Directors of the School: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Directors of the Course: Uri Hasson and Thalia Wheatley
Bidirectional Coupling of Bodies, Brains, Babies and Machines
Nothing happens in the world or in Nature itself without coupling. Much of science has stressed the simplest unidirectional case, of input to output, stimulus to response, sender to receiver, etc., etc., but reality indicates that things and processes are often bidirectionally or reciprocally coupled. An example is the 'tripartite synapse' in which neurons and astrocytes communicate via bidirectional coupling--very different from the one way pre- to post-synaptic transmission of the so-called Hebbian synapse. Some strange things happen when things are bidirectionally coupled. When the things are different ('heterogeneous'), metastable coordination dynamics can result and a weird and wonderful balance between integration and segregation occur. When outputs and inputs fail to match or expectations are not fulfilled, misattributions of agency can arise. The sense of agency itself emerges spontaneously when the organism realizes not only that the world can change it but that it can change the world. All this, and more, suggests we should look at bidirectional coupling and its manifestations quite closely--whether it be between body parts and bodies, stimuli and responses, within and between brains, between babies and their worlds and between humans and machines. Bidirectional coupling may be a pre-condition for the emergence of meaning.