The brain plays a major role for consciousness and conscious perception. However, the brain as an organ is intricately connected to the rest of the body and surprisingly, bodily rhythms of cardiac and respiratory activity can likewise influence our conscious perception. In this project, we study how brain and body interact in order to become conscious of our environment.

Lay summary

In several experiments, we want to examine how brain and body contribute to our conscious perception. To that aim, we simultaneously measure the electrical brain activity, the cardiac activity and respiration which subjects see stimuli that they can perceive only half of the time (co-called threshold stimuli). We want to predict from the brain, heart and respiratory activity whether or not subjects can perceive a stimulus. In particular, we want to show whether brain and body contribute independently or jointly to conscious awareness.

The aim of the project is to integrate the functional significance of brain activity into a broader perspective by relating it to bodily activity. Our project can provide an answer to the question whether brain activity can still be considered a purely brain-generated or whether it is determined by bodily rhythms, which will yield a fundamentally new view on brain function.