In perceptual experiments, within-individual fluctuations in perception are observed across multiple presentations of the same stimuli, a phenomenon that remains only partially understood. Here, by means of thulium–yttrium/aluminum–garnet laser and event-related functional MRI, we tested whether variability in perception of identical stimuli relates to differences in prestimulus, baseline brain activity. Results indicate a positive relationship between conscious perception of low-intensity somatosensory stimuli and immediately preceding levels of baseline activity in medial thalamus and the lateral frontoparietal network, respectively, which are thought to relate to vigilance and "external monitoring." Conversely, there was a negative correlation between subsequent reporting of conscious perception and baseline activity in a set of regions encompassing posterior cingulate/precuneus and temporoparietal cortices, possibly relating to introspection and self-oriented processes. At nociceptive levels of stimulation, pain-intensity ratings positively correlated with baseline fluctuations in anterior cingulate cortex in an area known to be involved in the affective dimension of pain. These results suggest that baseline brain-activity fluctuations may profoundly modify our conscious perception of the external world.
Neural correlates of somatosensory stimuli awareness. Consciously perceived stimuli compared with unperceived intensity-matched stimuli were associated with greater activity in bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPF) and intraparietal sulcus/posterior parietal cortex (IPS) activity (yellow-red sections) (A) and less activity in a network encompassing bilateral posterior cingulate precuneas (Pr), mesiofrontal cortices (MF), temporoparietal junctions (TP), right inferior temporal (IT), and left superior frontal gyri (SF) (blue sections) (B).
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Our baseline brain activity alters conscious perception
Our perceptions of weak somatosensory (touching) stimuli can vary widely. Boly et al. (PDF here) ask whether variability in perception of identical stimuli relates to differences in prestimulus, baseline brain activity. Here is their abstract, followed by one figure from their paper: