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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 17;6(2):e17079. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017079.

Delayed perceptual awareness in rapid perceptual decisions.

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Visuo-Motor Functions Lab, Univeristà Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milano, Italy.


The flourishing of studies on the neural correlates of decision-making calls for an appraisal of the relation between perceptual decisions and conscious perception. By exploiting the long integration time of noisy motion stimuli, and by forcing human observers to make difficult speeded decisions--sometimes a blind guess--about stimulus direction, we traced the temporal buildup of motion discrimination capability and perceptual awareness, as assessed trial by trial through direct rating. We found that both increased gradually with motion coherence and viewing time, but discrimination was systematically leading awareness, reaching a plateau much earlier. Sensitivity and criterion changes contributed jointly to the slow buildup of perceptual awareness. It made no difference whether motion discrimination was accomplished by saccades or verbal responses. These findings suggest that perceptual awareness emerges on the top of a developing or even mature perceptual decision. We argue that the middle temporal (MT) cortical region does not confer us the full phenomenic depth of motion perception, although it may represent a precursor stage in building our subjective sense of visual motion.

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