Our research partnerships expand the scope of the Western Institute for Advanced Study, building on collaborations with experts engaged in empirical research, the development of practical applications, and the philosophical evaluation of theoretical findings.


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Asger Kirkeby-Hinrup works in interdisciplinary consciousness studies, at the intersection between the philosophy of mind, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. In particular, AKH focuses on how to assess and compare theories of consciousness on the basis of their respective empirical support. One focus of this work is to investigate the capacity for theories of consciousness to account for representation and misrepresentation. AKH has also contributed to the debates on free will, by identifying a role for positive reinforcement in the exercise of introspection and decision-making. Moving forward, a major aim of this effort is to explore the biophysical and psychological constraints on representational accuracy and the factors which enable and limit the exercise of free will. 

Currently, AKH is concerned with evaluating theories of consciousness in terms of their predictive value and explanatory power.  In particular, AKH examines the interaction between arguments from the conceptual domain and arguments based on empirical evidence from psychology, neuroscience, and the cognitive sciences. One goal of this research program is to evaluate the philosophical efficacy of the new theoretical framework that has emerged from the first Grand Challenge hosted by the Western Institute for Advanced Study, comparing the new approach of Conifold Theory with other major theories of consciousness including Integrated Information Theory, Global Neuronal Workspace Theory, SOMA and REFCON. 

AKH received his Masters in Philosophy from Aarhus University in Denmark and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Philosophy from Lund University in Sweden. AKH teaches Philosophy of Mind at Lund University and pursues an interdisciplinary research program in collaboration with researchers at both Lund University and Aarhus University.

Find out more about AKH's research program and publications here

Asger Kirkeby-Hinrup




Michiel Alexander van der Vlag specializes in High Performance Computing for neuroscientific simulations at the Neuroscience Simlab at the Juelich Supercomputing Centre in Germany. His broad background in electrical engineering, computer science, and philosophy enables him to explore practical solutions to interdisciplinary problems. MAV employs different brain simulators for different spatiotemporal scales, including the Virtual Brain (TVB), Nest and Arbor. His expertise lies in performant hardware (GPU, CPU, fpga), multiple programming languages, and generally enabling progress in computational neuroscience with the power of supercomputers. He has recently designed the automatic model generator, RateML, for regular and high performant GPU TVB neural mass models.


Along with implementing various neuroscientific applications and their workflow integration, MAV conducts research on consciousness. During his studies, he focused on neuro-philosophy, using a bottom-up approach to consider the hard problem - with the mind as an emergent property of computational neural networks. MAV operates on the principle that modeling and simulating the right substrate of the brain will eventually unlock its properties and lead to machine-consciousness. His current work focuses on brain complexity as a neural correlate to give an integrated information theoretical account of consciousness. For this project, he is programming a meta-learning optimization framework to restrict any dynamical system to complexity bounds, enabling computational research on its behavior. This framework will serve as the tool to optimize a network of morphological detailed neurons with regards to the redistribution of the Hamiltonian in relation to the membrane potential (collective project).


MAV received his Masters in Philosphy at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and his Masters in Computer Engineering at the Technische Universiteit Delft both situated in the Netherlands.

Find out more about MAV's research program and publications here

Michiel van der Vlag