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Neuroscience has made considerable progress in figuring out how the brain works. We know much about the molecular-genetic and biochemical underpinnings of sensory and motor functions. Recent neuroimaging work has opened the door to investigating the neural underpinnings of higher-order cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and even free will. In these types of investigations, researchers apply specific stimuli to induce neural activity in the brain and look for the function in question. However, there may be more to the brain and its neuronal states than the changes in activity we induce by applying particular external stimuli. In Volume 2 of Unlocking the Brain, Georg Northoff addresses consciousness by hypothesizing about the relationship between particular neuronal mechanisms and the various phenomenal features of consciousness. Northoff puts consciousness in the context of the resting state of the brain thereby delivering a new point of view to the debate that permits very interesting insights into the nature of consciousness. Moreover, he describes and discusses detailed findings from different branches of neuroscience including single cell data, animal data, human imaging data, and psychiatric findings. This yields a unique and novel picture of the brain, and will have a major and lasting impact on neuroscientists working in neuroscience, psychiatry, and related fields.
Georg Northoff, Ph.D., is Director of Research Unit for Mind, Brain imaging and Neuroethics, Canada Research Chair, and EJLB-Michael Smith Chair for Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa.