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Brain, Mind and Consciousness

Principal Investigator:
  • Adrian Owen, University of Western Ontario
  • Melvyn Goodale, University of Western Ontario
Team Members:
  • Tim Bayne, University of Western Ontario
  • Axel Cleeremans, Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Dehaene Stanislas, Inserm
  • Sheena Josselyn, The Hospital For Sick Children
  • Lisa Saksida, University of Cambridge
  • Laurel Trainor, McMaster University
  • Robert Zatorre, McGill University

Project Overview

The Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness brings together 22 researchers to examine what consciousness is and how it comes about. The program is part of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, which was founded in 1982 to bring together researchers from across disciplines and borders to address important questions that affect humanity. Fellows in CIFAR programs come together regularly to collaborate in interdisciplinary groups which give rise to new insights.

The CIFAR program is co-directed by Adrian Owen and Melvyn Goodale, both of Western University. It draws its members from 18 institutions in nine countries, representing disciplines from neuroscience, psychology, computer science, philosophy and ethics.

Fellows use advances in brain imaging, computational neuroscience and other fields to answer these questions. Research themes include the nature of consciousness, its function, biological basis, origins, and the disorders that arise in consciousness.

In one recent result, CIFAR Senior Fellow Sheena Josselyn of the Hospital for Sick Children, inspired by discussions at a program meeting, tested a hypothesis on how engram interactions lead to memory formation. The research showed that in mice, two memories become linked by recruiting overlapping neuronal populations.(1)

In another finding, Senior Fellows Anil Seth of the University of Sussex and Marcello Massimini of the University of Milan examined the neural signatures of consciousness level changes during sleep. The study showed new evidence that neural dynamic complexity correlates with level of consciousness, a critical part of understanding the neuronal basis of consciousness.(2).

  • Rashid, AS et al. Science, 353(6297): 383-387.
  • Schartner, M. et al. Neurosci Conscious. 3(1): 22.