Christof Koch, 2008
November 13, 1956 |
Kansas City, Missouri
|Alma mater||University of Tübingen
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
|Doctoral advisor||Valentin Braitenberg
|Doctoral students||Laurent Itti, Virgil Griffith|
Christof Koch (//; 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 a professor at the California Institute of Technology.
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. Subsequently, his then PhD-student, Laurent Itti, and Koch developed a popular suite of visual saliency algorithms.
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. 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  at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole in 1988, the Neuromorphic Engineering summer school in Telluride, Colorado in 1994 and the Dynamic Brain summer course at the Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island in 2014. All three summer schools continue to be taught.
In early 2011, Koch became the Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, leading their ten-year project concerning high-throughput large-scale cortical coding. The mission is to understand the computations 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 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. The Allen Institute for Brain Science currently employs about 270 scientists, engineers, technologists and supporting personnel.  The first four years of this ten-year endeavor to build brain observatories were funded by a donation of $300 million by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen.
- 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
- "The Thinking Ape: The Enigma of Human Consciousness" on YouTube
- "Christof Koch, Ph.D.". Allen Institute for Brain Science. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Visual salience". Scholarpedia. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- "Saliency map". Scholarpedia. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- Laurent Itti (2013-08-01). "iLab Neuromorphic Vision C++ Toolkit (iNVT)". Ilab.usc.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- "Saliency Toolbox". Saliency Toolbox. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- "Is Consciousness Universal". Scientific American Mind. 2014.
- Ewen Callaway (2011-03-29). "Allen Institute aims to crack neural code : Nature News". Nature.com. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- Koch C (2013) Project MindScope Allen Institute for Brain Science.
- "Neuroscience: Observatories of the mind". Nature. 2012.
- "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.
||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (November 2014)|
- Online lecture videos from an undergraduate course taught by Koch on the neurobiological basis of consciousness.
- Moth talk about Koch's relationship to God, death and Francis Crick.
- Neural Correlates of Consciousness, Scholarpedia article by Koch.
- Interview with historian Harry Kreissler at UC Berkeley, 2006
- Interview on the Brain Science Podcast, 2011
- Interview on the Point of Inquiry Podcast, 2012
- 2013 TedX talk on Panpsychism on YouTube
- Interview with Christof Koch on the neuroscience of reading and the "movie" in your "mind"
- A short presentation on Consciousness in 2014 in Zürich
- Koch's Book Blog