Institute of Philosophy awarded AHRC grant of £1.9 million for ground-breaking research on the senses

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The Institute of Philosophy, a member institute of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, has been awarded a major research grant of £1,950,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The research grant will support a three-year project based at the Institute’s Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes) – in collaboration with the universities of Glasgow, Oxford and Warwick – exploring sensory experience. Collaborators from a variety of institutions, such as the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, and partners such as Tate Galleries will also be supporting the project. 

‘Rethinking the senses: uniting the philosophy and neuroscience of perception’ led by leading UK neuroscientist Professor Colin Blakemore is a ground-breaking interdisciplinary research project. It will bring together philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists to work together in entirely new ways, including planning laboratory experiments together. The aim is to further our understanding of how all our senses work together to shape our conscious experiences of the outside world and of our own bodies.

Principal investigator Colin Blakemore, director of CenSes and holder of the UK’s first chair in Neuroscience and Philosophy, said: ‘Traditionally, philosophers of mind have shared an interest in the senses with psychologists and, more recently, neuroscientists. Vision has always been of central concern but the recent rapid rise of scientific interest in the other senses – hearing, smell, touch, taste, bodily awareness, and balance – has caught the attention of researchers in fields as diverse as anthropology, art history, design, literature, marketing, medicine, music, philosophy and social science. This emergent common concern with sensory experience requires disciplines to engage with one other in novel, reciprocal ways.’

The project, which starts this autumn, is intended to have a strong impact beyond the academic world. It will act as a catalyst for innovative designs and technology using multisensory interactions to help deaf and blind people, and those who suffer from changes in body image or reduction in the sense of smell. It also aims to inform the rapidly advancing trends in enhancement of sensory experience, in the appreciation of the visual and performing arts, and in the retail and service industry, gastronomy and education.

‘Rethinking the senses’ is one of three Large Grants announced today under the AHRC’s Science in Culture theme, which aims to develop the reciprocal relationship between the sciences and the arts and humanities.

Theme Leadership Fellow for Science in Culture Professor Barry Smith said: ‘The large grants in the Science in Culture Theme clearly demonstrate just how much scope exists for significant, and reciprocal, interaction between research in the humanities and in the sciences. The wide range of disciplines and techniques on show in these projects give a clear indication of just how much interdisciplinary collaboration is already taking place.’

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Notes for editors:

1. For further information and to request an interview please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study at dee.burn@sas.ac.uk or +44 (0)20 7862 8670. Images available on request.

2. The Institute of Philosophy was founded in 2005, building upon and developing the work of the Philosophy Programme from 1995–2005. The Institute’s mission is to promote and support philosophy of the highest quality in all its forms, both inside and outside the University, and across the UK. Its activities divide into three kinds: events, fellowships and research facilitation. The Institute of Philosophy is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. philosophy.sas.ac.uk

3. The Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes) at the Institute of Philosophy has an international Scientific Board comprising philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. The aim of the centre is to foster interdisciplinary research on the senses by identifying research groupings to pursue specialised topics of benefit to the participating disciplines.
thecenses.org

4. The School of Advanced Study at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and facilitation of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights. www.sas.ac.uk 

5. ‘Rethinking the senses: uniting the philosophy and neuroscience of perception’ is a three-year project at based at the Institute of Philosophy. Beginning in autumn 2013, the project will be led by Professor Colin Blakemore (director of the Institute’s Centre for the Study of the Censes) as principal investigator, with Dr Ophelia Deroy (Centre for the Study of the Censes and Institute of Philosophy), Professors Matthew Nudds (University of Warwick) and Fiona Macpherson (University of Glasgow) and Charles Spence (University of Oxford) as co-investigators. The project will bring together philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists to work together in entirely new ways, including planning laboratory experiments together, to help further our understanding of how all our senses work together to shape our conscious experiences of the outside world and our own bodies.

6. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk

7. Science in Culture is one of the key themes identified by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as a focus for research funding. The theme aims to encourage mutual exchange between researchers working across the sciences and the arts and humanities. http://www.sciculture.ac.uk/