Michael Graziano
Human Neuroscience
Human Neuroscience

Professor of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Ph.D., Princeton University, 1996

Research: Brain Basis of Consciousness

Research Lab
281 Neuroscience

Research Focus

My lab currently focuses on the brain basis of consciousness. Brains arrive at the conclusion that they have an internal, subjective experience of things — an experience that is non-physical and inexplicable. How can such a thing be studied scientifically? When an information-processing device such as the brain introspects, or accesses internal data, and on that basis arrives at the conclusion that it has a magic property inside of it, the first question for a scientist is probably not: how did that device produce magic? Or even: what is the magic? Such questions are probably not coherent. Instead, in my lab we are asking: how does a brain arrive at that kind of self-description? What is the adaptive advantage of that style of self-description? What systems in the brain compute that information? What happens when those systems are damaged? When and how did they evolve? All of these questions are scientifically approachable. My lab is currently testing a specific, mechanistic theory of awareness described in my recent book, Consciousness and the Social Brain.

Selected Publications

Graziano MSA (2018) The Spaces Between Us: A Story of Neuroscience, Evolution, and Human Nature. Oxford University Press, Oxford UK.
Webb TW, Igelström K, Schurger A, Graziano MSA (2016) Cortical networks involved in visual awareness independently of visual attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 113: 13923-13928.

Graziano MSA (2015) Ethologoical action maps: A paradigm shift for the motor cortex. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20: 121-132.

Webb TW, Graziano MSA (2015) The attention schema theory: a mechanistic account of subjective awareness. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol 6, article 500, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00500.

Kelly YT, Webb TW, Meier JD, Arcaro MJ, Graziano MSA (2014) Attributing awareness to oneself and to others. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 111: 5012-5017.

Graziano MSA (2013) Consciousness and the Social Brain. Oxford University Press, Oxford UK.

Graziano MSA and Kastner S (2011) Human consciousness and its relationship to social neuroscience: A novel hypothesis. Cognitive Neuroscience, 2: 98-113.