States of sensory absorption may offer a means to disentangle perception from report. Interestingly, such states lead to an antagonistic relationship between perceptual and cognitive-access networks, suggesting that perceptual awareness does not depend on a read-out by high order cognitive-access mechanisms. Rather, it may emerge internally, through a cooperative coding dynamics, whereby each neuron simultaneously represents and reads-out the perceptual awareness state.
Recently, we proposed a fundamental subdivision of the human cortex into two complementary networks—an “extrinsic” one which deals with the external environment, and an “intrinsic” one which largely overlaps with the “default mode” system, and deals with internally oriented and endogenous mental processes. Here we tested this hypothesis by contrasting decision making under external and internally-derived conditions. Subjects were presented with an external cue, and were required to either follow an external instruction or to ignore it and follow a voluntary (...) decision process . Our results show that a well defined component of the intrinsic system—the right inferior parietal cortex—was preferentially activated during the “free-will” condition. Importantly, this activity was significantly higher than the base-line resting state. The results support a self-related role for the intrinsic system and provide clear evidence for both hemispheric and regional specialization in the human intrinsic system. (shrink)
Rafael Malach is currently a professor in the department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. His current research is aimed at understanding how the neuronal circuitry in the human brain translates a stream of sensory stimuli into meaningful perception. Rafael Malach received his PhD in physiological optics from UC Berkeley and did his post-doctorate research at MIT. Originally doing research on the organization of neuronal connections in the primate brain, his focus has recently shifted to the study of (...) the human cerebral cortex using fMRI. Professor Malach has begun this research at Massachusetts General Hospital, exploring a new object-related region called the lateral occipital complex. Since then he expanded this research, studying the human visual cortex using a variety of methods, including adaptation paradigms, backward masking, and more recently naturalistic stimuli--all aimed at deciphering the intriguing link between perceptual experience and brain activity. (shrink)
Objectives: Recent fMRI studies have shown that it is possible to reliably identify the defaultmode network (DMN) in the absence of any task, by resting-state connectivity analyses in healthy volunteers. We here aimed to identify the DMN in the challenging patient population of disorders of consciousness encountered following coma. Experimental design: A spatial independent component analysis-based methodology permitted DMN assessment, decomposing connectivity in all its different sources either neuronal or artifactual. Three different selection criteria were introduced assessing anticorrelation-corrected connectivity with (...) or without an automatic masking procedure and calculating connectivity scores encompassing both spatial and temporal properties. These three methods were validated on 10 healthy controls and applied to an independent group of 8 healthy controls and 11 severely brain-damaged patients [locked-in syndrome (n ¼ 2), minimally conscious (n ¼ 1), and vegetative state (n ¼ 8)]. Principal observations: All vegetative patients showed fewer connections in the default-mode areas, when compared with controls, contrary to locked-in patients who showed nearnormal connectivity. In the minimally conscious-state patient, only the two selection criteria considering both spatial and temporal properties were able to identify an intact right lateralized BOLD connectivity pattern, and metabolic PET data suggested its neuronal origin. Conclusions: When assess-. (shrink)