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RIKEN Center for Brain Science Laboratory for Consciousness

Team Leader: Hakwan Lau (Ph.D.)

Research Summary

Hakwan Lau (Ph.D.)

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 Fields

  • Biological Sciences

Related Research Fields

  • Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering
  • Medicine, Dentistry & Pharmacy
  • Neurophysiology / General neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Medical imaging, Bioimaging


  • cognitive neuroscience
  • neuroimaging
  • brain stimulation
  • mental imagery
  • metacognition

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. *R Brown, H Lau, JE LeDoux.:
    "Understanding the higher-order approach to consciousness"
    Trends in cognitive sciences 23 (9), 754-768 (2019)
  • 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. *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)
  • 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)

Recent Research Results

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


Position Deadline
Seeking Technical staff (W23118) Open until filled

Contact Information

2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan