Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive Neuroscience Research at the University of Münster

Cognitive neuroscience is the natural science of mind and consciousness. From my point of view, it is one of the most challenging and fascinating questions, whether we can find a model that explains consciousness (solely) on the basis of our nervous system. Today, we even don’t have a clear definition of what the term „consciousness“ actually represents. On the one hand, a considerable amount of goal directed behavior and decision making is possible without „consciousness“. On the other hand, conscious attention seems to be necessary for many cognitive tasks, including those that require information maintenance, novel combinations of operations like those of mathematics and language production, or spontaneous generation of intentional behavior.

We can’t (objectively) measure consciousness by todays means, e.g. fMRI, PET, EEG, MEG, neuropsychological testing, etc. Instead we experience in very mysterious and enigmatic way only our own consciousness. We attribute to other persons also their own consciousness, but today we have not any single objective method to prove consciousness in another person. Talking to another person is no prove of  consciousness, because we can principally imagine – or at least not exclude – an unconsciousness machine that could communicate similar as a human subject would do.

From my neurofunctional point of view, the “feeling” or experience of our own consciousness must be produced within or by a neuronal workspace of our brain. However, in contrast to language, calculating or emotional processing, it seems not possible today to localize consciousness in human brains by modern neuroimaging techniques. However, my recent research has demonstrated that by means of MRI we can attribute brain characteristics or brain changes to alterations of a patient’s personality.

Details of my research can be found at the Otto Creutzfeldt Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience (OCC) of the University of Münster.