IC16 – Testing for Neural Correlates of Consciousness

Lecturer: Sascha Benjamin Fink
Fields: Philosophy, Neuroscience, Psychology


The search for neural correlates of consciousness (NCCs) is at the heart of the contemporary science of consciousness. What an NCC is supposed to be has varied over the course of the last 30 years, but most researchers want more from NCCs than a record of a merely statistical relation between neural and conscious goings-on: Most search for where consciousness, this fundamentally subjective phenomenon, has its footing in the objective, natural world. So any NCC can be given a stronger reading: THIS is what makes a neural event come with consciousness. But such more general hypotheses ought to be tested. In the presentation, I sketch a bit of the historical development and how we got here and talk about four basic kinds of tests (the Which-, When-, What-, and How-Test) as well as their respective advantages and shortcomings.


  • Chalmers, David J. (2000). What is a neural correlate of consciousness? In Thomas Metzinger (ed.), Neural Correlates of Consciousness: Empirical and Conceptual Questions. MIT Press. pp. 17–39.
  • Fink, Sascha Benjamin (2016). A Deeper Look at the \”Neural Correlate of Consciousness\”. Frontiers in Psychology 7.
  • Fink, Sascha Benjamin (Ed.) (2020) The Neural Correlates of Consciousness. Special Issue at Philosophy and the Mind Sciences.
  • Aru, J., Bachmann, T., Singer, W., & Melloni, L. (2012). Distilling the neural correlates of consciousness. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 36(2), 737-746.
  • Metzinger, T. (Ed.). (2000). Neural correlates of consciousness: Empirical and conceptual questions. MIT press.
  • Noë, A., & Thompson, E. (2004). Are there neural correlates of consciousness?. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(1), 3-28.
  • Block, N. (2005). Two neural correlates of consciousness. Trends in cognitive sciences, 9(2), 46-52.
  • Crick, F., & Koch, C. (1990). Towards a neurobiological theory of consciousness. In Seminars in the Neurosciences (Vol. 2, No. 263-275, p. 203).


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Sascha Benjamin Fink received his PhD at the University of Osnabrück\’s Institute for Cognitive Science and currently is Juniorprofessor for Neurophilosophy at Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg. He is working on foundational issues on the neuroscience of consciousness, transformative experiences, the psychology of vagueness, and the role of paradoxes in the sciences.

Affiliation: Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg; Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences; Graduate School “Extrospection”
Homepage: www.finks.de