Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science

Perception and Consciousness

Our group’s broad research interests include:

Predictive processing accounts of conscious content

... especially in vision. Recently ‘predictive coding’ has become increasingly powerful in explaining many of the observations about human experience and behaviour.  This approach suggests that the expectations, or predictions, are what determines the contents of perception – not simply the ‘bottom-up’ processing of sensory signals.

Neurophenomenology

One of the ways in which we are investigating individual differences in conscious experience is through advancing our understanding of synaesthesia. Synaesthesia offers an exciting opportunity to understand the human mind and brain across different levels of explanation: from genes, it runs in families, to brain development (it emerges early in life), to brain functioning (as measured in fMRI) to conscious experiences and behaviour.

Variance Perception in Vision

A key aspect of consciousness lies in its perceptual content, our internal representations of the world (and the self) that form the basis of our subjective experience. We are examining the processing of visual variance to shed light on the dynamics of variance processing, how variance allows the brain to make inferences and modulates the interpretation of subsequent stimuli.

Metacognition and signal detection theory

There is a strong link between metacognition and consciousness, however metacognition is difficult - mathematically speaking – to measure.  Our goal is to be able to measure subjective (metacognitive) performance independently from objective performance. This group is investigating metacognition using a variety of experimental approaches. 

Finally, all of our group are constantly involved with the development of behavioural and imaging methods.

References:

Bor, D., Rothen, N., Schwartzman, D., Clayton, S., Seth, A.K. (2014) Adults can be trained to acquire synaesthetic experiences. Nature: Scientific Reports, 4(7089). [link]

Chang, A. Y.-U., Kanai, R. & Seth, A.K. (2015) Cross-modal prediction changes the timing of conscious access during the motion-induced blindness. Consciousness & Cognition 31, 139-147

Fatoorechi, M., Parkinson, J., Prance, R.J., Prance, H., Seth, A.K., Schwartzman, D.J. (2015) A comparative study of electrical potential sensors and Ag/AgCl electrodes for characterising spontaneous and event related electroencephalagram signals Journal of Neuroscience Methods 251, 7-16.

Sherman, M.T., Barrett, A.B., Kanai, R. (2015)  Inferences about consciousness using subjective reports of confidence in M. Overgaard (Ed.), Behavioural Methods in Consciousness Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sherman, M.T., Seth, A.K, Barrett, A.B., Kanai, R.. (2015) Prior expectations facilitate metacognition for perceptual decision. Consciousness & Cognition 35, 53-65.