Research Projects

ARC projects

Consciousness in the Predictive Mind

2016-2021

Funding
ARC AUD 373,000

Investigators
Prof Jakob Hohwy, Monash University (Primary Chief Investigator)
Felix Blankenburg, (Partner Investigator)
Sid Kouider, (Partner Investigator)
Anil Seth, (Partner Investigator)

Project Description
The project aims to provide a unified approach to the nature of consciousness. Neuroscience and philosophy are still unable to explain how the brain gives rise to our conscious experience. Competing theories of consciousness are piecemeal, difficult to test and compare, and mostly formulated without much regard to a general theory of brain function. This project takes a different approach: it front-loads a new and influential general theory of brain function, and aims to use this theory to determine which theories of consciousness can be defended and which rejected. The anticipated outcome is a unified scientific and theoretical approach to consciousness, achieving a deeper and more integrated understanding of a major field of contemporary neuroscience and philosophy research.


Legal and ethical issues in the inheritable genetic modification of humans

2017-19

Funding
ARC AUD 215,000
Monash University AUD 27,542

Investigators
Catherine Mills, Monash University (Primary Chief Investigator)
Robert Sparrow, Monash University (Chief Investigator)
Karinne Ludlow, (Chief Investigator)
Narelle Warren, (Chief Investigator)

Project Description
The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to investigate the legal and ethical implications of technologies that allow inheritable modifications of the human genome. The use of these technologies in human embryos is fast becoming an international reality, and this project aims to be the first to rigorously examine the implications of this in the Australian context. The intended outcomes of the Project are to clarify the current legal status of inheritable genetic modification technologies in Australia, provide a comprehensive analysis of the ethics of these new technologies, and, building on this, propose a set of recommendations for regulatory reform to guide Australia’s response to international scientific and legal developments.


Wandering Minds in Sleep and Wakefulness: Attention, Consciousness, Self

2016-19

Funding
ARC AUD 293,124
Monash University AUD70,521

Investigator
Jennifer Windt, Monash University (Primary Chief Investigator)

Project Description
This project aims to develop a theory of mind wandering. A large portion of our conscious lives is spent mind wandering: attention periodically drifts away from current tasks, often without our noticing. This challenges the assumption that healthy adults are normally aware of and able to control their thought processes. This project will use cognitive neuroscience, sleep and dream research, and philosophy of mind to develop a theory of mind wandering across the sleep-wake cycle and an interdisciplinary methodology for its investigation. The anticipated outcome is understanding of spontaneous thought and its relationship to attention, consciousness and the self. This potentially throws new light on important issues relating to mental health and sleep disorders.


Pathologies of moral cognition

2015-17

Funding
ARC AUD 154,000

Investigators
Toby Handfield, Monash University, (Primary Chief Investigator)
Berg, Nathan (Partner Investigator)

Project Description
The saying “Nice guys finish last” captures the thought that moral cognition makes us vulnerable to exploitation. This project will rigorously examine this hypothesis by investigating three particular aspects of moral cognition which might lead us to form false beliefs or render us vulnerable to manipulation by others: our beliefs about punishment, our tendency to identify with groups, and our willingness to trust others. Empirical studies will extend our understanding of the circumstances in which moral behaviour can have harmful side-effects. Theoretical inquiry will improve our ability to construct robust theories of cooperative and punitive behaviour.


Informal sanctions and bad social norms

2017-19

Funding
ARC AUD 213,848
ARC AUD 17,652.00
Monash University: AUD 14,721.00

Investigators
Klaus Abbink, Monash University (Primary Chief Investigator)
Lata Gangadharan, Monash University (Chief Investigator)
Toby Handfield, Monash University (Chief Investigator)
John Thrasher, Monash University (Chief Investigator)
David Skarbek, (Partner Investigator)

Project Description
This project aims to improve the understanding of informal sanctions to enforce compliance with social norms. Unlike most behavioural economics studies, this project examines norms leading to outcomes that are inefficient, unjust or cruel, such as honour-killings or parochial violence. This project develops experimental paradigms to study “bad” norms in the laboratory. It will investigate a setting in which co-operation is inefficient; the use of sanctions to segregate groups; and the emergence of honour norms and their implications. The project aspires to build a platform that can lead to effective policies against harmful social norms.


Measuring the mind: A framework for building a consciousness meter

2015-19

Funding
ARC AUD 827,552.00
ARC: AUD 61,403.00

Investigators
Timothy Bane (Primary Chief Investigator)

This project aims to develop a new framework for measuring consciousness. The lack of well-validated measures of consciousness is at the root of a methodological crisis in the science of consciousness. Drawing on work in the philosophy of science and mind, the project plans to investigate whether consciousness can be measured in the way that other natural properties can be measured. The results of this project may inform guidelines for the objective assessment of consciousness in the context of post-coma brain injury, anaesthesia, epileptic absence seizures, infancy and non-human animals.


ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science

2014-2021

Funding
ARC AUD 3,821,762.00

Investigators
Douglas Macfarlane, Monash University (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI)
Jennifer Pringle, Monash University (Chief Investigator (CI)
Robert Sparrow, Monash University (Chief Investigator (CI))
Jie Zhang, Monash University (Chief Investigator (CI))
And others

Project Description
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) will create next generation electrochemical devices via the precision assembly of nano/micro dimensional components into macroscopic structures. Through the discovery of new materials and structures, and understanding how spatial arrangement in 3D influences chemical, physical and biological properties, ACES will define the cutting edge of Electromaterials Science. The resulting technology breakthroughs will have direct impact on some of today’s most challenging global problems in clean energy, synthetic biosystems, diagnostics and soft robotics. National benefit to Australia will be realised through the creation of new manufacturing industries.