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. With this animation we take you through the history of brain research, to understand the long road that has been traveled, and to eventually arrive at the research that is being done now and the themes that are currently at play.
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.
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. How does this enigmatic and fascinating function develop in the brain? How do interactions between brain processes and environment create subjective experiences in man and animal?
Scientists associated with the Brain and Cognition programme group of the Department of Psychology at the University of Amsterdam study how all the inter-connected brain areas in our head generate conscious experiences. And what happens when a person loses consciousness, for example when falling asleep or when placed under anesthetic? To what extent are our choices and behavior guided by unconscious processes, to which we have no conscious access? And what about free will?
The research priority area Brain & Cognition 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.
The neural correlates of consciousness and the role of consciousness in cognitive control and decision-making
Visual, auditory and somatosensory perception, memory, emotion, and consciousness
Visual consciousness and why we are unable to become aware of all the sensory information
The causes and consequences of humiliation, both at an individual and an intergroup context
Visual perception and how the brain uses the structure in the world to efficiently process information