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Converging Criteria for Consciousness: Using neuroimaging methods to characterize subliminal and conscious processing


Stanislas Dehaene, aims to find, through the NEUROCONSC project, the limits of subliminal information processing, with the goal of clarifying the brain mechanisms of conscious processing and paving the way for clinical intervention studies in patients with consciousness disorders. 

european funding: European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant


Published on 1 July 2010


NEUROCONSC aims to find the limits of subliminal information processing and to clarify the brain function and architecture underlying conscious processing in adults, infants, patients and non-human primates.
(1) Experimental tests applicable to nonverbal organisms that can reveal behavioral and brain signatures of conscious processing will be designed. These tests, called rule extraction and central collision, respectively, each include an automatic sensory component and a central component assumed to require conscious access.
(2) Using these tests, brain signatures of non-conscious and conscious processing will be identified using neuroimaging techniques (ERP, MEG, fMRI, intracranial recordings) in normal human adults. To validate this approach, we will manipulate stimulus perceptibility (masking), attention (distraction by another task) and vigilance (sleep and anesthesia).
(3) The approach will then be extended to brain-injured adults with coma, persistent vegetative state, or minimal consciousness to detect residual processing and obtain predictors of recovery. Computer systems will be designed to extract signatures of conscious processing in real time.
(4) The first appearance of these signatures in childhood will also be examined. 
(5) Finally, fMRI activation in monkeys will be measured during the same tests, allowing a direct comparison of simian and human signatures of conscious processing. The effects of anesthesia on the loss of these signatures and the potential beneficial impact of thalamic stimulation on their restoration will be studied.

This research will clarify the brain mechanisms of conscious processing, shed light on their ontogeny and phylogeny, and pave the way for clinical intervention studies in patients with consciousness disorders.  

Project duration
5 years
2.5 millions €


Starting date
July 01, 2010

researcher: Stanislas Dehaene

Contact :  Stanislas Dehaene

agreement id : 249830


ERC Advanced Grants enable outstanding researchers of established reputation, regardless of nationality or age, to pursue innovative, high-risk projects that break new ground in their discipline or other fields.

These grants are intended for researchers who have already established themselves as distinguished independent investigators.

There are no nationality or age requirements: applicants must be scientifically independent and have a recent research record and profile that establishes them as leaders in their field(s) of specialization.