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UA hosts annual psych summit

The UA will once again host the world’s most interdisciplinary conference on consciousness.

“Toward a Science of Consciousness” has been hosted by the UA since 1994, and will take place again this year at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort Hotel from April 9 to April 14. More than 700 people from 55 countries are expected to attend.

“Consciousness is the most interesting, important and essential question we face — because it determines our existence, the nature of reality and our place in the universe,” said Dr. Stuart R. Hameroff, director of the UA Center for Consciousness Studies. “This is not just a science or philosophy issue — it’s really all that matters. If you don’t have consciousness you don’t have anything.”

Consciousness is a topic that has been studied for thousands of years, according to Hameroff. But despite having been studied for so long, scientists still have some things to learn, he said.

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“Nobody has the big picture, and so the conference will look at all different approaches,” he added.

Deepak Chopra, a world famous physician, author and explorer of Eastern spirituality, will open the conference through a plenary debate, “War of the Worldviews,” along with Chapman University physicist Menas Kafatos, cognitive scientist Susan Blackmore and Leonard Mlodinow, author, computer game pioneer, screenwriter, physicist and co-author of the book “The Grand Design.” The book argues that God is not needed to explain the universe’s origins, and that the Big Bang is a result of physics.

“According to Vedic science, consciousness is the ground of all existence that differentiates into mind and matter, subject and object, energy, information, space, time and the entire universe,” Chopra said. “In other words, the totality of the universe is nothing other than consciousness in all its diverse forms and aspects.”

Other topics that will be discussed include echolocations, the process of locating distant or invisible objects through sound waves, time and use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in relation to consciousness.

There will be pre-conference activities that will include specialized workshops and a forum on consciousness and Eastern philosophy. Chopra will give a special pre-conference workshop on
April 9 on the “Neuroscience of Enlightenment.”

The conference also includes 120 concurrent talks, 240 posters, art, technology and health demonstration sessions, exhibits, a consciousness poetry slam, a talent show and various social events.

Some sessions will be led by anyone who submitted an interesting idea, not just by faculty and graduate students. The center received more than 500 submissions and picked the “best of the best” without looking at who sent it in; they only looked at the material.

“The conference is pretty intense, so we try to make it a lot of fun,” Hameroff said.

The conference will end with an “end-of-consciousness party” on Saturday.

“Toward a Science of Consciousness” is open to the public. Prices for the weeklong conference are $350 for students and $450 for others. On Monday evening, Chopra will host a dinner and workshop “The Neuroscience of Enlightenment,” which also open to the public. It will cost $50 for dinner and $75 for the workshop.


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