Biophysics
Alma mater University of Tübingen
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
Doctoral advisor Valentin Braitenberg
Tomaso Poggio
Doctoral students Laurent Itti, Virgil Griffith
Website
http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~koch/

Christof Koch (/kɑːx/;[1] born November 13, 1956) is an American neuroscientist best known for his work on the neural bases of consciousness. He is the Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. From 1986 until 2013, he was the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at the California Institute of Technology.[2]

Biography[edit]

Koch is the son of German parents; his father was a diplomat, as is his older brother Michael. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended a Jesuit high school in Morocco. He received a PhD in nonlinear information processing from the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany in 1982. He worked for four years at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT before joining, in 1986, the newly started Computation and Neural Systems PhD program at the California Institute of Technology.

In 1986, Koch and Shimon Ullman proposed the idea of a visual saliency map in the primate visual system.[3][4] Subsequently, his then PhD-student, Laurent Itti, and Koch developed a popular suite of visual saliency algorithms.[5][6]

Since the early 1990s, Koch has studied the physical basis of consciousness as a scientifically tractable problem, and has been influential in arguing that consciousness can be approached using the modern tools of neurobiology. His primary collaborator in the endeavor of locating the neural correlates of consciousness was the molecular biologist turned neuroscientist, Francis Crick and, more recently, the psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi. Koch advocates for a modern variant of panpsychism, the ancient philosophical belief that some minimal form of consciousness can be found in all biological organisms, from single cells to humans, and in appropriately built machines.[7] Koch writes a popular column, Consciousness Redux, for Scientific American Mind on scientific and popular topics pertaining to consciousness.

Koch co-founded the Methods in Computational Neuroscience summer course [8] at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole in 1988, the Neuromorphic Engineering summer school[9] in Telluride, Colorado in 1994 and the Dynamic Brain summer course[10] at the Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest[vague] in 2014. All three summer schools continue to be taught.

In early 2011,[11] Koch became the Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, leading their ten-year project concerning[vague] high-throughput large-scale cortical coding. The mission of MindScope[vague] is to understand the computations[vague] that lead from photons to behavior by observing and modeling the physical transformations of signals in the visual brain of behaving mice. The project seeks to catalogue all the building blocks (ca. 100 distinct cell types) of the then visual[vague] cortical regions and associated structures (thalamus, colliculus) and their dynamics. The scientists seek to know what the animal sees, how it thinks, and how it decides. They seek to map out the murine mind in a quantitative manner.[12]

The first four years of this ten-year endeavor to build brain observatories were funded by a donation of $300 million[13] by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen.

Publications[edit]

  • Biophysics of Computation: Information Processing in Single Neurons, Oxford Press, (1999), ISBN 0-19-518199-9
  • The Quest for Consciousness: a Neurobiological Approach, Roberts and Co., (2004), ISBN 0-9747077-0-8
  • Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, The MIT Press, (2012), ISBN 978-0-262-01749-7

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Thinking Ape: The Enigma of Human Consciousness"
  2. ^ "Christof Koch, Ph.D.". Allen Institute for Brain Science. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Visual salience". Scholarpedia. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  4. ^ "Saliency map". Scholarpedia. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  5. ^ Laurent Itti (2013-08-01). "iLab Neuromorphic Vision C++ Toolkit (iNVT)". Ilab.usc.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  6. ^ "Saliency Toolbox". Saliency Toolbox. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  7. ^ "Is Consciousness Universal". Scientific American Mind. 2014. 
  8. ^ http://hermes.mbl.edu/education/courses/special_topics/mcn.html
  9. ^ http://www.ine-web.org/index.php
  10. ^ http://courses.washington.edu/braindyn/
  11. ^ Ewen Callaway (2011-03-29). "Allen Institute aims to crack neural code : Nature News". Nature.com. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  12. ^ "Neuroscience: Observatories of the mind". Nature. 2012. 
  13. ^ "Billionaire Paul Allen Pours $500 Million Into Quest To Find The Essence Of Humanity In The Brain". Forbes. 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 

External links[edit]