Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Faculty

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. Ron's research in the area of consciousness science includes:

  • Experience as expectation: To what extent is what we visually experience at a given point in time not based on the input to our eyes at that time, but on the input our brain expects to receive at that time?
  • Synthetic phenomenology: How can we use the states of robotic systems to specify the non-conceptual content of conscious experience?
  • Interactive empiricism: Can we overcome conceptual hurdles in consciousness science through activity- (and technology-) mediated conceptual change?
  • Consciousness and sensory fusion: Can multi-modal categories be learned unconsciously?
  • Philosophy of consciousness science: What form must a science of consciousness take? (E.g., does the objectivity of science preclude a scientific account of the subjectivity of experience? What would a "first-person" science of consciousness look like?)

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-

I am 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? I am also interested in hypnosis, a way of acting which I argue is intentional but the person is strategically unaware of those intentions.

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Prof Owen Holland

Prof Owen Holland

Owen Holland, Professor of Cognitive Robotics, has a varied interdisciplinary background, and has held faculty positions in psychology (University of Edinburgh), engineering (the University of the West of England, Bristol), and computer science (University of Essex). He has held visiting appointments at the University of Bielefeld Zentrum fur interdisziplinare Forschung, the California Institute of Technology, and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. He has also held positions in private research laboratories (Cyberlife Technologies, Cambridge; Starlab nv, Brussels), and has consulted for several industrial companies. He was a member of the Swarm Systems team that won the ‘Most Innovative Idea’ award at the Ministry of Defence Grand Challenge in 2008.  

For more than twenty years he has worked in the area of biologically inspired robotics, and for the last ten years he has mainly been interested in the prospects for building a conscious machine. In 2001 he was an organiser and session chair for one of the first symposia on machine consciousness, and in 2003 he edited a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies on the topic. In 2004 he obtained the first major funding for a machine consciousness project which investigated whether a human-like robot with a self-model and a world-model might exhibit features characteristic of consciousness. The robot, CRONOS, is now being further developed in a European project ECCEROBOT led by Owen, which will run from 2009 – 2011. Owen Holland has been an active contributor to most of the machine consciousness symposia held in the last decade, and serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness.

More information about Prof Owen Holland.

Dr Ryota Kanai

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.

Prof Michael Land

Prof Michael Land

BA Natural Sciences, Cambridge 1963
PhD, University College London (Zoology-Neurophysiology) 1967
Miller Fellow (Berkeley) 1967-69; FRS 1982
Lecturing at Sussex since 1971; Professor of Neurobiology since 1984. Emeritus since 2007.

Until about 1990 my research was concerned with the eyes and vision of animals, mostly quite remote from man (molluscs, spiders, crustaceans, insects, fish and snakes). This culminated in a book Animal Eyes with Dan Nilsson (OUP, 2002). I was impressed with how smart some of these creatures were – particularly cuttlefish, jumping spiders and fiddler crabs – and inevitably questions of the nature of their consciousness came up, but seemed intractable at the time. Since 1990 I have worked principally on the eye movements of people while engaged in ordinary tasks, including driving, playing ball games, sight-reading music and making tea, discussed in a recent book Looking and Acting with Ben Tatler (OUP, 2009). The upshot of  this work is that our oculomotor system has a knowledge base and set of strategies that our conscious selves know next to nothing about, even though they play a vital role in executing our conscious intentions. My present work is concerned with the nature of the model we have of the world that allows us to orient to objects outside our current visual field, and the role this model plays in our stable perception of the surroundings.

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Dr Nick Medford

Dr Nick Medford

Dr Nick Medford is a senior lecturer in psychiatry. He worked in general medicine and neurology before training in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry. Clinically, he is interested in the interface between neurology and psychiatry. His research interests are in using functional MRI and other techniques to explore the neural basis of emotional experience in both healthy and clinical populations. He has a particular interest in depersonalisation and other dissociative phenomena, and believes that neuroscientific investigation of mental states is best combined with an interest in phenomenology and philosophy of mind.

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Dr Romi Nijhawan

Dr Romi Nijhawan

I received my PhD in Psychology from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA in 1990. Then I was a postdoctoral fellow at  the University of California, Berkeley, CA USA,  from 1990-1992. I was a Research Associate, Dept. of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY USA, from 1993-1997 and a Senior Research Fellow, Div. of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA USA, from 1997-2000. Then I joined Sussex as a Lecturer in the Cognitive and Computing Sciences in 2000. I have been a Reader in the School of Psychology at Sussex since 2003.

Neuroscience and Psychophysics tells us that conscious perception of an event takes a significant time (~100 ms) following the actual physical event. How do animals (including humans) deal with these large latencies, particularly during high speed chases and ball games? The answer is that over short durations (~ 50 ms) unfolding events contain a signature of what is coming next. I argue that visual mechanisms exploit this signature to generate conscious perception of unfolding events that accurately track the unfolding physical event, rather than trail it by 100 ms. For moving objects this compensation for neural delays manifests itself as a position shift (as revealed, for example, by the flash-lag effect).

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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.

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Dr Natasha Sigala

I am interested in cortical representations of visual percepts and how these are affected by learning and behavioural goals. My 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. I have 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. My 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.   

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Prof Jamie Ward

Dr Jamie Ward

Jamie Ward is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology, and is particularly well know 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.  His other current research interests include phantom limb experiences following amputation 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 Editor-in-Chief of the journal, 'Cognitive Neuroscience'.

More information about Prof Jamie Ward.