Public lecture takes consciousness from the lab to the clinic

3 Jul 2014

How to communicate with a patient in a vegetative state is the topic of a free public lecture on being held at the State Library of Queensland on Saturday, 19 July at 7pm.

Titled Understanding consciousness: From the lab to the clinic, the lecture is part of the 18th Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness annual conference (ASSC18) hosted by QBI at The University of Queensland.

The lecture will be presented by Professor Stanislas Dehaene, an international leader in the field of cognitive neuroscience, who will provide insight into global research in communicating with patients in vegetative states.

“How a subjective state of consciousness arises from brain tissue is often considered as the Holy Grail of neuroscience, but in the past twenty years the problem has ceased to be insurmountable,” Professor Dehaene said.

“I will show how we can use visual illusions, subjective reports, and advances in machine learning to ‘decode’ subliminal images from brain signals and to identify the signatures of consciousness that emerge when these images pop into consciousness,” he said.

“Although much theoretical work remains needed to relate these signals to the underlying neuronal computations, those advances are already being transferred to the clinic, where they facilitate the detection of residual consciousness in some vegetative state patients.”

In 2014, Professor Dahaene won the prestigious €1 million Brain Prize for his pioneering research into higher brain mechanisms.

Local conference organiser Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute said the lecture was a terrific opportunity for the Brisbane public to understand some of the research being conducted in the state.

“This is the first time the ASSC conference has been held in Australia, so the public has the chance to hear from some of the world’s leading minds in the field of consciousness,” he said.

“We’re very proud to be able to bring the people of Brisbane this free public lecture to close the conference.”

ASSC18 is being held at The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus from July 16-19, and will cover a number of topics such as general anaesthesia, sleep, and attention, and combines neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy.

A full program of speakers is available online, and registrations for the event are open until the beginning of the event, and the public is able to register online at

Event details

Who: Professor Stanislas Dehaene, Collège de France

What: ASSC18 public lecture on Understanding consciousness: From the lab to the clinic

When: 7pm, Saturday 19 July

Where: Auditorium 1, State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, South Bank

Media: Mikaeli Costello, +61 401 580 685,; Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen, +61 7 3346 6332, +61 420 365 450 or