Ph.D., Princeton University
My lab currently focuses on the brain basis of consciousness. Brains arrive at the conclusion that they have an internal, subjective experience of things — an experience that is non-physical and inexplicable. How can such a thing be studied scientifically? When an information-processing device such as the brain introspects, or accesses internal data, and on that basis arrives at the conclusion that it has a magic property inside of it, the first question for a scientist is probably not: how did that device produce magic? Or even: what is the magic? Such questions are probably not coherent. Instead, in my lab we are asking: how does a brain arrive at that kind of self-description? What is the adaptive advantage of that style of self-description? What systems in the brain compute that information? What happens when those systems are damaged? When and how did they evolve? All of these questions are scientifically approachable. My lab is currently testing a specific, mechanistic theory of awareness described in my recent book, Consciousness and the Social Brain.