Understanding Consciousness

University of Amsterdam

Waking up remains a strange sensation. Just one moment ago the world didn’t exist for you and then, in a split second, it was there with all the smells, sounds, movements and visual sensations. For centuries scientists have tried to understand the working of the brain and what being conscious means, paving the way to our brain research of today. In this animation we take you through the history of understanding consciousness to where we are now.

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Consciousness refers to the bundled subjective experiences we all have. It is the continuously changing stream of experiences of the outside world and our body: rain rattling on the roof, a rumbling stomach, the beautiful colors around us, a memory that pops up, the deadline that is ahead of us.

It was long considered to be a unique human feature, but with Darwin in the back of our minds that idea becomes less and less likely. Animals most probably have conscious experiences as well. What is the role of the brain in this enigmatic and fascinating function? How do interactions between bodily processes and environment create subjective experiences in man and animal?

This animated movie takes you to important moments in the history of research understanding the human brain and consciousness, to end at our current work at the University of Amsterdam.

Research at the Conscious Brain Lab

Members of the Conscious Brain Lab study how the electrochemical activity of the inter-connected billions of nerve cells in our brain generates conscious experiences. And what happens when a person loses consciousness, for example when falling asleep or when placed under anesthetic? The lab is hosted at the University of Amsterdam, department of Psychology.

Research at Amsterdam Brain & Cognition (ABC)

This research priority area is based around collaboration between doctors, psychologists, linguists, neurologists, economists, behavioural scientists, biologists and logicians. Research focuses on themes such as memory and learning ability, appreciation of music, foreign language acquisition, neuropathology, consumer behaviour, consciousness, visual perception and mathematical models of cognitive processes. The research spans the entire spectrum from brain cell to social behaviour.

Meet experts in the field of studying consciousness

Dr C.A. (Conrado) Bosman Vittini

Neuronal mechanisms of multisensory integration

Dr. J.J. (Johannes) Fahrenfort

The neural mechanisms involved in consciousness

Dr. S. (Simon) van Gaal

The neural correlates of consciousness and the role of consciousness in cognitive control and decision-making

Prof. dr. E.H.F. (Edward) de Haan

Visual, auditory and somatosensory perception, memory, emotion, and consciousness

Prof. dr. V.A.F. (Victor) Lamme

Free will, visual perception and consciousness

Dr. U. (Umberto) Olcese

The neuron-level mechanisms of multisensory processing and consciousness

Dr. F. (Filip) van Opstal

Visual consciousness and why we are unable to become aware of all the sensory information

Dr. M. (Marte) Otten

The causes and consequences of humiliation, both at an individual and an intergroup context

Prof. dr. C.M.A. (Cyriel) Pennartz

Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience

Dr. H.S. (Steven) Scholte

Visual perception and how the brain uses the structure in the world to efficiently process information

Dr. T. (Timo) Stein

Visual perception and the scope and limits of unconscious processing

Dr. L.M. (Lucia) Talamini

Memory and sleep

Dr. T.B. (Tim) Ziermans

Typical and atypical development of the brain, (social) cognition and psychopathology in childhood and adolescence

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