Photo of anatomically correct brain in front of the arc de triomphe

Global Scholars Program in Paris: Hands-on Consciousness

Language of Instruction: English
Term: Spring, Summer

Study major theories of consciousness and travel to Paris to participate in field research.

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Global Scholars Program Introduction

The Global Scholars Program (GSP) is an innovative study abroad program led by one or more faculty members with relevant regional and disciplinary expertise, offering undergraduates a unique hands-on international research experience in topics of transnational importance, using social science, humanities, and scientific frameworks. On these programs, global topics are explored in more than one location, giving students first-hand opportunities to understand and compare how local communities approach various issues.

GSP was launched in 2012 as a pilot program by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, with generous support from the President’s Office. In 2017, it transitioned to a joint initiative between the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement (UGE) and Columbia Global Centers.

The full GSP experience includes a course taught on campus to prepare the students for an overseas field experience.

Global Scholars Program in Paris: Hands-on Consciousness

The Global Scholars Program: Hands-On Consciousness (GSP) begins with an on campus spring seminar that builds upon the common assumptions that underlie the study of brain-behavior relationship. Specifically, there will be a focus on the major theories of consciousness and the neuroscientific methodologies that provide a contemporary framework from which you can study this specific cognitive function. By the end of the Spring course, you will be expected to develop a research study proposal.

During the summer, the GSP cohort will travel to the Columbia Global Center in Paris to participate in hands-on field research (this may be related to the research study proposals or other relevant studies). During this time, you will also be exposed to the leading consciousness scientists and studies at the Paris Brain Institute (Institut du Cerveau et Moelle Épinière - ICM). Other top neuroscientists may also be invited to share their research and findings with the group.

The GSP will focus on three main questions:

  1. Can the human brain understand what consciousness is? Modern theories attempt to characterize the human mind in terms of information processing. But how similar are we to a computer?

  2. Can we perceive without paying attention to what we perceive? The relationships between attention and perception has fostered an intense debate in neuroscience, but evidence supporting the separability or interdependence of these processes is lacking. How can we reconcile this knowledge with our daily experience?

  3. What can cause a consciousness deficit? Before the advent of neuroimaging methodologies, the causal relation between brain and human cognition was based on the evaluation of clinical deficits in neurological patients. The use of neuroimaging possibility to localize in vivo brain lesions has shed some light about the bases of consciousness. Yet, our understanding of the causal relationships between brain lesions and their clinical consequences is incomplete.

Eligibility and Application

  • Open to undergraduate Columbia and Barnard juniors and seniors in good academic standing.
  • Other students with advanced coursework in Psychology, Neuroscience, Biology, Computer Science, or Philosophy, should contact the adviser listed at the bottom of the page for permission to apply to the program.
  • Applicants should have taken an introductory course in neuroscience or cognitive psychology, or received permission to apply.
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA.

How to apply?

Want to apply? Click the “Start Your Application" button at the top of this page. If the button doesn't appear above, the program is not yet accepting applications. You will be asked to set up a short profile, which will allow us to send you relevant information about your application. Once you’ve created a profile, you will see a checklist of items that you will need to submit. These generally include:

  • Application questionnaire(s)
  • Personal statement
  • Official transcript(s)
  • Resume
  • Academic Recommendation
  • Interview


GU4225. Consciousness and Attention. 4 points. (Spring 2022)

Instructor Alfredo Spagna, Department of Psychology

Prerequisites: Must have taken an introductory course in neuroscience or cognitive psychology (e.g., UN2450, UN 2430, UN2470).

This course fulfills the degree requirements for both the Neuroscience & Behavior and Psychology Majors.

Modern theories attempt to characterize the human mind in terms of information processing. But machines that process information do not seem to feel anything; a computer may for instance receive inputs from a video camera, yet it would be hard to imagine that it sees or experiences the vividness of colors like we do. Nobody has yet provided a convincing theory as to how to explain the subjective nature of our mental lives in objective physical terms. This is called the problem of consciousness, and is generally considered to be one of the last unsolved puzzles in science. Philosophers even debate whether there could be a solution to this problem at all.

PSYCXXXX: Hands-on Consciousness. 4 points. (Summer 2022) (Pending COI approval)

Instructor Alfredo Spagna, Department of Psychology

Prerequisites: GU4225. Consciousness and Attention.

Students will travel to Paris for six weeks to engage in research activities, and actively discuss their research findings with the leading group of consciousness scientists in the field during a series of events held at the Columbia Global Center in Paris. By the end of the summer, students will be able to navigate the field of neuroscience of consciousness and will have developed a network of international researchers with whom to discuss, design, conduct, and analyze new research studies that draw on current state-of-the-art technological advancements in neuroscience.

Global Learning Outcomes

By participating in this program, you will develop the skills and knowledge in the following My Columbia College Core Competencies:

  • Global Awareness

    • Students will improve their cross cultural communication skills through collaborating with international researchers

  • Oral Communication

    • Students will present and lead discussions

    • Students will build international collaborations with the scientists at the Paris Brain Institute.

    • Students will present their research results in an Lab Meeting.

  • Knowledge

    • Students will acquire factual knowledge regarding the major assumptions that underlie the study of consciousness.

    • Students will become familiar with the scientific terminology and essential concepts of the field, and will be able to differentiate among major consciousness disorders and describe how they present to clinicians.

  • Research

    • Students will apply their knowledge to design a research study that draws from current state-of-the-art technological advancements in neuroscience.

    • Students will collect and analyze data to address their research question.

    • Students will be able to integrate feedback from peers and from more experienced researchers to improve their own research skill.

  • Information and Technological Literacy

    • Students will use the software Psychopy to code the task they will be administering as part of their research proposal.

    • Students will use Python - a programming language - to conduct the data analysis portion of their project.


Grading Policy

Click here for the Columbia summer program grading policies.


Upon successful completion of the program, grades are entered into Columbia's online grading system.

No credit is granted to students who do not complete the full program.

Columbia students: Grades appear on SSOL and your transcript as semester grades from courses taken at Columbia. For more information, please see the section on Academic Credit in Steps to Study Abroad.

Barnard students: Grades appear on eBear and your transcript as any semester grades from courses taken at Barnard. For more information, please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Barnard Students on our Barnard student pages.

Life in Paris

Information regarding residence hall housing, meals and activities coming soon.


Program Director: Alfredo Spagna

Alfredo Spagna, is a Faculty of the Psychology Department and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Neuroscience and Behavior Major. His teaches a variety of lecture and seminar courses for the Psychology Department, including Behavioral Neuroscience (UN2450), Human Neuropsychology (UN2470), Attention and Perception seminar (GU4229), Consciousness and Attention seminar (GU4225), and a newly created Human Neuroimaging Course (GU4990) that will be delivered starting Fall2020. His research interests span across different but related fields, including attention, perception, consciousness, and visual mental imagery and mainly on healthy adults. His involvement in international and national research grants is at the core of the program, since enrollees will be visiting the labs in which the Program Director international research collaboration is ongoing.

Financial Considerations

Summer 2022 Tuition and Fees

Please see our cost breakdown for detailed information.

*Tuition and fees are subject to the Board of Trustees' approval and may change.


Students who demonstrate financial need may apply for a GSP Scholarship, funding for which is generously provided by the Office of the President .

If you are on financial aid, check to see if it can be applied to studying abroad. In general summer financial aid is not available to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering students, but may be available to School of General Studies students.

For more general information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:


If you decide to withdraw from the program once it has already started, please be aware of the financial consequences and the office policies by clicking here.

Resources for Accepted Students

Fact Sheet

Barnard College, Columbia Undergraduates
Language of Instruction:
Spring, Summer

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Friday, October 15, 2021
Program Dates: 
Sunday, May 22, 2022 to Sunday, July 3, 2022
These dates are tentative and subject to change. Move-in on 5/21.