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Professor Anil Seth: What in the World is Consciousness?

Professor Anil Seth: What in the World is Consciousness?

Wednesday 8 November, 7pm

Consciousness is, for each of us, the presence of a world. Without consciousness there is no world, no self: there is nothing at all. But we know surprisingly little about the material and biological basis of this most central feature of our lives. How do rich multisensory experiences, the senses of self and body, and volition, agency, and ‘will’ emerge from the joint activity of billions of neurons locked inside a bony skull?

Once the province of philosophy and theology, understanding consciousness has emerged as a one of the great scientific challenges for this century.

In this talk, Professor Seth will sketch the state-of-the-art in the new science of consciousness, with a focus on what neuroscience has to offer. He will distinguish between conscious level (how conscious we are), conscious content (what we are conscious of), and conscious self (the ‘I’ behind the eyes), describing in each case how new experiments are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms, in normal life and in neurological and psychiatric conditions.

Throughout, Professor Seth will emphasize phenomenology – the way things seem – as the target for any satisfying explanation of how the brain, in conjunction with the body and the environment, gives rise to and shapes conscious experience. 

Tickets are free and are available here. If you have any enquiries or accessibility requirements please telephone us on 01904 527315 or email

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About the speaker

Professor Anil Seth

Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex and Founding Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is also a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, TED speaker, and a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. In his work, Anil seeks to understand the biological basis of consciousness by bringing together research across neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry. He has published more than 110 research papers, and he is Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Neuroscience of Consciousness (Oxford University Press). He is Editor and Co-Author of 30 Second Brain (Ivy Press, 2014), was Consultant for Eye Benders (Ivy Press, 2013; winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2014) and Brain Twister (Ivy Press 2014). He contributes regularly to many media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC, for which he was profiled by their flagship show The Life Scientific. He lives by the sea in Brighton and is currently writing his first book.