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Journal Article

The ConTraSt database for analysing and comparing empirical studies of consciousness theories


Melloni,  Lucia       
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Neurology, New York University Grossman School of Medicine;

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Yaron, I., Melloni, L., Pitts, M., & Mudrik, L. (2022). The ConTraSt database for analysing and comparing empirical studies of consciousness theories. Nature Human Behaviour, 6, 593-604. doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01284-5.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-183C-9
Understanding how consciousness arises from neural activity remains one of the biggest challenges for neuroscience. Numerous theories have been proposed in recent years, each gaining independent empirical support. Currently, there is no comprehensive, quantitative and theory-neutral overview of the field that enables an evaluation of how theoretical frameworks interact with empirical research. We provide a bird’s eye view of studies that interpreted their findings in light of at least one of four leading neuroscientific theories of consciousness (N = 412 experiments), asking how methodological choices of the researchers might affect the final conclusions. We found that supporting a specific theory can be predicted solely from methodological choices, irrespective of findings. Furthermore, most studies interpret their findings post hoc, rather than a priori testing critical predictions of the theories. Our results highlight challenges for the field and provide researchers with an open-access website (https://ContrastDB.tau.ac.il) to further analyse trends in the neuroscience of consciousness.