The Centre for the Study of the Senses, or CenSes, is hosted by the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

The CenSes pioneers collaborative sensory research across disciplines, drawing on the work of philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists, connecting groups of researchers from different fields and sectors who can benefit from one another’s results. The overall aim is to achieve a coherent framework to accommodate the welter of recent findings that have revised our understanding of how the different senses contribute to our perception of the environment, and awareness of ourselves.

New discoveries have shown us how the senses as traditionally conceived are not so independent of one another as was once thought, and much work is being carried out on cross-modal effects and multisensory integration. However, as yet, there is no underlying theory or conceptual framework in which to house the numerous findings. Such a foundational approach to sensory perception can only be carried out by well-informed researchers working in a wide-scale and interdisciplinary way.

Our aim is to make this possible by setting up a number of sub-groups investigating key issues, including:

  • how different senses are integrated and how they influence one another (cross-modal integration and influence);
  • our sense of agency and bodily ownership; the special nature of the chemical senses;
  • the objects of perception across different sensory systems;
  • the nature of sensory deficits, sensory substitutions, and sensory extensions;
  • how and to what extent cognition is involved in different sensory systems (cognitive penetration);
  • the individuation of the senses.

We fund workshops in these areas to encourage networks for further interactions and once a year we hold a major conference to bring together the results form each group to ensure cross-fertilization.

The outcome is a comprehensive account of the nature of our sensory systems and the role of particular senses in perception.

The Centre for the Study of the Senses has an international Scientific Board comprising philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. The aim of the centre is to foster interdisciplinary research on the senses by identifying research groupings to pursue specialised topics of benefit to the participating disciplines.

We have recently been awarded an AHRC large grant. The research grant will support a three-year project based at the Institute’s Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes) – in collaboration with the universities of Glasgow, Oxford and Warwick – exploring sensory experience. Collaborators from a variety of institutions, such as the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, and partners such as Tate Galleries will also be supporting the project. More news.

Forum in philosophy of mind and neuroscience

As part of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, the Institute runs a Forum: a series of seminars covering recent philosophical and neuroscientific research on the nature of our sensory systems, covering aspects such as, but not limited to, multisensory integration and cross-modal influences, our sense of agency and bodily ownership, the objects of perception, sensory deficits, sensory extensions and sensory substitutions, the cognitive penetrability and individuation of the senses.