86799 - Self-Awareness and Consciousness

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student: - gets in depth knowledge of the historical, philosophical and psychological perspectives as well as the main theories and current neuroscientific approaches to the study and understanding of consciousness; - moreover, the student is able to critically define the building blocks and neurophysiological foundations of conscious experience through the study of visual awareness and visual illusions as well as the volatility of conscious experience through the evaluation of clinical cases.

Course contents

The module takes place in the I semester (Oct to Dec 2023), at Scuola di Psicologia e Scienze della formazione, Piazza Aldo Moro, 90, Cesena (FC).

The questions surrounding consciousness and self-awareness have fascinated humans since the dawn of time, giving rise to significant cultural constructs and spiritual endeavours. In recent years, neuroscientific methods have begun to provide important insights into different brain / mind states and the components that make up our sense of self. The module aims to build up a critical thinking on the subject and provide in depth knowledge of the neural bases and the functional mechanisms underlying consciousness, self-awareness and their altered states from a neuroscientific perspective.

Lectures will be held in English

Specific contents:

  • A historical perspective on the philosophical, psychological and neuroscientific approaches in the study and understanding of consciousness.
  • the main theories of, and current neuroscientific approaches to the investigation of consciousness and self-awareness. Novel neuroscientific perspectives to answer old questions around consciousness and the self.
  • Critical definition of the building blocks of conscious experience through the study of visual awareness and visual illusions; system of values and emotions
  • Different brain states associated with different conscious states (e.g. schizophrenia, coma, sleep, meditation etc.): tracking the neurophysiological foundation leading to experiential consequences of altered conscious states.
  • The volatility of conscious experience: evaluation of clinical cases.
  • Artificial intelligence and conscious experience.


Scientific articles and lecture material will be available on the module website and will represent the core material needed for passing the exam.

Suggested readings:

  • Consciousness: An Introduction. Second Edition. Edited by Blakemore S. UK Edition: Taylor & Francis. London. Originally published by Hodder and Stoughton. June 2010. ISBN-10 144410487X, ISBN-13 978-1444104875.
  • Being You: A New Science of Consciousness. Author: Anil Seth. Edited by Faber & Faber. 2021. 1st Edition.
    ISBN 10: 1524742872 ISBN 13: 9781524742874

Teaching methods

Lectures on the different topics of the module will be approached in an interactive way, through the discussion of neuroscientific articles, organization of small groups led by the teacher and aimed at in depth discussion and presentations to the classroom. The student will therefore be required to participate actively during the lectures, ask questions about the topics discussed, stimulate the debate and critically discuss the scientific articles assigned during the course.

Assessment methods

Consist of a written exam including 4 open questions for which a total time of 80 minutes is allowed. Answers can be provided either in English or Italian. The exam is aimed at verifying the acquired knowledge of philosophical and neuroscientific perspectives including the neurophysiological bases and functional mechanisms underlying the conscious experience. Up to 7.5 points are assigned for each question. The final score (out of thirty) is given by the sum of the points obtained to each single question.

During the exam, the students are not allowed to use any lecture material nor books, scientific articles, personal notes, or computer media.

The following criteria will be applied for the evaluation of each answer.

An answer which

  • demonstrates extensive knowledge and understanding of the tested topic (up to 4 points);
  • reveals critical analysis and ability to integrate different aspects of the literature (up to 2 points);
  • is well-written, and logically articulated (up to 1.5 points).

A maximum score with honours, will be awarded to the students who, in addition to having achieved the full score of thirty out of thirty, have demonstrated their ability to critically re-elaborate and integrate in their personal view-point, the unresolved questions in the study of consciousness.

The student must enrol in the exam using the Almaesami application, strictly by the deadline. Those who failed to enrol for technical issues by the due date are required to report the problem to the “segreteria didattica” (and in any case before the deadline) and send an email to Prof. Romei who will ultimately decide whether to admit the student to take the exam.

Teaching tools

PowerPoint slides, Video Clips, scientific articles

Office hours

See the website of Vincenzo Romei


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This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.