David B. Edelman

David B. Edelman

Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego; Adjunct faculty, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of San Diego

Known for his work in establishing a theoretical framework for the study of consciousness in non-human animals, Edelman has, most recently, studied the neural correlates of consciousness in non-human animals, as well as the link between mitochondrial trafficking and neuromodulation in the mammalian brain. Currently, he is exploring octopus visual perception using a video-based psychophysical approach. He hopes to combine such psychophysical studies with electrophysiological recording in free behaving animals. This approach will reveal neural signatures of octopus visual perception that may be compared with those already characterized in vertebrates; It may also yield insights regarding the evolution of complex vision.

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David Edelman received his B.A. from Swarthmore College (Sociology & Anthropology, 1983) and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (Paleoanthropology, 1997). He completed his postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute (transcriptional gene regulation; 1997-2001) and The Neurosciences Institute (cellular neuroscience; 2001-2006) in La Jolla and San Diego, California, respectively. He was a fellow at the Neurosciences Institute (2006-2012), an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at The Scripps Research Institute (2011-2012), and most recently, a professor of neuroscience at Bennington College. Currently, he is adjunct faculty at the University of San Diego and the University of California, San Diego (2015-present), as well as a visiting professor in the Department of Psychology at Brooklyn College (CUNY).

Edelman’s interests range from the organization and function of complex nervous systems to the neural basis and evolution of conscious processing. Currently, Edelman is exploring octopus visual perception and its neural basis using a video-based psychophysical approach. A long-term goal of this work is to combine such psychophysical studies with electrophysiological recording in the central brains of free behaving animals.  This research program will: 1) reveal heretofore uncharacterized neural signatures of octopus visual perception that may be compared with those already described in vertebrates; 2) provide the basis for investigating the possibility of conscious states in the most complex of all invertebrates; and 3) yield insights regarding the evolution of animal consciousness over perhaps 500 million years.

Edelman has published in the journals, PLoS One, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Trends in Neurosciences, Consciousness and Cognition, and Animal Sentience, among others. He has authored or co-authored book chapters on diverse subjects, including animal consciousness, the utility of brain-based devices for consciousness research, and fluorescence-based live-imaging techniques for investigating mitochondrial dynamics. Currently, he is writing a book about the evolution, function, and study of consciousness in non-human animals.

In 2013, Edelman was Co-Chair of the 17th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC), and, over the past decade, has served in different capacities on ASSC committees.

David's interview with journalist Suzan Mazur on a paradigm shift in evolutionary theory can be read by clicking on the link provided at the bottom of this page.

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"The overwhelming creative power and ubiquity of selectional systems at every level of biological organization are probably the most enduring insights to emerge from Darwin’s monumental work. Yet, it has become painfully clear that the hyper-deterministic bent of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis has rendered it inadequate to the task of revealing critical links between emergence of animal form during individual development and the rise of diverse phyla over the course of evolution. Whether due to the technical limits of experimental observation, an overly simplistic understanding of gene regulation and the permissive and constraining properties of epigenetic interactions during development and beyond, or a combination of the two, our approach to understanding evolution has become myopic. It is time for a broader perspective: one that embraces new findings from genetics and development, but at the same time allows for the possibility that a rich variety of mechanisms underlie the tempo and mode of evolution."

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