Plenary 1 (PL1)     

7:00 pm - 10:00 pm   - Kiva Ballroom 

Consciousness, Evolution and Language

JEAN-PIERRE G. CHANGEUX, Collège de France and Institut Pasteur, Paris                               

NOAM CHOMSKY, University of Arizona                               

Discussants :

Thomas Bever, University of Arizona                  

Massimo Piattelli Palmarini, University of Arizona


Collège de France and Institut Pasteur

Professor Emeritus, Collège de France and the Institut Pasteur in Paris as well as a member of the Academy of Sciences and former President of the National Committee for Bioethics in France. Professor Changeux is also Co-Chairman of the Ethics and Society division of the European Human Brain Program and Member of the Board of Scientific Governors of The Scripps Research Institute. He is known for his research in several fields of biology from the structure and function of proteins (focus on allosteric proteins) to the early development of the nervous system to cognitive functions. Scientific achievements include MWC model, Monod-Wyman-Changeux model (aka concerted model or symmetry model) the identification and purification of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRs) and the theory of epigenesis by synapse selection are also notable scientific achievements. In the 1960s, he laid the experimental basis for communication between distant reaction sites in a protein molecule. He studied the isolated receptors in the electric organs of electric rays and eels. Changeux and his research team were the first to succeed in identifying and isolating a protein receptor as a neurotransmitter - the nicotinic receptor of acetylcholine - and understanding its function. This was the first membrane receptor molecule to be isolated and characterised. In 1973 he developed a formal model of synapse selection, which was a precursor of the "neural Darwinism" theory of Gerald Edelman.

From the mid-1990s, Changeux developed an activity of computational modeling in order to investigate the neuronal basis of cognitive functions. This research was mainly performed in collaboration with Stanislas Dehaene, who now leads the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit. They notably modeled the acquisition of song recognition in birds and the development of numerical abilities. More recently, Dehaene and Changeux developed a neuronal model for access to consciousness based on a brain-wide recruitment of networks of neurons with long-range axons, referred to as the global neuronal workspace. The model might have clinical applications for understanding the mechanism of coma, the action of general anesthetics or drug addiction. Changeux received his PhD from Pasteur Institute under the direction of Nobel Prize recipients Jacques Monod and Francois Jacob who shared the Nobel Prize (1965) with Andre Lwoff for discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis. He completed postdoctoral studies at University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York and his Bachelor’s from École Normale Supérieure. Academic memberships include National Academy of Sciences (US) Royal Academy of Sciences (Sweden); Académie des Sciences (France); Academia Europaea and numerous scientific awards and honorary degrees.

Changeux is the author of more than 600 scientific articles and several books, including: Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors: From Molecular Biology to Cognition; Neuronal Man: The Biology of The Mind; Conversations on Mind, Matter and Mathematics with Alain Connes; What Makes Us Think with Paul Ricoeur; Physiology of Truth; Raison et Plaisir; The True The Good The Beautiful: A Neurobiological Approach; Les Neurones Enchantés