What makes us human?

April 22, 2016

That is what international experts from various scientific disciplines – whether linguists, philosophists, anthropologists or neurobiologists – are eager to discuss at the 2016 Summer School of the International Max Planck Research School on Neuroscience of Communication (IMPRS NeuroCom).

“What is man?”, asks one of the invited lecturers, Michael Pauen, professor of philosophy at the Humboldt University of Berlin, in one of his books when talking about a “naturalistic misunderstanding” of the neurosciences.

Michael Graziano, professor of psychology and neurosciences at the University of Princeton, and likewise among the prestigious speakers, contrarily states exactly this kind of rational naturalistic image of humans. According to him, consciousness and will are no more than the result of physical processes. To what extent these processes differ in apes is yet to be clarified.

It is not only the question concerning consciousness but also regarding language as a unique feature of humans that offers opportunities for exciting, perhaps controversial, discussions at the upcoming Summer School of the IMPRS NeuroCom in Leipzig from 4th to 6th July 2016.

Neuropsychologist Professor Christopher I. Petkov from Newcastle University presumes that other species are similarly able to use language. They are also capable of recognizing sequences of differing levels following certain rules similar to an artificial grammar. In contrast, neurophysiologist Luciano Fadiga from the University of Geneva sees language as a unique human trait.

Besides this and other contributions and presentations from international high-ranking guest lecturers, several workshops in which participants can extend their knowledge on various neuroscientific methods, such as real time fMRI or brain arousal regulation, lure students to the IMPRS NeuroCom Summer School. Furthermore, scientists early in their career are given the chance to present their current research in the form of a poster, whereby the best contributor has their participant’s fee reimbursed.

“The last Summer School was an unforgettable experience, not just regarding the presentations but also because of the nice social get-together. Nowhere else is it so easy to get in contact with the greatest minds of the different neuroscientific disciplines”, says Maryna Polyakova, PhD student at IMPRS NeuroCom.

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