Course Syllabus

Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2024 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core - 3 credits

Course Study Tours:

Ålborg; Florence (Italy)

Major Disciplines:

Neuroscience, Psychology


One course in neuroscience, physiological psychology, biological psychology, or cognitive psychology at university level.

Corequisite Course(s):

Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness Research Lab

Faculty Members:

Elvira Fischer

(current students please contact via the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Department email address

Time & Place:

Tuesday & Fridays 08:30 - 09:50

Classroom: V23-201


Course Description

This course introduces the main theoretical models and the empirical methods employed to explain and measure consciousness. Students are offered the opportunity to learn about the neurobiological mechanisms possibly underlying the emergence of consciousness and to grasp why science also needs to embrace conceptual and philosophical levels of analysis. The course outlines the multi-faceted nature of consciousness by discussing different aspects of the phenomenon in normal as well as abnormal conditions. Students are encouraged throughout the course to actively participate in discussions and to critically think regarding the current state of knowledge about how the brain relates to the mind.


Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Appreciate the multi-faceted nature of consciousness
  • Identify the conceptual and methodological problems in studying consciousness
  • Discuss some of the key approaches to studying consciousness
  • Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of current methodologies
  • Trace the neurobiological mechanisms possibly underlying the emergence of consciousness


The following topics will be covered during the course:

  • Theme 1: Framing Consciousness
    • What is consciousness?
    • Levels & dimensions of consciousness
    • Qualia & Theory of mind
    • The hard vs. the easy problem
  • Theme 2: Theoretical Approaches
    • Neurobiological Theories (1): HOTs, GWTs
    • Neurobiological Theories (2): IIT, re-entry/PP theories
    • Attention, learning and affect theories (1) 
    • Attention, learning and affect theories (2) 
  • Theme 3: Methodological Challenges
    • Objective and Subjective assessments of consciousness
    • Neural correlate of consciousness & Neuroimaging
    • Temporal binding, binocular rivalry, and consciousness perception
    • Indicators of consciousness & AI
  • Theme 4: Consciousness Applied (Special Topics)
    • Consciousness and Emotions
    • Infant & Non-human consciousness 
    • Altered states of consciousness


Guest Lectures: Maria Oezden

    • Disorders of consciousness
    • Cultural impact on understanding consciousness





Dr. Elvira Fischer

Undergraduate degree from UCLA in psychobiology and a MSc and PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen/Germany. My background is in visual neuroscience, auditory neuroscience, neuroimaging, psychophysics, eye-tracking and physiological and behavioral measures. 

Currently a senior manager/ R&D team lead at Oticon.  I work with a team of engineers developing signal processing algorithms for hearing aids, trying to facilitate auditory processing and auditory perception.







Required reading can be found for each class under: Files/Spring2024/Module/Class

Field Studies

Field studies serve to complement your course work by placing you in the professional field. Students will be asked to compare, extend and rethink what we read about and discuss in class. Field study final plans are waiting for confirmation, but will be as listed below or similar.


Study Tours

Core Course week and study tours are an integral part of the core course as we take the classroom on the road and see how theory presented in the classroom is translated to practice in the field. 


Expectations for study tours:

  • Participate in all activities
  • Engage in discussions, ask questions, and contribute to achieving the learning objectives
  • Respect the destination, the speakers, DIS staff, and your fellow classmates
  • Represent yourself, your home university and DIS in a positive light


Core Course Week and Short Study Tour:

Themes: Merging the science of consciousness with the reality of our perceptions

Purpose: The aim of the Core Course Week is to contextualize some among the most influential theoretical frameworks and empirical models that underline our scientific understanding of human consciousness. In addition to the academic activities on study tour, the study tour program is supplemented with cultural visits and events. In the past, cultural visits have included touring castles, museum visits, and experiencing traditional Danish food at a local restaurant.

  • The study tour activities will be presented to you in the week before departure and a booklet containing the itinerary will be posted on Canvas prior to departure. 


Long Study Tour:

Themes: Senses and Perception

Purpose: The tour probes the following questions: “Why and how is this experience unique to me?” (i.e. Introspection), “How does the brain turn my objective perception into subjective sensation?” (i.e. The Self as Subject), and “How does this perception and/or sensation affect the way I am, think and act?” (i.e. The Self as Object).

  • The study tour activities will be presented to you in the week before departure and you will be able to download the booklet prior to departure day.


Approach to Teaching

This course outlines the multi-faceted nature of consciousness by discussing different aspects of the phenomenon in normal as well as abnormal conditions, and it comprises both lectures and open discussions.  Students are therefore expected to participate actively in the discussions throughout the course to demonstrate critical thinking regarding the current state of knowledge about how the brain relates to the mind.

The schedule will list reading materials for each class meeting. Please be prepared by having read and thought about the material before coming to class. By reading the material beforehand, you will better understand the points I make, you will be better prepared for discussion, and you will be able to ask thoughtful and productive questions.


Expectations of the Students

Class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to have done the reading for each class and to come with notes and questions. This will give us material to generate conversation. It is also expected that during classes the students are able to discuss and to present topics and to respond to questions providing references to our readings to support their points. Active participation and engagement will account for 25% of your final grade, so it is to be taken seriously. Finally, it is expected that students hand in their assignments on time (late papers will not be accepted) and that they contribute significantly to planned group activities.


Lab Information 

The lab module associated to the course offers students the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience with the concrete aspects of research in the field of human consciousness. During the semester students will therefore formulate, create and carry on a full-scale experiment and submit a research manuscript presenting their results.


Assignments and Evaluation

To be eligible for a passing grade in this class, the students must complete all of the assigned work.

The final grade for this course will be based on the below assignments:



How Evaluated

Percentage of Grade

Participation and Engagement



Group Presentation



Study Tour Assignment (Core Course Week)



Study Tour Assignment (Long Study Tour)



Midterm Assessment



Endterm Assessment







In addition to the academic content of the written assignments(s), focus will also be placed on the structure, use of appropriate academic language, and writing skills. Further details on evaluation criteria and expectations will be given on Canvas and discussed in class.


Participation and Engagement (25%):

Since class participation is a major component of the course, you will need to be present and participating to receive full credit. Class participation includes, but it is not limited to:

  • critically evaluating the model/hypotheses suggested in readings
  • asking relevant questions that show understanding of the material – with tentative considerations/conclusions
  • being prepared for class and be ready to answer questions when asked
  • discussing implications as regards practical application and/or future research considerations
  • contributing to class activities


Group Presentation (10%):

Groups of approx. 2-4 students will present a topic in class (~10 min), after which there will be a discussion (~10 min) with the rest of the class, addressing the prepared questions (see Group Presentation Questions below).

Contents should include (but not be limited to):

  • Introduction of the key issues of the topic
  • Method employed to investigate it
  • Identification and discussion of key findings/knowledge
  • Critique of methods and potentially of the findings
  • Examples/Applied cases


Group-presentation Questions:

Students not presenting should demonstrate their participation by preparing discussion questions with focus on the presented topic; the questions should be based on the students´ own reflective considerations, can be open-ended or can be in form of thought-provoking comments, e.g. (with reference to the due reading) “Does Overgaard’s idea of continuous consciousness connect to other theories we have previously studied?; “Do you think that the results of today's paper support or contradict Kouider's Partial Awareness Hypothesis?”.


Study Tour Assignments (10% + 10%):

Students will be expected to submit a reflective assignment (max 2 pages) in which they address the questions probed by the study tours (refer to Study Tour Booklets) and the answers they reached by the end of each tour.


Midterm Assessment (20%):

  • 8 short answers
  • 1 short essay (selected from 5 available topics)


Endterm Assessment (25%):

  • 8 short answers
  • 1 short essay (selected from 5 available topics)




You are expected to attend all DIS classes when scheduled. If you miss a class for any reason please contact the faculty no later than the day of the missed class. If you miss multiple classes the Director of Teaching and Learning, and the Director of Student Affairs will be notified and they will follow-up with you to make sure that all is well. Absences will jeopardize your grade and your standing at DIS.  Allowances will be made in cases of illness, but in the case of multiple absences you will need to provide a doctor’s note.


Use of laptops or phones in class 

Laptops are only to be used for appropriate class-related activities and should not be used in any way that will distract your peers. Phones and smart-watches should not be used in class. Phones should be placed in silent mode when arriving for class and students should not have them out during class unless you have a specific reason that has been discussed with the instructor ahead of time. If your use of technology is due to an official or unofficial accommodation you require to succeed in class, please let me know at the beginning of the semester and/or reach out to the appropriate contact at DIS (


Office hours:

I will be available for meetings after class on Tuesdays and Fridays. Please send me a message through Canvas to schedule a meeting (incl. preferred day, time, topic, and if relevant whatever file you want me to review before the meeting). With regard to scheduling meetings, plan ahead! In my opinion, it's always better to schedule a meeting you think you might need and cancel it later if you find you're progressing without issue.

Student organization and documentation:

For all assignments in this course, consider this policy carefully: In order to foster your active learning and engagement in the writing process, please note that your notes and drafts related to this assignment could be requested for review at any time. Keep them organized and readily available until your final course grade is posted on Canvas.

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


Disability and resource statement

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Support ( to coordinate this.  In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.


Academic honesty, plagiarism and violating the rules of an assignment

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.


AI Tools

Although AI tools are valuable, they should support human creativity and critical thinking, not replace them. Therefore, the use of AI tools like ChatGPT is permitted within defined contexts if you include proper attribution. Usage outside of the predefined contexts and without attribution will be considered a breach of our Academic Honesty Policy. Detailed instructions will be provided during the course.


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Course Summary:

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