Visual stimuli as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used: to suppress the visibility of a target and to recover the visibility of a target that has been suppressed by another mask. Both types of stimulation thus provide useful methods for studying the microgenesis of object perception. We first review evidence of similarities between the processes by which a TMS mask and a visual mask can either suppress the visibility of targets or recover such suppressed visibility. However, (...) we then also point out a significant difference that has important implications for the study of the time course of unconscious and conscious visual information processing and for theoretical accounts of the processes involved. We present evidence and arguments showing: that visual masking techniques, by revealing more detailed aspects of target masking and target recovery, support a theoretical approach to visual masking and visual perception that must take into account activities in two separate neural channels or processing streams and, as a corollary, that at the current stage of methodological sophistication visual masks, by acting in more highly specifiable ways on these pathways, provide information about the microgenesis of form perception not available with TMS masks. (shrink)
In order to study whether there exist a period of activity in the human early visual cortex that contributes exclusively to visual awareness, we applied transcranial magnetic stimulation over the early visual cortex and measured subjective visual awareness during visual forced-choice symbol or orientation discrimination tasks. TMS produced one dip in awareness 60–120 ms after stimulus onset, while forced-choice orientation discrimination was suppressed between 60 and 90 ms and symbol discrimination between 60 and 120 ms. Thus, a time window (...) specific to visual awareness was found only in the orientation condition at 120 ms. The results imply that both conscious and unconscious perception depend on activity in early visual areas. On the basis of previous estimates of neural processing speed, we suggest that the late part of the activity period most likely involve local extrastriate–striate interactions which provide the contents for visual awareness but are not themselves sufficient for awareness to arise. (shrink)
Analogous to prism adaptation, sensorimotor compensation for existing neural delays has been clearly demonstrated. This system can also adapt to new delays, both internal and external. This seems to occur at least partially in the sensor systems, and works for discrete, stationary events. This provides additional evidence for visual prediction, but not in a manner that is consistent with spatial extrapolation.
Evidence from many different paradigms (e.g. change blindness, inattentional blindness, transsaccadic integration) indicate that observers are often very poor at reporting changes to their visual environment. Such evidence has been used to suggest that the spatio-temporal coherence needed to represent change can only occur in the presence of focused attention. In four experiments we use modified change blindness tasks to demonstrate (a) that sensitivity to change does occur in the absence of awareness, and (b) this sensitivity does not rely on (...) the redeploy- ment of attention. We discuss these results in relation to theories of scene percep- tion, and propose a reinterpretatio n of the role of attention in representing change. (shrink)
Libet discovered that a substantial duration (> 0.5-1.0 s) of direct electrical stimulation of the surface of the somatosensory cortex at threshold currents is required before human subjects can report that a conscious somatosensory experience had occurred. Using a reaction time method we confirm that a similarly long stimulation duration at threshold currents is required for activation of elementary visual experiences (phosphenes) in human subjects following stimulation of the surface of the striate cortex. However, the reaction times (...) for the subject to respond to the cessation of the visual experience after the end of electrical stimulation could be as brief as 225-242 ms. We also carried out extensive studies in cats under a variety of anesthetic conditions using the same electrodes and parameters of stimulation employed in the human studies to study the patterns of neuronal activity beneath the stimulating surface electrode. Whereas sufficiently strong currents can activate neurons within milliseconds, stimulating currents close to threshold activate sustained neural activity only after at least 350-500 ms. When currents are close to threshold, some neurons are inhibited for several hundreds of millisecond before the balance between inhibition and excitation shifts towards excitation. These results suggest that the prolonged latencies, i.e., latencies beyond 200-250 ms, for the emergence of conscious experience following direct cortical stimulation result from a delay in the sustained activation of underlying cortical neurons at threshold currents rather than being due to any unusually long duration in central processing time. Intracellular records from cortical neurological cells during repetitive electrical stimulation of the surface of the feline striate cortex demonstrate that such stimulation induces a profound depolarizing shift in membrane potential that may persist after each stimulus train. Such a depolarization is evidence that extracellular K+ concentrations have increased during electrical stimulation. Such an increase in extracellular K+ progressively increases cortical excitability until the threshold for sustained activation of cortical neurons is reached and then exceeded. Consequently, the long latency for threshold activation of cortical neurons depends upon a dynamically increasing cortical facilatory process that begins hundreds of milliseconds before there is sustained activation of such neurons. In some cases, this facilatory process must overcome an initial stimulus-induced inhibition before neuronal firing commences. (shrink)
Recently, a number of experiments have emphasized the degree to which subjects fail to detect large changes in visual scenes. This finding, referred to as “change blindness,” is often considered surprising because many people have the intuition that such changes should be easy to detect. Levin, Momen, Drivdahl, and Simons documented this intuition by showing that the majority of subjects believe they would notice changes that are actually very rarely detected. Thus subjects exhibit a metacognitive error we refer to as (...) “change blindness blindness.” Here, we test whether CBB is caused by a misestimation of the perceptual experience associated with visual changes and show that it persists even when the pre- and postchange views are separated by long delays. In addition, subjects overestimate their change detection ability both when the relevant changes are illustrated by still pictures, and when they are illustrated using videos showing the changes occurring in real time. We conclude that CBB is a robust phenomenon that cannot be accounted for by failure to understand the specific perceptual experience associated with a change. (shrink)
Awareness is a personal experience, which is only accessible to the rest of world through interpretation. We set out to identify a neural correlate of visual awareness, using brief subliminal and supraliminal verbal stimuli while measuring cerebral blood flow distribution with H215O PET. Awareness of visual verbal stimuli differentially activated medial parietal association cortex (precuneus), which is a polymodal sensory cortex, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is thought to be primarily executive. Our results suggest participation of these higher order perceptual (...) and executive cortical structures in visual verbal awareness. (shrink)