Consciousness and Cognition
Our brain senses and perceives tremendous amounts of new information. However, not all of this information enters conscious awareness; sometimes, we can see something without being aware of it. At ELSC, scientists at the Consciousness & Cognition labs investigate how information enters conscious awareness, how our brain adapts to new information, and what happens when these processes break down.
Ph.D candidate Sagi Jaffe as a subject in EEG experiment (photo: Abir Sultan).
Researchers at ELSC use advanced EEG and fMRI brain mapping tools to understand what happens in the brain when we become aware of something. Awareness is also investigated by studying stroke patients with right hemisphere damage, who may suffer from unilateral neglect – an inability to attend and respond to events and objects located on their left side. Other studies examine the remarkable ability of our brain to learn and classify new information, explaining how our brain is able to learn and categorize information from simple comparisons, how new categories may be identified, and how we achieve expertise in identifying faces, names, letters and other objects.
Additional studies focus on the disruption of information processing. Dyslexia, for example, is a learning disorder typically associated with reading and writing difficulties. Research performed at ELSC has discovered more general perceptual difficulties in dyslexia, such as the inability to distinguish between two similar tones, leading to the development of new treatments for dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Schizophrenia presents a much more serious breakdown of information processing ability. Studies conducted with the aid of sophisticated virtual reality environments have shown how schizophrenia distorts the perception of everyday environments, presenting a new tool to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of this serious mental condition.
These and other studies are conducted at ELSC with the aid of a multi-disciplinary research approach and the use of a wide range of behavioral, computational and electrophysiological research tools, enabling scientists to begin to understand the brain at its many levels of complexity.