My way to Non-reductive Neurophilosophy: Georg Northoff

How did I come to non-reductive neurophilosophy?




How did I come to non-reductive neurophilosophy? Let me sketch my biography a little. When I was young, I always wanted to study philosophy, the basic questions of the world, humans and the mind fascinated me – going down to the bottom of things. However, I did not want to study philosophy in isolation from the science. My fascination was and still is on the mind and specifically subjectivity as core feature of the mind. Subjectivity and mind are obviously key topics in philosophy. However, having grown up from the mid/end of the 20th century allowed me to also study the mind empirically and thus to complement philosophy by science. At my time there were no neuroscience programs yet. Hence, the only way to study the brain and its connection to the mind was to go into medicine which I did parallel to my philosophy studies.


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Author Biography

Georg Northoff

Georg Northoff, MD, PhD is EJLB-CIHR Michael Smith Chair in Neurosciences and Mental Health and holds a Canada Research Chair for Mind, Brain Imaging and Neuroethics at the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR). He completed his initial training in medicine/psychiatry and philosophy in Germany. Dr. Northoff's previous academic positions included Professorships at the University of Magdeburg, Germany, and Harvard University, U.S.A. With over 100 scientific publications, his current focus is predominantly on the self - having developed the concept of cortical midline structures. Experimental research within his unit focuses on the functional and biochemical mechanisms underlying our sense of self in both healthy subjects and psychiatric patients. In addition to neuroimaging, he also focuses on neuroethical issues. Early on, he investigated issues related to personal identity in patients with deep brain stimulation and brain tissue transplantation. Another neuroethical focus is on the impact of emotions and empathy in the decision making involved in informed consent, which is of particular relevance regarding psychiatric patients. Finally, these issues converge nicely with his deep standing interest in the discipline of neurophilosophy. He is considered one of the main founders from the European-continental side, as is illustrated by several papers and books including "Philosophy of the Brain" (2004). His latest book about the self is aimed at a general audience in which he frames the latest neuroscientific results and neurophilosophical reflections into the framework of a mystery novel.


Northoff G. Philosophy of the Brain. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 2004.

Northoff G. Minding the brain: An introduction of philosophy and neuroscience. Palgrave McMillan, 2014.

Northoff G. Unlocking the brain. Vol I Coding; Vol II: Consciousness. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2014.

Northoff G. The spontaneous brain: From the mind-body to the world-brain problem. MIT Press, 2018.

Northoff G & Huang Z. How do the brain's time and space mediate consciousness and its different dimensions? Temporo-spatial theory of consciousness (TTC). Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 2017; 80:630-645.

Northoff G, Zilio F. Temporo-spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC) - Bridging the gap of neuronal activity and phenomenal states. Behav Brain Res 2022; 8: 424:113788. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2022.113788.

Northoff G, Zilio F. From Shorter to Longer Timescales: Converging Integrated Information Theory (IIT) with the Temporo-Spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC). Entropy, In press, 2022.

Northoff G. Is the self a higher-order or fundamental function of the brain? The "basis model of self-specificity" and its encoding by the brain's spontaneous activity. Cognitive Neuroscience 2016;7(1-4):203-222.

Scalabrini A, Ebisch SJH, Huang Z, Di Plinio S, Perrucci MG, Romani GL, Mucci C & Northoff G. Spontaneous brain activity predicts task-evoked activity during animate versus inanimate touch. Cerebral Cortex 2019; 29(11):4628-4645.

Scalabrini A, Huang Z, Mucci C, Perrucci MG, Ferretti A, Fossati A, Romani GL, Northoff G & Ebisch SJH. How spontaneous brain activity and narcissistic features shape social interaction. Scientific Reports 2017; 7:9986.

Wolff A, Di Giovanni DA, Gómez-Pilar J, Nakao T, Huang Z, Longtin A & Northoff G. The temporal signature of self: Temporal measures of resting-state EEG predict self-consciousness. Human Brain Mapping 2019; 40(3): 789-803.

Kolvoort IR, Wainio-Theberge S, Wolff A & Northoff G. Temporal integration as "common currency" of brain and self-scale-free activity in resting-state EEG correlates with temporal delay effects on self-relatedness. Human Brain Mapping. Advance online publication, 2020.

Nakao T, Matsumoto T, Morita M, Shimizu D, Yoshimura S, Northoff G, Morinobu S, Okamoto Y & Yamawaki S. The degree of early life stress predicts decreased medial prefrontal activations and the shift from internally to externally guided decision making: An exploratory NIRS study during resting state and self-oriented task. Front Hum Neurosci 2013; 7:339.

Duncan NW, Hayes DJ, Wiebking C, Tiret B, Pietruska K, Chen DQ, Rainville P, Marjańska M, Ayad O, Doyon J, Hodaie M & Northoff G. Negative childhood experiences alter a prefrontal-insular motor cortical network in healthy adults: A preliminary multimodal rsfMRI-fMRI-MRS-dMRI study. Human Brain Mapping 2019; 36(11): 4622-4637.

Northoff G, Wainio-Theberge S, Evers K. Is temporo-spatial dynamics the "common currency" of brain and mind? In Quest of "Spatiotemporal Neuroscience". Phys Life Rev 2020; 33:34-54. doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2019.05.002. Epub 2019 May 23.

Northoff G, Wainio-Theberge S, Evers K. Spatio-temporal neuroscience - what is it and why we need it. Phys Life Rev 2020; 33:78-87. doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2020.06.005. Epub 2020 Jul 10.



How to Cite

Northoff, G. (2022). My way to Non-reductive Neurophilosophy: Georg Northoff: How did I come to non-reductive neurophilosophy? . Journal of NeuroPhilosophy, 1(2).