Interdisciplinary study reveals mechanisms of the conscious mind

Brain research is entering a thrilling new stage, and Monash University is at the fore.

By combining the high-end interdisciplinary approaches from philosophy and neuroscience, Monash’s Dr Noam Gordon and Professor Jakob Hohwy (pictured) from Philosophy, together with Associate Professor Nao Tsuchiya and Dr Roger Koenig-Robert from Psychology, have produced research published in a leading biology journal showing that perception relies on integrating both new and old information.

Professor Jakob Hohwy was central to the interdisciplinary brain research project.

It’s common knowledge that we understand our world by relying on new information in combination with information from previous encounters. However, far less is understood about how the brain integrates this ‘low-level’ and ‘high-level’ information.

While researchers know that the processes of attention and expectation are key to this integration, no experiment has yet been able to effectively separate the processes and their effects on integration.

Enter Gordon, Hohwy, Tsuchiya and Koenig-Robert. The researchers developed two new experiments to uncover how the processes of attention and expectation are involved in how we perceive the world, combining a number of carefully controlled visual experiences with complex tasks, and measuring brain activity using electroencephalography.

The researchers uncovered exciting new evidence that expectation and attention amplify the amalgamation of low-and high-level information in the brain, with expectation connected to the use of high-level information, and attention linked to amplification of low-level information.

Thanks to this discovery, researchers will be better able to understand perception and misperception, leading to new avenues for studying both healthy brains experiencing misperception and conditions including schizophrenia and autism.

Elements of this article originally appeared on The Brain Dialogue. Read the original published article here.