Professor Olivia Carter

Olivia is a Professor at the University of Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences. She heads the Perception and Pharmacology lab where her research interests focus on two central themes:

  • how the natural chemicals of the brain control complex behaviours, thoughts and perceptions
  • what factors determine the contents of an individual’s conscious experience

She is also interested in the neuroethical questions associated with advances in neuroscientific knowledge and drug/technology development.

Olivia completed a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Queensland where her work involved a series of experiments conducted in Switzerland examining the effects of psychedelic drugs. She then spent 3 years at Harvard University as a Research Fellow in the Vision Lab investigating perceptual processing. She has served as the Executive Director of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and the president to the Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society.

Much of Olivia’s recent work involves scientific approaches to understanding different types of altered consciousness – from her research on perceptual rivalry involving Tibetan monks, to the investigation of consciousness affected by psychedelic drugs or different psychiatric and neurological disorders. The study of altered states has the potential to provide important insights into the nature of consciousness.

Why does consciousness research matter?

An understanding of consciousness, and the mechanisms that create our experience of the world and our place within it, is more important than ever before. Significant to our everyday lives, consciousness research has far reaching implications for: