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How can the brain create a unified mind? Your brain consists of two cortical hemispheres, which in turn consist of specialized subsystems. How can this parliament of focused analyzers create only one single subject - you? Why are there not two experiencers in a healthy brain (one per hemisphere) or even more?
The aim of the project is to advance our understanding of how a unified mind is created. The main theoretical focus is on adjusting theories of consciousness. Current theories mostly focus on experiences, with few explicit discussions of the subject of experience, i.e. the experiencer. Updating these theories enables them to deal with questions on unity of mind - when does a system create one or multiple experiencers?
The empirical focus is on split-brain patients. Split-brain findings have had an enormous impact in neuroscience, and beyond, because they suggested that a split-brain leads to a split mind. This confirmed the widely held intuition that massive interconnectedness is the key to unity of mind. However, our recent research has challenged the split mind view. In this project we will employ state-of-the-art neuroscientific techniques to evaluate whether a split-brain really has the hallmarks of a split mind.
This project will make significant progress on our understanding of the unified mind. The integrative approach of combining philosophical and empirical expertise opens up new avenues in the neuroscientific study of the unified mind. Understanding unity of mind is closely related to the mind-body problem. Therefore, the project will also progress our insights on that topic.
The unified mind is a fundamental puzzle of human nature and progress in this area has broad appeal, as exemplified by the Nobel prize won by Sperry for his split-brain research. Thus, if the project is successful it will likely generate papers in high-impact journals and have an enormous impact both inside and outside academia.