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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 24;7:680. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00680. eCollection 2013.

Experiencing your brain: neurofeedback as a new bridge between neuroscience and phenomenology.

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Centre de Recherche de l'Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière, INSERM UMRS 975 - CNRS UMR 7225, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière Paris, France ; Université Pierre et Marie Curie Paris, France.


Neurophenomenology is a scientific research program aimed to combine neuroscience with phenomenology in order to study human experience. Nevertheless, despite several explicit implementations, the integration of first-person data into the experimental protocols of cognitive neuroscience still faces a number of epistemological and methodological challenges. Notably, the difficulties to simultaneously acquire phenomenological and neuroscientific data have limited its implementation into research projects. In our paper, we propose that neurofeedback paradigms, in which subjects learn to self-regulate their own neural activity, may offer a pragmatic way to integrate first-person and third-person descriptions. Here, information from first- and third-person perspectives is braided together in the iterative causal closed loop, creating experimental situations in which they reciprocally constrain each other. In real-time, the subject is not only actively involved in the process of data acquisition, but also assisted to directly influence the neural data through conscious experience. Thus, neurofeedback may help to gain a deeper phenomenological-physiological understanding of downward causations whereby conscious activities have direct causal effects on neuronal patterns. We discuss possible mechanisms that could mediate such effects and indicate a number of directions for future research.


downward causation; multiscale neural dynamics; neurofeedback; neurophenomenology; voluntary action

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