Azrieli Program in Brain,
Mind & Consciousness

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About this program

Where does human consciousness come from, and why is it important?

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. And yet the nature of consciousness remains a mystery. The program grapples with the fundamental underpinnings of consciousness, and relates the findings to biology on the one hand and to philosophical questions on the other.

Program at a glance

Founded in
2014
Members
20
Supporters
  •   Azrieli Foundation
  •   The Henry White Kinnear Foundation
  •   Richard M. Ivey
  •   Michael and Sonja Koerner
  •   The Lawrence and Judith Tanenbaum Family Foundation
Partners
  •   Brain Canada Foundation through the Canada Brain Research Fund
  •   Western University
Disciplines
Neuroscience, including cognitive neuroscience; biological and cognitive psychology; computer science, including artificial intelligence; genetics; anthropology; philosophy, including ethics; law

Program details

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. And yet the nature of consciousness remains a mystery. The program grapples with the fundamental underpinnings of consciousness, and relates the findings to biology on the one hand and to philosophical questions on the other.

Recent technological advances in medical imaging make it possible to see the brain in action. The new technology for the first time gives an opportunity to scholars from fields as different as genetics, cognitive neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and philosophy of mind to come together and work to understand consciousness. By creating the opportunity for deep collaborations, the CIFAR program will allow fellows to solve one of the most profound questions about human nature.

In addition to providing insights into the human experience, results could also cast light on mental illnesses that include disorders of consciousness, for example schizophrenia and autism. They will provide insights into improving understanding of how we learn. They will help us understand creativity, create better anaesthetics and other drugs, and even help us explore better ways of interacting with machines.

Consciousness is perhaps the most intimate of human mental experiences, and yet the hardest to explain. It allows us to remember past events, to experience pleasure in the moment, and to think about tomorrow. But it is also mysteriously altered or eliminated when we go to sleep.

Exactly what consciousness is and how it can be explained is an old question. Why do we have the experience of consciousness at all? What brain processes are at work? Do animals have consciousness? Do babies? Could machines?

Fellows will use advances in brain imaging, computational neuroscience and other fields to answer these questions. Advanced neuroimaging studies have already shown strong evidence for a close link between consciousness and observable activity in the brain. Fellows will further develop ways to isolate conscious and unconscious processes in the brain, and determine just how important interactions among the subsystems of the brain are in creating consciousness.

The program brings together researchers from a broad range of disciplines, including cognitive neuroscientists, neurologists, geneticists and other biologists, anthropologists, psychologists, computational scientists, philosophers, artists, and other scholars. The program is developing a fundamental framework to help all of these disciplines interact in order to understand how our brains give rise to consciousness and our unique perspective on the world around us.

Research themes include the nature of consciousness, its function, biological basis, origins, and the disorders that arise in consciousness.

Contact the program’s senior director, Kate Geddie

Program fellows & advisors

Program Directors

Melvyn Goodale
Melvyn Goodale
Ivey Fellow

Melvyn Goodale’s research explores how humans process visual information and use it to interact with their environment.

Adrian Owen
Adrian Owen
Koerner Fellow

Adrian Owen is best known for his work assessing consciousness of patients in vegetative states, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) technology to observe their brain activity.

Fellows

BMC_AnilSeth

Anil K. Seth

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Sussex
  • United Kingdom
BMC_AniruddhPatel

Aniruddh Patel

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Tufts University
  • United States
Atsushi lriki

Atsushi Iriki

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • RIKEN Brain Science Institute
  • Japan
Axel Cleeremans

Axel Cleeremans

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Belgium
BMC_CatherineTallonBaudry

Catherine Tallon-Baudry

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • École normale supérieure
  • France
BMC_IsabellePeretz

Isabelle Peretz

  • Associate Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Université de Montréal
  • Canada
BMC_JasonMattingley

Jason B. Mattingley

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Queensland
  • Australia
BMC_LaurelTrainor

Laurel Trainor

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • McMaster University
  • Canada
BMC_LisaSaksida

Lisa M. Saksida

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Western University
  • Canada
Marcello Massimini

Marcello Massimini

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Milan
  • Italy
BMC_MorRegev

Mor Regev

  • Tanenbaum Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • McGill University
  • Canada
BMC_MuMingPoo

Mu-ming Poo

  • Associate Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Institute for Neurosciences
  • China
BMC_NicholasTurk-Browne

Nicholas Turk-Browne

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Yale University
  • United States
Rafael Malach

Rafael Malach

  • Tanenbaum Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Weizmann Institute of Science
  • Israel
Robert Kentridge

Robert Kentridge

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Durham
  • United Kingdom
BMC_RobertZatorre

Robert Zatorre

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • McGill University
  • Canada
Sandra Waxman

Sandra Waxman

  • Associate Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Northwestern University
  • United States
Sheena Josselyn

Sheena A. Josselyn

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Hospital for Sick Children
  • Canada
Bio Outline

Sid Kouider

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • École normale supérieure
  • France
Bio Outline

Stanislas Dehaene

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Collège de France
  • France
Tim Bayne

Tim Bayne

  • Senior Fellow
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Monash University
  • Australia

Advisors

Bio Outline

Daniel Dennett

  • Advisor
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Tufts University
  • United States
BMC_DavidMenon

David K. Menon

  • Advisor
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Cambridge University
  • United Kingdom
Bio Outline

David Sherry

  • Advisor
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Western University
  • Canada
Janet Werker

Janet Werker

  • Advisor
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of British Columbia
  • Canada
Nancy Adler

Nancy E. Adler

  • Advisor
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of California San Francisco
  • United States
Nancy Kanwisher

Nancy Kanwisher

  • Advisor
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • United States

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars

BMC_AlonaFyshe

Alona Fyshe

  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Victoria
  • Canada
BMC_CraigChapman

Craig Chapman

  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Alberta
  • Canada
BMC_KatherineMcAuliffe

Katherine McAuliffe

  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Boston College
  • United States
Lucina Q. Uddin

Lucina Q. Uddin

  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • University of Miami
  • United States
Yaniv Ziv

Yaniv Ziv

  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
  • Azrieli Program in Brain, Mind & Consciousness
  • Weizmann Institute of Science
  • Israel