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Nat Neurosci. 2005 Oct;8(10):1391-400. Epub 2005 Sep 11.

Timing of the brain events underlying access to consciousness during the attentional blink.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale Unité 562, Cognitive Neuroimaging, Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, 4, place du Général Leclerc, 91401 Orsay Cedex, France.


In the phenomenon of attentional blink, identical visual stimuli are sometimes fully perceived and sometimes not detected at all. This phenomenon thus provides an optimal situation to study the fate of stimuli not consciously perceived and the differences between conscious and nonconscious processing. We correlated behavioral visibility ratings and recordings of event-related potentials to study the temporal dynamics of access to consciousness. Intact early potentials (P1 and N1) were evoked by unseen words, suggesting that these brain events are not the primary correlates of conscious perception. However, we observed a rapid divergence around 270 ms, after which several brain events were evoked solely by seen words. Thus, we suggest that the transition toward access to consciousness relates to the optional triggering of a late wave of activation that spreads through a distributed network of cortical association areas.

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