Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science


The Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science is co-directed by Anil Seth and Hugo Critchley who work alongside a wide range of faculty drawn from across different Schools.

Dr Ron Chrisley

Dr Ron Chrisley

Ron Chrisley was the first recipient of the Bachelors of Science in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, which he received with honours and distinction in 1987. He began his academic career as an AI programmer and research assistant at Stanford's Psychology Department, Stanford's Knowledge Systems Laboratory, NASA, and Xerox PARC.  He also conducted research on neural networks for speech recognition as a Fulbright Scholar at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland, and at ATR Laboratories in Japan. In 1997 he received a DPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford.  In 1992 he took up a lectureship in Philosophy in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex. From 2001-2003 he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. Since 2003 he has been the director of the Centre for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex. For over a decade he has been a frequent visiting lecturer for the Consciousness Studies Programme at the University of Skövde in Sweden.

More information about Dr Ron Chrisley.

Prof. Zoltan Dienes

Prof Zoltan Dienes

BA (Hons) Natural Sciences from Cambridge 1984
MA (Hons) Experimental Psychology Macquarie University 1987
D.Phil Experimental Psychology Oxford 1990
1990- Lecturing at University of Sussex, Professor 2008-

Zoltan is interested in the distinction between conscious and unconscious mental states, particularly knowledge, but also intentions. Much of the knowledge we acquire for dealing with the world appears to be unconscious. For example, we can use the rules of grammar to comprehend and produce grammatical utterances within a fraction of a second, yet we cannot describe more than a few rules of grammar. We can learn not only to use certain linguistic structures, but also to appreciate certain styles of music, or to gain perceptual motor mastery of a domain without consciously knowing the underlying regularities. How is such knowledge acquired? By what  methods can we know whether knowledge is conscious or unconscious? What type of structures can be learnt unconsciously? How can such learning be computationally modelled? Zoltan is also interested in hypnosis, a way of acting which he argues is intentional but the person is strategically unaware of those intentions.

Dr Sarah Garfinkel (Senior Lecturer)

Sarah GarfinkelDr Garfinkel is a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry and Consciousness Science based in Neuroscience in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex. She also has a part time appointment in the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Sarah's research centres on body-brain interactions underlying emotion and cognition. For example, she investigates how individual differences in interoception (detection of internal bodily sensations) can influence emotion and memory. She also determines how aberrant bodily and neural mechanisms can contribute to symptom maintenance in psychiatric conditions such as Anxiety, PTSD, Autism and Schizophrenia. She has a particular interest in the heart, such as interoception and heart-brain interactions underlying the gating of fear responses.

In each stage of her career, Sarah has received extensive training in a number of diverse techniques, including memory and pharmacology (PhD, University of Sussex), psychiatry and neuroimaging (University of Michigan) and autonomic affective neuroscience (BSMS with Hugo Critchley). Together, these techniques provide her with the tools to pursue an integrative approach combining functional imaging (fMRI) with cardiovascular monitoring/manipulation to investigate body-brain interactions in emotion and cognition.

Dr Cassandra Gould van Praag


Dr Cassandra Gould van Praag is a researcher in the Department of Neuroscience at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, working with Professor Hugo Critchley. Cassandra is interested in the impact of physiology on emotional and cognitive processing - how our body effects what we think and feel.

Cassandra completed her PhD in the Sackler Centre for Consiousness Science in the Department of Informatics. Here she explored the trait of synaesthesia, where sensory experiences in one modality trigger a concurrent experience of another form, using extensive exploration of the first person experience and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Prior to PhD studies, Cassandra undertook an Open University Diploma in Health Psychology, followed by a Masters in Cognitive Neuropsychology at University College London. Cassandra received a First Class honours in Biological Sciences from the University of Brighton, where she specialised in human biochemistry, genetics, and immunology.

Dr Ryota Kanai (Affiliated Fellow)

Ryota Ryota Kanai is a cognitive neuroscientist at Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at University of Sussex. He holds degrees in Biophysics (BSc 2000) from Kyoto University in Japan and Experimental Psychology (PhD 2005) from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He was a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology from 2005-2007 and research associate at University College London from 2007-2012. He has joined the University of Sussex as a Reader in 2012.

His research has focused on two related biological questions. The first concerns the neural and functional basis of consciousness. His research goal is to understand the neural processes and computational principles that underlie conscious experiences. He approaches these questions by investigating bistable perception, metacognition, binding of visual features and time perception using visual psychophysics, neuroimaging and brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct and alternating current stimulation (tDCS/tACS). His second research question concerns how individual differences in cognitive functions and social behaviours are reflected in variability of brain structure and function. He has pioneered the use of voxel-based morphometry (VBM) applied to anatomical MRI scans and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) to identify brain regions associated with individual differences in perception, attention and social cognition.

Dr Ryan B. Scott

Dr Scott completed undergraduate training in computer science at the University of Liverpool before embarking on postgraduate training in psychology at the University of Sussex.

He obtained distinctions in both experimental psychology and psychological methods master's before completing his doctorate examining the role of familiarity in implicit learning.

Dr Scott is employed as a research fellow funded on a project grant from the ESRC.

His research employs behavioural, physiological and brain imaging techniques to examine the extent to which conscious perception is necessary for implicit learning, and the process by which conscious knowledge emerges from initially unconscious behavioural biases.

In addition to theoretical research on consciousness Dr Scott is also engaged in work attempting to apply the resulting insights to practical challenges arising from disorders of consciousness. These projects include the development of a method for detecting conscious awareness that is neither reliant on physical movement or language comprehension.

Dr Natasha Sigala

Natasha SigalaDr Sigala is interested in cortical representations of visual percepts and how these are affected by learning and behavioural goals. Her previous work has shown that neural representations in the inferior temporal cortex become tuned to stimulus features that are task relevant through trial-and-error learning, affecting the way the stimuli are perceived even in the context of different tasks.

Dr Sigala has also investigated the role of prefrontal cortical areas in representing target stimuli, as well as the overall structure of a task, which is not explicitly taught. Her current work involves the study of network activation and connectivity of prefrontal and posterior brain areas in healthy young and old participants, as well as clinical populations.   


Prof. Jamie Ward

Dr Jamie Ward

Jamie Ward is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology, and is particularly well known for his research on synaesthesia.  Synaesthesia is a developmental condition in which people experience the ordinary world in extraordinary ways: for instance, words may have tastes, music may be coloured, and numbers may glide through space.  By studying synaesthesia we can understand how the brain creates conscious experiences (normal and illusory), and how differences in perception may affect, say, thinking and memory.   Aside from their unusual experiences, people with synaesthesia show a particular pattern of enhanced perceptual abilities also shared by people with autism (the two conditions co-occur more than chance).

His other current research interests include vicarious experiences of pain (feeling pain when seeing others in pain) and developing sensory substitution technology to enable the blind to 'see' using their intact senses of hearing and touch.  His research uses the methods of cognitive neuroscience, and his textbook 'The Student's Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience' is used throughout the world.  He is also Founding Editor of the journal, 'Cognitive Neuroscience'.