Exploring the function and value of conscious experience


Axel Cleeremans – PI

Axel Cleeremans (Ph.D. 1991, Carnegie Mellon) is a Research Director with the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (F.R.S.-FNRS) and a professor of Cognitive Psychology at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium), where he heads the Consciousness, Cognition and Computation (CO3) Group and directs the Center for Research in Cognition & Neurosciences. His research is essentially dedicated to understanding the mechanisms of consciousness and the differences between information processing with and without consciousness. Cleeremans argues that consciousness is the result of unconscious learning mechanisms through which the brain continuously redescribes its interactions with itself, with the the world and with other people. To explore these issues, Cleeremans has obtained two prestigious advanced grants from the European Research Council, the first (2014-2019) dedicated to the “how” of consciousness (its mechanisms), the second (2022-2027) dedicated to the “why” of consciousness (its functions). 

Cleeremans has acted as president of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology and of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. A member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, he is also the Field Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Psychology. In 2015, we was awarded the prestigious Ernest-John Solvay prize for human sciences by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research.

Axel Cleeremans has authored and edited several books as well as numerous articles dedicated to consciousness and implicit cognition. In 2009, he edited, together with Tim Bayne and Patrick Wilken, the “Oxford Companion to Consciousness”.

Details at http://axc.ulb.be

Krzysztof Dołęga – PostDoc

Krzysztof Dołęga is a philosophy post-doc working on the conceptual part of the project. Before coming to Brussels, he was a member of the Situated Cognition Research Group at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, where he carried out a Volkswagen Foundation research grant on the psychology and epistemology of conspiracy theories. Krzysztof’s doctoral research was also conducted at the Ruhr-Universität and was supervised by Tobias Schlicht and Daniel Dennett.

His current work focuses on investigating the nature and role of valence, value, and reward in conscious experience. Although he was trained as a philosopher, Krzysztof has a keen interest in empirical research as well as formal methods and data analysis. Outside of philosophy of mind and cognitive science, he is also keenly interested in topics prominent in philosophy of computation, philosophy and ethics of AI, and philosophy of science.

Details at http://krysdolega.xyz

Ivan Ivanchei – PostDoc

Ivan Ivanchei is a postdoc in the CO3 lab working on the ERC project EXPERIENCE with Axel Cleeremans. In the project, Ivan is looking at the role of valence in conscious perception using behavioral experiments and computational models. He also conducted studies on the role of affect in cognitive control and the interaction between conscious and unconscious processes in implicit learning.

Details at: https://sites.google.com/view/ivanchei

Lena Lange – PhD Student

 Lena joined the EXPERIENCE project as a PhD candidate in early 2024. 

She graduated from Leipzig University (Germany) with a master’s degree in biology after completing her master thesis about somatosensory processing in the grey-zone of perception at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences. 

Her PhD focuses on the relationship of motivation and consciousness, specifically the question whether subjective experience is a requirement for motivation.

Anastassia Loukianov – PhD Student

Anastassia Loukianov started her PhD in January 2024 as part of the experience group supervised by Axel Cleeremans. 

She’s mainly interested by the relation between mind, brain and body and did her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at ULB (neuropsychology and social psychology). After completing these, she worked at Max Planck Institute (Berlin) in the somatosensory perception group. 

For her PhD project, she will mainly work on how phenomenological experience (induced or called voluntarily) can shape behavioral and physiological outcome.

Inès Mentec – PhD Student

Inès Mentec is Ph.D. student under the supervision of Axel Cleeremans. She joined the EXPERIENCE team in early 2023 after completing an engineering degree in articificial intelligence and a master degree in cognitive science in France. She is mostly interested in consciousness experience, phenomenal space and self consciousness. Her Ph.D aims at testing whether all consious experiences are valenced and whether only consious experiences are valenced. To do so, she is using behavioral as well as neuroimaging paradigms and computational analysis methods.

Details at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/inès-mentec

Léa Moncoucy – PhD Student

Léa Moncoucy started her Ph.D. in February 2023 as part of the Consciousness, Cognition & Computation Group at the Center for Research in Cognition & Neurosciences. She there conducts research on the topic of the intrinsic value of experience for the EXPERIENCE ERC project. She is supervised on this work by Axel Cleeremans.

Her inquiry revolves around the intricate connections between conscious awareness and affective perception, that she aims to study thanks to a combined approach of experimental tools and conceptual work.

Before that, she earned her Master’s in Cognitive Sciences from Aix-Marseille University in 2023 and a Master’s in Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Knowledge from Sorbonne University in 2021.