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Addiction, Self-Awareness and the Architecture of Cognitive Control

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Flinders Tavern by Burger Theory

Flinders University

Sturt Road

Bedford Park, SA 5042

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Flinders University presents: Brian Medlin Memorial Public Lecture Addiction, Self-Awareness and the Architecture of Cognitive Control

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Flinders University presents:

Brian Medlin Memorial Public Lecture

Addiction, Self-Awareness and the Architecture of Cognitive Control

Presented by Professor Philip Gerrans

Tuesday 22 October

5:00pm | Welcome drink on arrival and nibbles

5.30pm | Lecture

Flinders Tavern, Level 1, Student Hub

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There is an interdisciplinary consensus that addiction is the result of a neural adaption that impairs self-control by hijacking the brain’s reward system.

No mention here of shame, remorse, trying, failing, anger, despair, recrimination, optimism, effort, confidence. In other words, of the states of mind of the self who loses control and how she might regain it. Perhaps this is because self control is nothing more than a set of neuroegulatory mechanisms? I disagree: self control requires a self. Adaptive behavior requires the ability to model a future self and use that model to guide behavior. Addiction damages that self and recovery involves repair of that self.

En route I explain why and how stroke patients with lesion to the anterior insula cortex “lose” their addiction. The didn’t just lose their “cravings”, their strokes rewired their selves.

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About Professor Philip Gerrans

Professor Gerrans studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University. During his PhD he became interested in the relationship between philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, and psychology. He started out working on autism and theory of mind. He then became interested in psychiatry, especially delusions, writing a book, The Measure of Madness, about the relationship between fundamental neuroscience, psychology and philosophy. He argued there that evidence from cognitive neuroscience supports the idea that delusions are essentially story fragments, not causal theories. He explored the consequences of that contrast for integrative theories of cognitive function.

Prof Gerrans has an ongoing collaboration with researchers at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences which informs his research into the connections between emotional processes and self-representation. Affective disorders such as social anxiety and depression are a focus of this research, which links up with much earlier work he did on the Cotard delusion (in which people say they have disappeared or no longer exist). He anticipates that that project will lead back to developmental psychology, since it seems many disorders have a source in the developmental relationship between emotional regulation and other aspects of cognition. Most recently he has extended these interests into collaborative work (with Chris Letheby) on the explanation of psychedelic experience. Another recent project is "engineering empathy", which provides a neurocomputationally-based critique of theories of emotional processing in artificial intelligence. The philosophical approach to the mind he finds most congenial is exemplified in the work of Carl Craver, Kim Sterelny and Dan Sperber.

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This lecture is in memorial of Flinders Foundation Professor of Philosophy, Brian Medlin.

Brian Medlin was appointed as Foundation Professor of Philosophy at Flinders in 1966, and during his tenure became a public figure as a champion of left-wing politics and a leader of the anti-Vietnam movement.

Medlin was educated at Adelaide University and won a Research Fellowship to Oxford University, where he met Iris Murdoch. An active war campaigner against the Vietnam War, he was imprisoned for three weeks in 1970. He retired from Flinders in 1988, and together with his wife Christine Vick acquired a small property near Horsham, Victoria, where they laboured to revive and reintroduce native flora. Christine continues this project. He continued writing philosophy and corresponding with friends and academics worldwide until his death in 2004. Murdoch, herself a philosopher as well as a highly successful novelist, was politically more conservative.

Nevertheless, the two, who first became friendly when Medlin was studying in Oxford at New College in 1961, maintained a strong respect and affection for each other.

When Iris Murdoch came to Australia in 1967, she visited Medlin at the newly founded Flinders University. It was the last time they met face-to-face.

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Flinders Tavern by Burger Theory

Flinders University

Sturt Road

Bedford Park, SA 5042

Australia

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