7th Annual Quinn Memorial Lecture

Dear Colleague:

I am delighted to invite you to attend the 7th Annual Quinn Memorial Lecture (QML), which will be held on Monday, 13 February 2012, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm, in the Frederic Wood Theatre (6354 Crescent Road). The lecture is made possible by an extraordinary gift to our department from a prominent alumnus, Dr. Michael J. Quinn (1927-2004). The QML aims to appeal to a wide audience and it seeks to showcase leading-edge research in the areas of consciousness, cognition, and memory that has theoretical as well as practical significance.

The seventh QML is titled “When Thoughts Become Actions: Imaging Disorders of Consciousness” and it will be given by Adrian Owen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at the Centre for Brain & Mind at University of Western Ontario. As you’ll see from his biographical sketch below, Dr. Owen is a renowned researcher who has revolutionized the way we think about consciousness and mental functions in severely brain-injured patients. His research using functional neuroimaging technology reveals conscious awareness in some patients who appear to be entirely vegetative, and can even allow some of these individuals to communicate their thoughts and wishes to the outside world. An abstract for his talk appears below.

If you are interested in attending the lecture, please go to https://websec1.psych.ubc.ca/alumni/quinnregform and complete the registration form.

Since our capacity at both the lecture and the reception is limited, please go to the website listed above and register by Friday, 10 February 2012. Check the “Other Department Member” box so we can keep track of planned attendance.

Adrian Owen is a world-class psychologist and neuroscientist whom you would enjoy listening to and meeting, and so I hope you will be able to attend his lecture and the post-talk reception.

With my best regards, Dr. Kalina Christoff (Chair, Psychology Colloquium Committee)

Bio: Professor Adrian M. Owen is currently the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Cognition and Neuroimaging at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. His work combines structural and functional neuroimaging with neuropsychological studies of brain-injured patients. His most recent work, reported in the journals Science (2006), The New England Journal of Medicine (2010), and The Lancet (2011) has shown that functional neuroimaging can reveal conscious awareness in some patients who appear to be entirely vegetative, and can even allow some of these individuals to communicate their thoughts and wishes to the outside world. These findings have attracted widespread media attention on TV, radio, in print and online and have been the subject of several TV and radio documentaries. Dr Owen has played multiple editorial roles including 8 years as Deputy Editor of The European Journal of Neuroscience and a current appointment to the editorial board of The Journal of Neuroscience. Since 1990, Dr Owen has published over 200 articles and chapters in scientific journals and books. For more information, please see the following websites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Owen

When Thoughts Become Actions: Imaging Disorders of Consciousness

Adrian Owen

Talk abstract: The vegetative state is one of the least understood and most ethically troublesome conditions in modern medicine. It is a rare disorder in which patients who emerge from a coma appear to be awake, but show no signs of awareness. It is extremely difficult to assess cognitive function in such individuals, because their movements may be minimal or inconsistent, or because no cognitive output is possible. I will describe a series of functional neuroimaging paradigms that systematically increase in complexity, from simple sound and speech perception to elaborate mental imagery. By comparing responses in healthy participants scanned at different levels of propofol-induced anesthesia, we have been able to infer how much cognition remains in patients who are assumed to be vegetative, based solely on their patterns of brain activation. Indeed, in several recent cases, entirely non-responsive patients have been able to communicate real-time ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses with 100% reliability by simply modulating their own neural activity. These findings open the door to the development of fully-fledged ‘brain-computer interfaces’ for routine two-way communication with some of these patients, which may ultimately allow them to share information about their inner worlds, experiences and needs.