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Conscious experience and working memory: examining the link between WM content and its conscious experience

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Silvanto
    Dr S Getting
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Since the era of William James, a close link has been thought to exist between conscious experience and working memory (“Without memory no conscious sensation, without memory no consciousness”; Richet, 1886; James, 1890). Furthermore, the contents of working memory (WM) are traditionally believed to be immediately and accurately accessible to conscious inspection; for example, Baddeley (2003) argued that consciousness is involved in all WM input, output, and voluntary operations. However, there is emerging evidence from our group (e.g. Bona & Silvanto, 2013, Soto & Silvanto, 2014) that our conscious experience and insight of memory content is not as direct and accurate as traditionally believed. The aim of this project is to clarify the link between WM content and its conscious experience. The specific objectives of this project are the following: 1) To examine whether conscious experience of WM content/performance reflects factors other than the strength of the memory trace. Using behavioural paradigms, we will investigate factors present at encoding, maintenance and retrieval. 2) To examine whether the neural bases of memory performance and subjective experience of WM differ. This will be accomplished by the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive tool for stimulating human cortex, with which causal roles of brain regions in specific functions can be assessed. We will also use electroencephalography (EEG), with which neural correlates of memory functions can be measured directly.

This multidisciplinary project will be conducted in the University of Westminster’s new state-of-the-art Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory which houses EEG and neuronavigated TMS system. We will seek a PhD student with a background in neuroscience and good technical skills. The student will be encouraged to attend scientific conferences, participate in the University’s Graduate School training programme and have the opportunity to obtain a Postgraduate Certificate in teaching and learning.

Funding Notes

The Studentship consists of a fee waiver and a stipend of £16,000 per annum. Successful candidates will be expected to undertake some teaching duties.


Related publications
Soto D, Silvanto J (2014). Reappraising the relationship between working memory and conscious awareness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 18(10):520-5.

Bona S, Silvanto J (2014) Accuracy and confidence of visual short-term memory do not go hand-in-hand: behavioral and neural dissociations. PLoS ONE, 9 (3). e90808. ISSN 1932-6203

Flynn M., Liasis A, Gardner M, Boyd S, Towell T (2009) Can illusory deviant stimuli be used as attentional distractors to record vMMN in a passive 3 stimulus oddball paradigm? Exp Brain Res, 197, 153-161.

How good is research at University of Westminster in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 12.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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