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A conversation between celebrated author and professor Alan Lightman and the director of the McGovern Institute.

Professor Lightman recounts his meeting with Robert Desimone and discusses the neural mechanisms of attention and consciousness in a New Yorker article.

How do the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses in the human brain coalesce to form philosophical concepts like “attention” and “consciousness”? Although explaining the latter is still a ways off, recent research from the Desimone lab is shedding light on the former. As we understand more about basic and system level interactions between neurons, Dr. Desimone foresees that the question of consciousness will lose its relevancy. Professor Lightman, for his part, hopes that some air of mystery is preserved about the fundamental workings of the brain.

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