Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Consciousness: The Final Frontier

Am I a Figment with Anil Seth

Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex

anilNothing seems more real than our experience of our own bodies, but then again nothing is quite what it seems. Dr. Anil Seth shows how our conscious self is just another fiction of the brain  He will talk about rubber hands and phantom limbs, show how out of body experiences are possible, and describe how to do cutting-edge neuroscience in your living room with the help of some off-the-shelf video game equipment.

What can Hypnosis tell us about Consciousness? with Peter Naish

Open University

PeterIt was not long ago that science was skeptical about hypnosis – it simply wasn’t “real”.  However, recent research suggests that hypnosis actually produces changes in the brain; there is a reality that begins to explain why it has therapeutic value (and potential dangers).  Hypnosis has always been fascinating to the general public; now the scientists are fascinated too, because it seems to help with unravelling that most fascinating topic of all – the nature of consciousness.

Guided by your heart: How cardiac timing influences conscious experience

with Sarah Garfinkel

Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex

SarahOur minds and our bodies are connected, but is it the mind that controls the body or the body that controls the mind? We are familiar with how our feelings relate to our body, like our heart speeding up when we sense danger. However, internal bodily changes can also influence conscious experience – is it possible our hearts can lead our minds?  Dr. Garfinkel discusses how our heartbeats can affect the way we perceive the world. Understanding how our bodies can guide what we see, feel and remember demonstrates how our experience of the external world can be shaped by our own internal bodily states.


We see with our brains, not with our eyes with Dave Carmel

University of Edinburgh

daveYou know that picture of a cube that looks like either side of it could be in front, and they can switch? There’s a whole bunch of images like that, called ‘bistable stimuli’, and consciousness researchers find them really interesting (not so much the cube, which is sort of old news – but some of the others are way cooler; I’ll be showing several of them). What do these images have to do with consciousness? Think about it: Nothing changes in the picture (i.e., in the outside world), but the way we see the picture (our awareness) does change. So if we figure out how the brain chooses which way to interpret the picture, we’ll get some idea of how the brain creates conscious perception. In this presentation I’ll describe how I get at this using transcranial magnetic stimulation: Sending powerful magnetic pulses into people’s brains to  disrupt their activity (temporarily, honest!), and see what this does to visual awareness.

Why does the brain see things that aren’t there? with Jamie Ward

University of Sussex

jamieAlthough seeing things that aren’t there sounds like a classic example of a brain pathology it is, to some degree, an integral part of the way that the normal brain works.  The brain creates inferences (‘best guesses’) as to what is out there in the world, and this typically corresponds with what we consciously experience but does not always reflect the true state of the world (as in the case of visual illusions).  In some cases, completely new experiences may be constructed (e.g. seeing colours when listening to music in people with synaesthesia) and we will debate whether the same kinds of mechanisms can apply in these more extreme cases too