Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Markers of conscious access.

An interesting study from Gaillard et. al. :
What is the neural signature of the conscious perception of a visual stimulus? To address this question, we recorded neural activity directly from the brains of human subjects (who were undergoing neural surgery for medical reasons). This rare opportunity afforded greater spatial and temporal resolution than noninvasive methods used previously to probe the neural basis of consciousness. We compared neural activity concomitant with conscious and nonconscious processing of words by using a visual masking procedure that allowed us to manipulate the conscious visibility of briefly masked words. Nonconscious processing of words elicited short-lasting activity across multiple cortical areas, including parietal and visual areas. In sharp contrast, only consciously perceived words were accompanied by long-lasting effects (>200 ms) across a great variety of cortical sites, with a special involvement of the prefrontal lobes. This sustained pattern of neural activity was characterized by a specific increase of coherence between distant areas, suggesting conscious perception is broadcasted widely across the cortex.

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