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Neuroimage. 2012 May 15;61(1):62-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.067. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Correlates of perceptual awareness in human primary auditory cortex revealed by an informational masking experiment.

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Department of Neurology, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.


The presence of an auditory event may remain undetected in crowded environments, even when it is well above the sensory threshold. This effect, commonly known as informational masking, allows for isolating neural activity related to perceptual awareness, by comparing repetitions of the same physical stimulus where the target is either detected or not. Evidence from magnetoencephalography (MEG) suggests that auditory-cortex activity in the latency range 50-250 ms is closely coupled with perceptual awareness. Here, BOLD fMRI and MEG were combined to investigate at which stage in the auditory cortex neural correlates of conscious auditory perception can be observed. Participants were asked to indicate the perception of a regularly repeating target tone, embedded within a random multi-tone masking background. Results revealed widespread activation within the auditory cortex for detected target tones, which was delayed but otherwise similar to the activation of an unmasked control stimulus. The contrast of detected versus undetected targets revealed activity confined to medial Heschl's gyrus, where the primary auditory cortex is located. These results suggest that activity related to conscious perception involves the primary auditory cortex and is not restricted to activity in secondary areas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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