Goodale, Owen to lead human consciousness network

After a year-long international competition, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) has selected Western’s Adrian Owen and Melvyn Goodale to lead a new research network focused on the brain, mind and consciousness.

In April, 2013, CIFAR launched the Global Call for Ideas, inviting leading researchers from across Canada and around the world to submit proposals to create research networks to tackle complex questions of global importance.

Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, and Goodale, director of Western’s Brain and Mind Institute, submitted one of four successful proposals chosen from a pool of 260 Letters of Intent. The proposals, submitted by researchers from eight countries on five continents, included a full spectrum of questions bridging the social sciences, medicine, health, the biological and physical sciences, the humanities, policy and engineering.

The Brain, Mind & Consciousness Network, led by Owen and Goodale, aims to address the question: What is the biological basis for human consciousness that sets us apart from other species?

Building a network composed of neuroscientists, philosophers, ethicists and clinicians, Owen and Goodale will attempt to understand the mystery of human consciousness, which is key to understanding the root of many neurological diseases and disabilities.

During the six- to 18-month start-up phase, CIFAR will select a program advisory committee, appoint program directors and identify program members. A number of partnerships are already in development and will be announced at a later date. For the first time, CIFAR also has required that during the initial start-up, the new programs begin to articulate their plans for knowledge outreach and engagement with stakeholders. Critical to the start-up phase will be the appointment of fellows from across Canada and the world that best suit the mission of each program.

The three other proposals entering start-up phase with CIFAR are:

  • Biology, Energy, Technology – How can biology guide us in taking a leap forward in developing solutions for sustainable energy?
  • Molecular Building Blocks of Living Systems – How did life originate from its molecular origins?
  • Microbes & Humans – How can a deeper understanding of the human microbiota improve our understanding of human health, development and evolution?