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Hakwan Lau
Associate Professor
D. Phil., Oxford, 2005

General Area of Research

The mechanism and functions of consciousness, visual attention and perceptual decision-making

Current Research

I am interested in using neuroimaging (fMRI, EEG, MEG), psychophysics and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to test cognitive models of how we become consciously aware of visual stimuli. Some of these models are driven by computational principles, such as how the brain optimally deals with signals and noise in a Bayesian ( i.e. probabilistic) fashion. The models are also informed by empirical research that focuses on the functions of consciousness. My previous findings have led me to think that consciousness does not have too many special functions, in the sense that many tasks that seem to require consciousness could actually also be performed unconsciously, if the suitable conditions are obtained. This has led to the view that consciousness should not be treated as a superior form of information processing; it is just 'different' from unconscious processing. Our goal then, is to pin down these differences.

I am also interested in how conscious perception interacts with and relates to other higher-cognitive functions such as attention, uncertainty reporting and other metacognitive processes.

Relevant Publications

McCurdy LY, Maniscalco B, Metcalfe J, Liu KY, de Lange FP, Lau H (2013) Anatomical coupling between distinct metacognitive systems for memory and visual perception. Journal of Neuroscience 2013 Jan 30;33(5):1897-906.

Ko Y, Lau, H (2012) A detection theoretic explanation of blindsight suggests a link between conscious perception and metacognition. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 2012 May 19;367(1594):1401-11.

Rahnev D, Maniscalco B, Graves T, Huang E, de Lange FP, Lau, H (2011) Attention induces conservative subjective biases in visual perception. Nature neuroscience 2011 Oct 23;14(12):1513-5.

Lau H, Rosenthal D (2011) Empirical support for higher-order theories of conscious awareness. Trends in cognitive sciences 2011 Aug;15(8):365-73.

Passingham RE, Bengtsson SL, Lau HC (2010) Medial frontal cortex: from self-generated action to reflection on one's own performance. Trends in cognitive sciences 2010 Jan;14(1):16-21.

Lau HC, Passingham RE (2007) Unconscious activation of the cognitive control system in the human prefontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience 2007 May 23;27(21):5805-11.

Lau HC, Passingham RE (2006) Relative blindsight in normal observers and the neural correlate of visual consciousness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2006 Dec 5;103(49):18763-8.

Lau HC, Rogers RD, Haggard P, Passingham RE (2004) Attention to Intention. Science 2004 Feb 20;303(5661):1208-10.

Courses Frequently Taught

PSYC W2225 Attention and Perception

PSYC G4225 Consciousness and Attention (seminar)

Hakwan Lau Photo

Columbia University
Psychology Dept.
355D Schermerhorn Ext
1190 Amsterdam Avenue MC: 5501
New York, NY 10027

Phone: 212-854-1925
Fax: 212-854-3609

Last modified: Feb 17, 2012 10:59:21 AM EST