The Graduate Institute of Mind, Brain, and Consciousness (GIMBC) will be established in order to fuse, synergistically, the strengths of two distinct perspectives on the brain—the subjective and the objective. GIMBC is dedicated to pedagogy and research in understanding how minds emerge from the activity of brains, as well as how this understanding can be applied clinically to the relief of human suffering. In short, the reasons for establishing GIMBC are both practical and idealistic: By integrating the sciences of mind with medical science we are able to catalyze research activity, providing medical practitioners with the tools necessary for conducting novel lines of research within their chosen areas of expertise. And, it is because we attend closely to the 1st person conscious experience, that we position ourselves to design novel forms of therapy for the reduction of suffering.
GIMBC is unique to Taiwan in several respects: (i) It integrates cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology, and the science of consciousness with the pedagogy, research, and clinical practice of the three hospitals that compose the TMU network including, but by no means limited to, the Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, and Anesthesiology. (ii) It integrates 1st person, subjective methodologies with 3rd person, inter-subjective techniques in order to understand what patients experience and how these conscious experiences are realized in virtue of the brain’s activity, both neural correlates and neural predispositions. (iii) It integrates psychometrics with a host of technologies that provide excellent temporal (e.g., EEG), spatial (e.g., MRI & fMRI), brain stimulation (e.g., TMS & tDCS), and biochemical (MRS & PET) data, in order to make substantive contributions to translational medicine. (iv) It collaborates with TMU’s several Colleges and hospitals, targeting issues in Translational Medicine, in order to expedite the discovery of new diagnostic tools and treatments. (v) In order to encompass all aspects of consciousness, including its relatedness to non-conscious mental states, the Institute integrates investigations into levels of consciousness (e.g., sleep, unresponsive wakefulness syndrome [UWS], mild traumatic brain injury [MTBI], and anesthesia) with investigations into the contents of consciousness (e.g., Major Depressive Disorder [MDD], Dementia, Schizophrenia, and Monothematic Delusions). And, (vi) it integrates scientific research on moral behavior, in both healthy subjects (e.g., religion) and patient populations (e.g., dementia), with philosophical research in ethics, thereby positioning us to contribute to the burgeoning field of neuroethics, a nascent field that applies what we are learning from neuroscience to improved understanding of free will, moral and legal culpability, religious conviction, human values, as well as conditions under which the capacity for selfhood is lost.
One among GIMBC’s distinctive foci is consciousness, both its levels and content. This focus is especially important and appropriate for a Graduate Institute that is grounded in the Humanities but that deeply engages the medical sciences, as has been amply demonstrated by the pioneering inter-disciplinary work coordinated by, and under the auspices of, the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness ( http://www.theassc.org/ ). Over the last two decades, investigations carried out by members of the ASSC and other similar scientific or scholarly associations have demonstrated the important link between the science of consciousness and medical science.
To mention just a few of these important links: first, it is now clear that for many diseases, effective therapies for relief of pain or suffering can only be designed when the relevant conscious experiences are characterized accurately and in sufficient detail. Second, due to systematic introspective biases, patient reports can systematically mislead clinicians, making it essential that the rendering of diagnoses be calibrated to account for such biases. Third, since our knowledge of the conscious experience of others is so heavily dependent upon their ability to report those experiences and since patient ability to report what they experience is frequently impaired by disease or injury, identification of measurable neural correlates of (and predispositions for) subjective experience is needed to compensate for the patient’s inability to express in conventional ways. And, four, since natural language is designed for ordinary experience, and since so many illnesses engender beliefs or sensory states that rarely occur, medical science needs to draw upon the science of consciousness in order to assist with the development of scales, qualitative probes, and other techniques to assist patients describe their abnormal experiences.