The Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science was founded in 2010 with a generous donation from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation (with additional support from UK research councils), the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science (SCCS) represents a new and multidisciplinary approach to clinical intervention and diagnosis, based on the science of the complex brain networks that give rise to consciousness. With its unique combination of expertise and facilities, the SCCS has the potential to become a dominant influence and an international touchstone for the highest quality research in consciousness science.
The Centre Unravelling the mind, brain and consciousness is one of six inter-disciplinary research themes that the University of Sussex is addressing as part of its strategic plan for 2008-2015. A key part of this effort, the SCCS is a new dedicated research facility conducting fundamentally new research into consciousness science. Truly interdisciplinary in nature, it brings together consciousness researchers from Psychology, Psychiatry, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science to address common questions using converging methodologies. Establishment of the new Centre represents a most significant contribution to the strategic direction of the University, providing a model for future activity and exemplar of current and future research. Sussex is uniquely placed for such a centre of international standing, building on its distinguished reputation for multidisciplinary work in cognitive science, neuroscience and experimental psychology. The SCCS also synergises with new developments, most obviously the Brighton and Sussex Medical School with its newly opened Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre which adds cutting-edge clinical and neuroimaging expertise. Other relevant centres include the established Sussex Centre for Neuroscience and the internationally leading Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics. With this available expertise on one site, we have the ability to deliver novel and powerful insights into high level brain functions that include human consciousness.
Our research follows two interacting strands; one in basic science, and the other in clinical application ultimately focused on developing new innovative treatments. Advances in basic science have the potential to translate into new clinical approaches, and clinical studies can shape the development of novel testable theories and computational models of basic brain mechanisms underlying consciousness.
The basic science strand seeks to unravel the complex brain mechanisms that generate consciousness. Most current approaches focus on identifying so-called ‘neural correlates of consciousness’, for example, how brain activity changes when a stimulus is experienced or not. Our research will move beyond correlation to develop new theories and models of neural mechanisms that actually account for fundamental properties of consciousness; for example the property that conscious experiences provide integrated representations of very large amounts of information. New theory can guide and be guided by large-scale computational modelling of the corresponding brain mechanisms; synthetic computational modelling is needed because standard reductionist approaches struggle when confronted by the complex networks of the brain. Theoretical, modelling, and experimental approaches mutually inform and constrain one another, and will interact with data and insights from the clinical strand.
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