Sept. 19, 2018

Sizing Up Consciousness

HBP scientist Marcello Massimini is the co-author of a fascinating book on the empirical investigation of consciousness, which, originally written in Italian, is now for the first time available in English under the title “Sizing Up Consciousness. Towards an Objective Measure of the Capacity for Experience”. 


Marcello Massimini is Professor of Physiology at the University of Milan (Italy). Within the Human Brain Project he works in the research area of “Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience” and focusses on the mechanisms of loss and recovery of consciousness, both from a basic neuroscience and clinical application-oriented perspective. His research investigates the mechanisms of loss and recovery of consciousness in different conditions such as wakefulness, sleep, dreaming, anaesthesia and coma. His current goal is to bring theoretical and basic neuroscience closer to the bedside of brain-injured patients. In this spirit, Massimini and his team have recently developed an approach that uses measures of complexity in EEG data, the so-called Pertubational Complexity Index (PCI) as a possible way of detecting consciousness in unresponsive patients after brain damage through trauma or stroke. Read more about the approach in this interview

He wrote the book with Giulio Tononi from the University of Wisconsin, USA, who is the founder of the so called Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of Consciousness. Using IIT as guiding principle, the authors take the reader along a scientific trajectory to face fundamental questions about the relationships between matter and consciousness. The book spans from theoretical and philosophical considerations to urgent practical issues, such as the problem of assessing consciousness in brain-injured patients, animals and non-biological systems.

Massimini was one of the organizers of the HBP International Conference “Understanding Consciousness. A scientific quest for the 21st century”, which took place in July 2018 in Barcelona.

Sizing Up Consciousness: Towards an Objective Measure of the Capacity for Experience. by Marcello Massimini and Giulio Tononi. Oxford University Press, August 2018.