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James S. McDonnell Foundation Workshop
An Integrated Science of Memory: Are We There Yet?
January 8-10, 2004

Workshop Overview

The neuroscience of learning and memory spans multiple scientific fields and multiple levels of organization. Extant models of memory have been lauded for bridging levels and integrating fields. The aim of this conference is to assess the extent to which fields and levels have been integrated in the cognitive neuroscience of memory, to identify gaps and incongruities, and to envision strategies for filling those gaps and resolving those incongruities.

The workshop participants were chosen to represent domains of knowledge ranging over diverse levels of organization (from behaving organism to molecules), fields and techniques (anatomy, biochemistry, electrophysiology, computational neuroscience, experimental psychology, history, molecular biology, and philosophy are all represented) and degrees of involvement in learning and memory research. The goal is to promote a frank and unbiased discussion of how close we truly are to an integrated science of memory. We also want to promote discussion of the evidence with which we can most convincingly evaluate our progress towards that goal.

The workshop will involve phases of critical analysis and constructive synthesis. The critical phase will be organized to identify gaps in our interlevel understanding of memory; barriers inhibiting inter-field communication; limitations of available techniques, protocols, and models; and points of disagreement. The focus of this critical phase is on what we do not know and what we have not yet tested. The second stage of the discussion will focus on addressing these gaps in our understanding, identifying loci for integrating disciplinary perspectives, and developing experimental techniques and protocols in the effort to assess claims that have not yet been satisfactorily tested.

Panel discussions will be organized roughly around levels of organization and with the goal of representing multiple disciplinary perspectives on that level. An electronic discussion forum will help to initiate pre-meeting discussion and allow registered participants to actively shape the content of the workshop. When participants have registered, they will receive further information on participating in the electronic discussion forum, including a logon and password.

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