Christof Koch

Consciousness Redux

Consciousness Redux

I write a regular column for Scientific American MIND called Consciousness Redux. In each essay, I comment on a recent experimental or theoretical development that is important to help ups understand the neuronal roots of the conscious mind. Most columns have a decided neurobiological point-of-view.

June 2018: What Is Consciousness?

Scientists are beginning to unravel a mystery that has long vexed philosophers

May 2017: Contacting Stranded Minds

Brain imaging can establish a two-way lifeline to some severely brain-damaged patients.

March 2017: Footprints of Consciousness

The bits and pieces of the brain that render us conscious reside in places few suspected.

November 2016: Sleeping While Awake

During microsleep, the entire brain nods off so briefly that we often don't notice it. Now research shows that individual neurons in the brain can slumber, too, especially when we feel sleep-deprived.

September 2016: To Sleep with Half a Brain

Sleep and wakefulness are not all-or-none states of mind. When we sleep, one side of our brain can be awake.

July 2016: How the Computer Beat the Go Player

As a leading go player falls to a machine, artificial intelligence takes a decisive step on the road to overtaking the natural variety.

May 2016: Constructing the Modern Mind

From Aristotle to Watson, our views on mind, brain and soul have evolved. A brilliant new book adds perspective.

March 2016: Sleep Without End

A long-forgotten epidemic teaches us about the science of slumber.

January 2016: Does Brain Size Matter?

A recent discovery proves embarrassing to any notion of humanity’s innate superiority.

November 2015: Do Androids Dream?

The search to understand how artificial neural networks process images yields insights and a trippy brand of beauty.

July 2015: Intelligence Without Sentience

Artificial intelligence is coming of age and challenging our belief that being smart and being conscious go hand-in-hand.

May 2015: Without A Thought

Intuition is rooted in the brain’s uncanny ability to rapidly know the answer without knowing why.

January 2015: The Face as Entryway to the Self

What happens in the brain when you see—really “see”—a friend’s smile or scowl.

November 2014: A Brain Structure Looking For A Function

Could the claustrum--a thin, enigmatic layer of nerve cells--be a key component of the networks generating conscious experience?

July 2014: Does My Smartphone Really Love Me?

The movie Her makes a compelling case for a computer program with feelings. Is that actually possible?

May 2014: Keep It In Mind

What is consciousness? Global Neuronal Workspace argues that consciousness arises when information is broadcast throughout the brain.

January 2014: Ubiquitous Minds

Panpsychism, the ancient doctrine that consciousness is universal, offers some lessons in how to think about subjective experience today.

September 2013: The Conscious Infant

A new study finds a possible brain signature of consciousness in infants as young as five months.

May 2013: The Brain of Buddha

An encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the scientific study of meditation.

March 2013: A Consciousness Meter

An electromagnetic gadget to measure the level of consciousness.

November 2012: Cracking the Retinal Code

Silicon eyes to help people with deteriorating vision are around the corner.

September 2012: Safely switching consciousness off and on again

What can we learn about consciousness from anesthetized patients?.

July 2012: Searching for the memory

New research sheds lights - literally - on recall mechanisms.

May 2012: This is your brain on drugs

To the great surprise of many, psilocybin, a potent psychedelic, reduces brain activity.

March 2012: Consciousness does not reside here

Psychology and functional brain imaging disentangle two closely related processes, attention and consciousness.

January 2012: Movies in the cortical theater

Functional MRI can peer inside your brain and watch you watching a YouTube clip.

November 2011: Proving the Unconscious Mind

Cognitive psychology ius mapping the capabilities we are unaware we possess.

July 2011: Sex and Violence

Using optical and genetic technqiues, neuroscientists have identified an "on/off" switch for aggression in the brain.

May 2011: Fatal attraction

Some protozoa infect the brain of their host, shaping its behavior in ways most suited to the pathogen, even if it leads to the suicide of the host.

March 2011: Being John Malkovich

An advanced brain-machine interface enables patients to control individual nerve cells deep inside their own brain.

January 2011: Think different

The ways in which brains differ from one another shows up in the way their owners perceive the world.

November 2010: Dream states

Although we rarely remember our nighttime reveries, they may hold the key to consciousness.

September 2010: Remember this

What stays with us, and what we forget, depends in part on how well our neurons keep time.

July 2010: Looks can deceive

When you are facing a tricky task, your view of the world may not be as accurate as you think.

May 2010: Regaining the rainbow

Genetic intervention cures color blindness in monkeys.

March 2010: Playing the body electric

A combination of genetic and optics gives brain scientists an unprecedented ability to dissect the circuits of the mind.

January 2010: Reviving consciousness

Direct stimulation of the arousal centers in patients may restore awareness.

November 2009: The will to power

Neurosurgeons evoke an intention to act.

September 2009: When does consciousness arise?

In the womb, at birth or during early childhood??

July 2009: A theory of consciousness

Is complexity the secret to sentience, to a panpsychic view of consciousness?

April 2009: Neuroscience meets Psychoanalysis (with Heather Berlin)

Suppression and dissociation, two psychoanalytic defense mechanisms, are now studied by modern neuroscience.

February 2009: Measure more, argue less

One sign of progress in unraveling the mind-body problem is the development of new and ingenious ways to measure consciousness.

December 2008: What is it like to be a bee?

Bees display a remarkable range of talentsabilities that in a mammal such as a dog we would associate with consciousness.

October 2008: Rendering the visible invisible

Clever experiments reveal how unconscious mechanisms can affect our brain and our behavior.