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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Mar 4;105(9):3599-604. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0707043105. Epub 2008 Feb 25.

Human single-neuron responses at the threshold of conscious recognition.

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Department of Engineering, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, United Kingdom.


We studied the responses of single neurons in the human medial temporal lobe while subjects viewed familiar faces, animals, and landmarks. By progressively shortening the duration of stimulus presentation, coupled with backward masking, we show two striking properties of these neurons. (i) Their responses are not statistically different for the 33-ms, 66-ms, and 132-ms stimulus durations, and only for the 264-ms presentations there is a significantly higher firing. (ii) These responses follow conscious perception, as indicated by the subjects' recognition report. Remarkably, when recognized, a single snapshot as brief as 33 ms was sufficient to trigger strong single-unit responses far outlasting stimulus presentation. These results suggest that neurons in the medial temporal lobe can reflect conscious recognition by "all-or-none" responses.

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