Decoding conscious and unconscious mental states from brain activity in humans

Recent advances in human neuroimaging have shown that it is possible to accurately decode a person's conscious experience based only on non-invasive multivariate measurements of their brain activity. Such 'brain reading' has mostly been studied in the domain of visual perception, where it helps reveal the way in which individual experiences are encoded in the human brain. Here several studies will be presented that directly address the relationship between neural encoding of information (as measured with fMRI) and its availability for awareness. These studies include comparisons of neural and perceptual information, unconscious information processing, decoding of timecourses of perception, as well as decoding of high-level mental states related to the control of attention and action. A number of fundamental challenges to the science of "brain reading" will be presented and discussed.

Speaker Bio

Born in 1971, he studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Bremen, finishing with a Diploma thesis in psychology in 1997 on the role of object constancy in apparent motion perception. He started a PhD position at the Institute of Psychology and Cognition Research (Bremen) in 1997 on the neural correlates of visual awareness. In addition he managed the research network "NeuroNord" from 1999 to 2001. In 2000 he took a position in the Department of Neurology II at Magdeburg University to perform EEG, MEG and fMRI experiments on the neural correlates of contrast perception. From October 2001 to April 2002 he worked for the newly established Department of Neuropsychology at Bremen University to set up a behavioral and brain imaging lab. He then went on to work on to work in the Plymouth Institute of Neuroscience (2002-2003), as well as the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, University College London (2002-2005). There he worked on the neural correlates of brightness perception, visual masking, visual awareness and attention using combinations of functional MRI, retinotopic mapping, connectivity analyses and multivariate pattern recognition. He is currently starting up his own research group at the Max Planck Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig.