Michael Pitts

Associate Professor of Psychology

Email | 503-517-7721

Cognitive neuroscience, sensation and perception, attention and consciousness

Curriculum Vitae
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Office Hours

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Education and Professional Positions

2001 B.A., Psychology, Brain and Behavior Program, University of New Hampshire
2004, M.S., Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience Program, Colorado State University
2007, Ph.D., Psychology, Perception and Brain Science Program, Colorado State University
2007-2009, Postdoctoral Trainee, Institute for Neural Computation, University of California San Diego
2009-2011, Postdoctoral Researcher, Neurosciences Department, University of California San Diego
2011-2015, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Reed College
2015-present, Associate Professor of Psychology, Reed College

Recent Projects and Positions

Principal Investigator, Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind Innovative Research Grant, Spatio-temporal neuroimaging of conscious and non-conscious visual processing, 2010-2011.

Postdoctoral Training Grant, Institute for Neural Computation, Hillyard ERP lab, University of California San Diego, 2007-2009


My courses include introductory psychology, sensation & perception, cognitive neuroscience, attention & consciousness research, and neuroscience of consciousness (course descriptions below). In most of these courses, students read, discuss, and critique research articles, learn the methodological techniques of cognitive neuroscience and psychophysics, and develop novel experimental questions that can be explored in the laboratory.  

PSY 121 Introduction to Psychology I
PSY 217 Neuroscience of Consciousness
PSY 334 Cognitive Neuroscience
PSY 381 Sensation and Perception
PSY 417 Attention and Consciousness Research


My area of expertise is in cognitive electrophysiology of perception and attention. I specialize in electroencephalography (EEG), event-related potentials (ERPs), and psychophysics. Some of the major questions my research seeks to resolve are: How does brain activity differ during conscious versus nonconscious processing of objects and events? Which cognitive functions require attention and awareness and which can be carried out automatically? Are attention and awareness fully dissociable? My laboratory includes two 64-channel EEG systems that can be used to record and map the brain waves of human subjects while they perform visual and auditory tasks.

Selected Recent Publications

See CV for complete publications list [PDF].

Dembski, C., Koch, C., & Pitts, M. (2021). Perceptual awareness negativity: A physiological correlate of sensory consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 25(8), 660-670. Melloni, L., Mudrik, L., Pitts, M., & Koch, C. (2021). Making the hard problem of consciousness easier: Championing open science, an adversarial collaboration aims to unravel the footprints of consciousness. Science, 372(6545), 911-912.

Cohen, M., Ortego, K., Kyroudis, A., & Pitts, M. (2020). Distinguishing the neural correlates of perceptual awareness and post-perceptual processing. The Journal of Neuroscience, 40(25), 4925-4935.

Pitts, M. & Ortego, K. (2019). Why "no report" paradigms are an important tool for consciousness research. Commentary on Michel & Morales "Minority reports: Consciousness and the prefrontal cortex." Mind & Language Symposium.

Pitts, M., Lutsyshyna, A.L., & Hillyard, S. (2019). Reply to Montemayor & Haladjian. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 374:20190003. 

Pitts, M., Lutsyshyna, A.L., & Hillyard, S. (2018). The relationship between attention and consciousness: An expanded taxonomy and implications for "no report" paradigms. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 373:20170348. 

Graulty, C., Papaioannou, O., Bauer, P., Pitts, M., & Canseco-Gonzalez, E. (2018). Hearing Shapes: Event-related potentials reveal the time course of auditory-visual sensory substitution. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 30:4, 498-513.

Baumgartner, H., Graulty, C., Hillyard, S., & Pitts, M. (2018). Does spatial attention modulate the earliest component of the visual evoked potential? Cognitive Neuroscience, 9:1-2, 4-19.

Baumgartner, H., Graulty, C., Hillyard, S., & Pitts, M. (2018). Does spatial attention modulate the C1 component? The jury continues to deliberate. Cognitive Neuroscience, 9:1-2, 34-37.

Pitts, M. & Hillyard, S. (2018). Still wanted: A reproducible demonstration of a genuine C1 attention effect. Cognitive Neuroscience, 9:1-2, 68-70.

Schelonka, K., Graulty, C., Canseco-Gonzalez, E., & Pitts, M. (2017). ERP signatures of conscious and unconscious word and letter perception in an inattentional blindness paradigm. Consciousness & Cognition, 54, 56-71.

Jackson-Nielsen, M., Cohen, M., & Pitts, M. (2017). Perception of ensemble statistics requires attention. Consciousness & Cognition, 48, 149-160.

Sandberg, K., Frässle, S., & Pitts, M. (2016). Future directions for identifying the neural correlates of consciousness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, published online July 28.

Shafto, J. & Pitts, M. (2015). Neural signatures of conscious face perception in an inattentional blindness paradigm. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35(31), 10940-10948.

Snyder, J., Yerkes, B., & Pitts, M. (2015). Testing domain-general theories of perceptual awareness with auditory brain responses. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(6), 295-297.

Pitts, M., Padwal, J., Fennelly, D., Martinez, A., & Hillyard, S. (2014). Gamma band activity and the P3 reflect post-perceptual processes, not visual awareness. NeuroImage, 101, 337-350.