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Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth

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Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth

Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it reality. Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.

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TED - Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth

If we're all hallucinating right now, what do we call reality?
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Your Brain Perceives Reality By Hallucinating

Many people assume that they perceive the world as it actually is—as if eyes and ears were windows that allow us to access an objective reality. But perception is not an accurate reflection of an externally existing world.

“In fact,” the neuroscientist Anil Seth says, “perception and hallucination have a lot in common. You could say that we’re all hallucinating all of the time, and when we agree about our hallucinations, that’s what we call reality.”

In an animated video from Carolyn Merriman of the Future of StoryTelling, Seth explains how the brain operates on implicit beliefs accumulated over thousands of years of human evolution. These, he explains, are what “turn the raw material of sensory data into our projected perceptual realities.”

Most of the time, we can all agree on these perceptions. But sometimes this consensus breaks down, such as in the case of the Internet phenomena of the white-and-gold versus black-and-blue dress or the “laurel” versus “yanny” audio clip. These are stark reminders of what Seth describes as the “neurological guesswork that happens behind the scenes.” In these moments, the curtain is lifted on the theater—not the window—of our reality.

“Our brain is doing its best to make sense of ambiguous sensory input,” Merriman told The Atlantic. “In some ways, our perception of the world is just the story our brains are telling us based on the sum of our senses.”

The mind’s ability to create this congruous narrative of reality continues to awe Seth. “I am inspired by how such a small biological machine inside my head—inside the head of everyone—can create such a rich inner universe for each of us from the raw material of sensory signals,” he told The Atlantic. “This is a monumental achievement, one that is far outside the scope of any artificial machine or computer we’ve ever constructed.”

Neuroscience of Perception was produced by The Future of Storytelling and Carolyn Merriman. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.

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Anil Seth: Is our reality just a hallucination that we all agree on? | WIRED Live

Is our reality just a hallucination that we all agree on? Neuroscientist Anil Seth wants to understand how our brain gives us consciousness and more importantly, what happens when our consciousness goes wrong.

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Why Reality May Just Be A Hallucination

Anil Seth, professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, explains the link between perception and reality. Seth believes reality as we know it comes from activity of our brain. Following is a transcript of the video. 

Anil Seth: How do we know that we experience the real world? In fact, we probably don't. Everything that we perceive, everything that we experience, is a result of the brain interpreting the sensory information that comes in in a particular way.

I'm Anil Seth. I'm a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex in the UK. Now you could say that all of our experiences are all hallucinated. It's just that whenever we agree about what's out there, that's what we call reality. Brain brings to bear its prior expectations about what's out there in order to interpret this massive, noisy, and ambiguous sensory information that it continually encounters.

Perception, instead of just being a reflection of what's actually there in the world, is always this active process of interpretation. It's easy to assume that we see with our eyes. In fact, we see with our brains. Our eyes are of course necessary, but what we actually end up perceiving is much more a product of how our brain interprets all this information from the eyes than the eyes being this window into an objective external reality. And when the balance is disturbed between how the brain interprets sensory information and what the sensory information actually is, well, that's when people start to see things that other people don't, and that's what we call hallucination.

When you look at a cloud, and sometimes you can see faces in clouds, now that's a kind of hallucination. Other people who will see things that really other people don't see, that's just a different balance that they have between how their prior expectations influence the sensory data that comes in. Another aspect of this is when you take things like psychedelic drugs. That also leads people to have unusual experiences, to see things that aren't there. Again, it doesn't mean that these things really exist. It just means that your brain is working in a different way so that its prior expectations come to dominate this sensory information.

We can see a number of things that happen in the brain on psychedelics. One of the things that happens is the brain generally becomes a bit more disorganized. Normally in the brain, different parts of the brain have activity that correlates. So we see all these networks in the brain with different areas active at the same time, and then they diminish their activity at the same time as well. How visual hallucinations in the psychedelic state might come about could be that in the psychedelic state, what you perceive is dependent more on the brain than the sensory data that's coming in through the eyes and the ears. And we have the opportunity now to try to characterize exactly how and why this happens.

But what we experience as being real is a construction of the brain. So when I experience a particular color, that doesn't mean that color exists out there in the universe, that a red mug is actually painted some color that exists independently of my mind and brain. No, red is something that my brain constructs in order to interpret visual information. This leads to the question, is anything real? Is anything really there?

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Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality, Anil Seth

As per the original Ted Talk description: billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it reality. Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence

if you would like to check out the original talk by Alan you can watch it here:

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Inside the Shared Hallucinations of Our Conscious Reality

In episode eight of The Most Unknown, physicist Jun Ye, builder of the world’s most powerful atomic clock, travels to England to undergo consciousness experiments with neuroscientist Anil Seth.

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The Neuroscience of Consciousness – with Anil Seth

Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience Anil Seth looks at the neuroscience of consciousness and how our biology gives rise to the unique experience of being you.
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Anil provides an insight into the state-of-the-art research in the new science of consciousness. Distinguishing between conscious level, conscious content and conscious self, he describes how new experiments are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms in normal life as well as in neurological and psychiatric conditions.

Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness and is on the steering group and advisory board of the Human Mind Project.

He has written popular science books, including 30 Second Brain, and contributes to a variety of media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC.

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Consciousness, perception, and controlled hallucinations with Anil Seth

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How can we ‘measure’ how conscious someone is, using brain imaging? Are our conscious experiences ‘controlled hallucinations’? What does it mean to experience being a ‘self’? Are other animals conscious? What about machines, now or in the future? Consciousness is, for each of us, the presence of a world. Without consciousness there is no world, no self: there is nothing at all. But we know surprisingly little about the material and biological basis of this most central feature of our lives. How do rich multisensory experiences, the senses of self and body, and volition, agency, and ‘will’ emerge from the joint activity of billions of neurons locked inside a bony skull? Once the province of philosophy and theology, understanding consciousness has emerged as a one of the great scientific challenges for this century. This evening, Anil Seth will sketch the state-of-the-art in the new science of consciousness, with a focus on what neuroscience has to offer. He will distinguish between conscious level (how conscious we are), conscious content (what we are conscious of), and conscious self (the ‘I’ behind the eyes), describing in each case how new experiments are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms, in normal life and in neurological and psychiatric conditions. Throughout, he will emphasize phenomenology – the way things seem – as the target for any satisfying explanation of how the brain, in conjunction with the body and the environment, gives rise to and shapes conscious experience.

What hallucination reveals about our minds | Oliver Sacks

Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnett syndrome -- when visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail and walks us through the biology of this under-reported phenomenon.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the Sixth Sense wearable tech, and Lost producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at
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Being a beast machine | Anil Seth | TEDxSouthampton

What explains the experience of being a conscious self – of being you? Drawing on cutting-edge cognitive neuroscience and old ideas from psychology and control theory, Anil Seth describes how our conscious selves emerge from a fundamental biological drive to stay alive in an unpredictable world.

Anil Seth is a Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex and Co-Director (with Prof. Hugo Critchley) of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness (Oxford University Press), Editor and Co-Author of 30 Second Brain (Ivy Press, 2014), Consultant for Eye Benders (Ivy Press, 2013; winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2014). Anil contributes regularly to a variety of media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC and writes the popular blog NeuroBanter.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Consciousness | Professor Anil Seth

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Neuroscientific investigation into consciousness and conscious experience has intensified in recent history. Although there is still much to explore, and philosophical considerations still to tesselate, qualitative scientific data has been accumulating in enough quantity to now propose theories of consciousness. In this talk, Anil unpacks some of the underpinning structures which current investigations into consciousness have lineage, and also introduces the subsequent modes of inquiry.



Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, and the Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, and a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Professor Seth is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness, sits on the steering group and advisory board of the Human Mind Project, and was President of the British Science Association Psychology Section in 2017.

He is the co-author of the ‘30 Second Brain’, and contributes regularly to a variety of media including New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC. His 2017 TED talk has been viewed more than 9 million times. Professor Seth’s research bridges neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry. He has also worked extensively with playwrights, dancers and other artists to shape a truly humanistic view of consciousness and self. You can keep up to date with his work at



The Weekend University's mission is to make the best ideas in psychology more accessible to the general public.

To do this, we organise 'monthly' lecture days, where attendees get a full day of talks from leading psychologists, authors and university professors.

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Anil Seth - Conscious Perception as Controlled Hallucination

BrainMind Summit - Consciousness Day hosted at Stanford

Anil Seth, DPhil
Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, University of Sussex

Anil Seth is a Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is also a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and Co-Director of the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme: From Sensation and Perception to Awareness. Anil is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness and sits on the steering group and advisory board of the Human Mind Project. He was Conference Chair of the 16th Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC16, 2012) and the 2017 President of the British Science Association. Anil edited and co-authored the best-selling 30 Second Brain, and contributes regularly to a variety of media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC.

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The Neuroscience of Consciousness - Anil Seth

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Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate your conscious experience. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we’re all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality.”

This talk will provide an insight into how consciousness emerges from the material brain, and how changes to our brain can result in bizarre experiences of consciousness. You’ll learn about the latest research in the new science of consciousness and how cutting-edge experiments in neuroscience are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms that give us our conscious experience in normal life, as well as in neurological and psychiatric conditions.

Anil Seth is professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex, and co-director of the Sackler centre for consciousness science. He is the co-author of the 30 Second Brain and contributes regularly to a variety of media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC.

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Does Your Brain Hallucinate Reality? Re: Anil Seth - 2 of 2

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Understanding the human mind - episode 2 - Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality

Understanding the mind - episode 2 - Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality

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Self and Consciousness | Prof. Anil Seth

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In this talk, Anil looks into the mechanisms at play when experiencing both inner and outer phenomena, the central components of which are prediction and perception.



Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, and the Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, and a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Professor Seth is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness, sits on the steering group and advisory board of the Human Mind Project, and was President of the British Science Association Psychology Section in 2017.

He is the co-author of the ‘30 Second Brain’, and contributes regularly to a variety of media including New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC. His 2017 TED talk has been viewed more than 9 million times. Professor Seth’s research bridges neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry. He has also worked extensively with playwrights, dancers and other artists to shape a truly humanistic view of consciousness and self. You can keep up to date with his work at



The Weekend University's mission is to make the best ideas in psychology more accessible to the general public.

To do this, we organise 'monthly' lecture days, where attendees get a full day of talks from leading psychologists, authors and university professors.

Get our latest psychology lectures emailed to your inbox:

Attend a live event:

Q&A - The Neuroscience of Consciousness – with Anil Seth

What is the relationship between consciousness, memory, and identity? Can there be more than one consciousness governed by a single brain? Anil Seth answers questions from the audience following his Discourse.
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Anil provides an insight into the state-of-the-art research in the new science of consciousness. Distinguishing between conscious level, conscious content and conscious self, he describes how new experiments are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms in normal life as well as in neurological and psychiatric conditions.
Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He is Editor-in-Chief of Neuroscience of Consciousness and is on the steering group and advisory board of the Human Mind Project.

He has written popular science books, including 30 Second Brain, and contributes to a variety of media including the New Scientist, The Guardian, and the BBC.

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and Tumblr:
Our editorial policy:
Subscribe for the latest science videos:

Seth Speaks: Your Beliefs Form Reality

This is a recording from 1972. One of many sessions in which Jane Roberts is channeling the entity called Seth. Here Seth is expounding upon his most important message: Your beliefs form reality.

The Neuroscience Of Consciousness Ft. Anil Seth | The Think Inc. Podcast

You are constantly tripping out, and your brain is the drug.

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You are constantly tripping out and your brain is the drug. If a hallucination is the experience of uncontrolled perception, perception is a controlled hallucination, and that control is monopolised by the pink sponge in your head.

We experience the world through the lens of our brains, so our experience of existing has little grounding in reality. Our consciousness is a creation of our own imagination… Confused? Scared? Angry for some reason? Don’t worry – Anil Seth is here to clear things up.

This episode is a recording from our Outside The Box series - an event where Anil dove into topics like:
- Will technology ever develop consciousness of its own?
- Are humans the only creatures on Earth to experience consciousness of self?
- If consciousness is a product of our brain’s interpretation of the world, what happens if we start hacking it?.

The event was hosted by Junior Research Fellow Lila Landowski.

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