What is consciousness?

The conscious mind is life as we experience it: we see the world, feel our emotions and think our thoughts thanks to consciusness. Without consciousness there is “nobody home”; we would be vacant human bodies wandering around like zombies or robots, not conscious beings. Yet, for 21st century science and philosophy, one of the greatest challenges is to explain what consciousness really is. Consciousness is currently one of the hottest topics in psychological science, neuroscience, and philosophy. How does consciousness, our subjective self or “soul”, arise from the activities of the brain? Will science ever be able to truly explain the relationship between our subjective conscious experiences and the objective neural activities going on in the brain?

The Consciousness Research Group

At the University of Turku, a growing group of researchers has focused on consciousness ever since the 1990's. The major lines of research in the CRG include (1) the philosophical concepts and theories of consciousness and the theoretical development of the science of consciousness (Revonsuo 2006, 2010, 2015), (2) the cognitive and neural mechanisms of visual consciousness (Koivisto & Revonsuo 2010, Koivisto & Grassini 2016), (3) the description and explanation of altered states of consciousness, in particular dreaming, sleep, and nightmares (Revonsuo 2000, Revonsuo & Valli 2009, Revonsuo, Tuominen & Valli 2016; Sandman et al. 2016) and hypnosis (Kallio & Revonsuo 2003, Kallio et al. 2011). In collaboration with The Anesthesia Mechanisms group of Associate Professor Harry Scheinin we are also studying the brain mechanisms of general anesthesia, as a model system for the state shift between consciousness and unconsciousness (Långsjö, Revonsuo & Scheinin 2014; Långsjö et al. 2012).