Brain, Mind & Consciousness
What are the origins and mechanisms of consciousness?
The quality of our consciousness is what sets us apart from other species and seems to be one of the defining traits of being human. Yet the nature of consciousness remains a mystery. The Brain, Mind & Consciousness program brings together neuroscientists, philosophers, and psychologists to grapple with the fundamental underpinnings of consciousness, relating the findings to biology on the one hand and to philosophical questions on the other.
RESEARCH AND SOCIETAL IMPACT HIGHLIGHTS
Digging deeper into perception and reality
Program Co-Director Anil Seth’s book, Being You: A New Science of Consciousness, was published in September 2021. The book lays out his views on the science of consciousness and describes his theory, which he calls the “beast machine” theory. Being You was an instant Sunday Times Bestseller, a New Statesman Book of the Year, an Economist Book of the Year, a Guardian Science Book of the Year (and Book of the Week), a Financial Times Science Book of the Year, and a Bloomberg Business Book of the Year.
Building a brain, mind & consciousness database
With a goal of gathering shareable tools and resources to spark and sustain broader collaboration, program members have been collating a centralized repository to provide access to labelled and pre-processed data and stimuli that they have already collected. So far, the database consists of 89 projects that contain 120 sets of resources, such as human behavioural data, stimulus sets, human functional MRI data, and human EEG data. This repository will be invaluable for data and stimulus sharing within the program.
Understanding our perception of time and metacognition
Recent program meetings have focused on time perception, as well as on metacognition, a highly prominent and distinctive feature of human cognition, which has an intimate and not completely understood relationship with consciousness. This work has allowed the team to explore both fundamental questions about which brain areas are responsible for keeping track of time, as well as broader concerns, such as how time perception can be programmed into robots.
Exploring theories of consciousness
Program Co-Director Anil Seth (University of Sussex) and Fellow Tim Bayne (Monash University) have been putting theories about the biological and physical basis of consciousness to the test to explore how they relate to each other and whether they can be empirically distinguished. They are reviewing four prominent theoretical approaches to consciousness: higher-order theories, global workspace theories, re-entry and predictive processing theories, and integrated information theory. As part of this process, they are identifying which aspects of consciousness each approach proposes to explain, what their neurobiological commitments are and what empirical data are cited in their support. They are also considering how some prominent empirical debates might distinguish among these theories and are outlining three ways in which new theories need to be developed to deliver a mature regimen of theory-testing in the neuroscience of consciousness.
Path to Societal Impact
We invite experts in industry, civil society, healthcare and government to join fellows in our Brain, Mind & Consciousness program for in-depth, cross-sectoral conversations that drive change and innovation.
Leaders in extended reality (XR, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality) and CIFAR fellows in the Brain, Mind & Consciousness program are developing more immersive XR experiences, while deepening the understanding of how our minds perceive reality.
Areas of focus:
- Understanding what makes an experience immersive
- Developing immersive extended realities
- Using XR as a tool to study the brain and body
Brain Canada Foundation through the Canada Brain Research Fund, Anonymous partner
Michael & Sonja Koerner, The Lawrence & Judith Tanenbaum Family Foundation, Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc.
Neuroscience, including cognitive neuroscience
Biological and cognitive psychology
Computer science, including artificial intelligence
Philosophy, including ethics
Fellows & Advisors
CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
16 distinguished early-career researchers join the prestigious CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars programMay 23, 2023
Brain, mind & consciousness
Frontier research in neuroscience and cognitive science presents an immense potential for tackling challenges limiting g...July 02, 2020
Three CIFAR research programs will be renewed and one program will be closed in 2020/21March 26, 2020
Can consciousness persist in brains that are totally cut off from the outside world?March 26, 2020
A neuroscientist with interests that cross disciplines, Seth plans to build bridges between CIFAR programsMarch 26, 2020
Fourteen inspiring early-career researchers named across five CIFAR research programsSeptember 04, 2019
Brain, mind & consciousness
Advancing virtual reality (VR) technologies are leveraging the brain's visual and auditory systems and brain-body intera...August 07, 2019
Brain, mind & consciousness
Virtual reality (VR) technologies could open a window on the nature of consciousness, while advances in neuroscience are...June 03, 2019
In their lab at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, CIFAR fellows and neuroscientists Sheena Josselyn and Paul Frankla...May 22, 2019
Even before they go to kindergarten, children show clear evidence of bias at the intersection of race and gender, accord...April 05, 2019
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.