To identify the neural mechanisms for consciousness, that is, the occurrence of subjective experiences, such as during visual perception.

Hakwan Lau

Hakwan Lau, Ph.D.

Team Leader, Consciousness
hakwan.lau [at]

Research Overview

We use a combination of brain stimulation and neuroimaging techniques to study how human subjects consciously see. One particular focus is mental imagery, in which a perception-like experience occurs in the absence of external stimulation. Interestingly, some human subjects do not experience mental imagery vividly. We will try to understand how this condition, known as aphantasia, occurs. And we ask what consequences this may have for memory processing. Although our overarching goal is to develop a neurobiological theory of consciousness, we also try to apply our findings for the treatment of brain disorders such as trauma-related flashbacks and hallucinations.

Main Research Field

Related Research Fields


Selected Publications

Papers with an asterisk(*) are based on research conducted outside of RIKEN.

  1. * V Taschereau-Dumouchel, A Cortese, T Chiba, JD Knotts, M Kawato, H Lau
    Towards an unconscious neural reinforcement intervention for common fears
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115 (13), 3470-3475 (2017)
  2. * MAK Peters, T Thesen, YD Ko, B Maniscalco, C Carlson, M Davidson, W Doyle, R Kuzniecky, O Devinsky, E Halgren, H Lau
    Perceptual confidence neglects decision-incongruent evidence in the brain
    Nature human behaviour 1 (7), 1-8 (2017)
  3. * V Taschereau-Dumouchel, M Kawato, H Lau
    Multivoxel pattern analysis reveals dissociations between subjective fear and its physiological correlates
    Molecular psychiatry 25 (10), 2342-2354 (2020)
  4. * B Odegaard, RT Knight, H Lau
    Should a few null findings falsify prefrontal theories of conscious perception?
    Journal of Neuroscience 37 (40), 9593-9602 (2017)
  5. * V Taschereau-Dumouchel, C Cushing, H Lau
    Real-Time Functional MRI in the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
    Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 18 (in press)
  6. * JD Knotts, B Odegaard, H Lau, D Rosenthal
    Subjective inflation: phenomenology’s get-rich-quick scheme
    Current opinion in psychology 29, 49-55 (2019)
  7. * Michel, M., & Lau, H.
    On the dangers of conflating strong and weak versions of a theory of consciousness.
    Philosophy and the Mind Sciences, 1(II). (2020)
  8. * H Lau, M Michel
    A socio-historical take on the meta-problem of consciousness
    Journal of consciousness studies 26 (9-10), 136-147 (2019)
  9. * R Brown, H Lau, JE LeDoux
    Understanding the higher-order approach to consciousness
    Trends in cognitive sciences 23 (9), 754-768 (2019)
  10. * JD Knotts, B Odegaard, H Lau
    Neuroscience: The key to consciousness may not be under the streetlight
    Current Biology 28 (13), R749-R752 (2018)

Lab Members

Principal investigator

Hakwan Lau
Team Leader

Core members

Yijun Ge
Postdoctoral Researcher
Alexei Joel Dawes
Postdoctoral Researcher
Hin Ming Matthew Leung
Technical Staff I