Monash Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies (M3CS) receives major grant in consciousness science

A research consortium made up of researchers across eight universities from the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and the Monash Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies, has received a major grant for consciousness science research.

The grant, totalling more than $5 million, is courtesy of the Templeton World Charity Foundation, whose mission is to fund interdisciplinary research on what it means to be human.

Administered out of the University of Amsterdam, the consortium includes; University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Glasgow, Schepens Eye Research with Harvard University, Columbia University, York University (Canada) and Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany), as well as the Monash Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies (M3CS).

Noting the significance of the grant, M3CS Director Professor Jakob Hohwy explains, “The ultimate nature of consciousness – our subjective experience of ourselves and the world around us – remains one of the big unsolved scientific problems. Several theories of consciousness exist but testing them has been slow. This grant aims to accelerate empirical progress on theories of consciousness.”

$1,085,000 of the total is going to M3CS at Monash, as one of three main nodes, and $370,000 to Friedrich Schiller University Jena, where M3CS’s experiments will be replicated. In this three-year project, M3CS and Jena will form a 'theory lead' group with Professor Karl Friston from University College London. This most recent round of funding will be used to test contrasting predictions from Integrated Information Theory and Predictive Processing Accounts of Consciousness.

The Monash Chief Investigators are Professor Hohwy and Dr Jonathan Robinson, who are joined by Dr Andrew Corcoran and computational expert Chris Whyte. The group advocates the Bayesian 'active inference' account of consciousness and will be testing this theory against 'integrated information theory' using Bayesian computational models and visual illusion paradigms. Monash will develop theories of consciousness, computational modelling, and conduct behavioural, EEG and MEG experiments.

The project is planned to deliver various outputs directed to target audiences including specialists in the area of consciousness research and related scientific fields, and a wider scientific audience including; cognitive scientists, neurobiologists, AI and roboticists, philosophers and clinicians.

This is a landmark grant win, which signals Monash's, and in particular M3CS's, high international standing in the field of consciousness science.

Visit the M3CS website to discover more about their groundbreaking work.