Testing Global Neuronal Workspace and Integrated Information Theories of Consciousness in Animal Models
TWCF Number
Project Duration
December 1 / 2021
- November 30 / 2024
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded

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Yuri Saalmann
Institution University of Wisconsin - Madison

In order to understand consciousness, we have to uncover what kinds of brain activity correspond exactly with conscious experiences. These elusive forms of activity are known as neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). Two major theories of consciousness, Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW) and Integrated Information Theory (IIT), propose fundamentally different NCC. This adversarial collaboration, replicated across two laboratories, tests GNW and IIT. This is the third in a series of Structured Adversarial Collaborations from the Yuri Saalmann Lab at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The project team will use high-density Neuropixels probes, which can collect high-resolution data from a large part of the cortex across the entire anterior-posterior extent of the brain. They will also employ optogenetics to causally manipulate brain networks to resolve key and opposing predictions of each theory. This provides first-of-its-kind spatiotemporal resolution of, and causal evidence for, the NCC, above and beyond what is possible in the parallel human project using functional MRsI and EEGs to test GNW and IIT.

The proposed outputs of this project are a number of high-impact research publications, a freely and publicly available large dataset, and analytical tools. The impacts of the successful project will be definitive evidence supporting one major theory of consciousness over the other, and a significantly advanced understanding of the nature of consciousness.

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