Event-related potential correlates of visual consciousness : a review of theories and empirical studies
Two influential theories of consciousness disagree about if consciousness initially arises along the occipitotemporal cortex to later engage frontoparietal regions and attentional mechanisms, or if it necessarily requires the latter. Consequently, different predictions are made about the temporal emergence of consciousness. The event-related potential (ERP) technique can be used to resolve the issue. It can temporally track neural activity of consciously perceived stimuli relative to stimuli bypassing consciousness. This essay describes the two theories and reviews ERP studies on visual consciousness and its relationship to attention. Three ERP correlates of consciousness have been proposed. The question is if they should be interpreted as supporting the one or the other theory. Most plausibly, visual consciousness arises along occipitotemporal regions and later incorporates frontal areas engaging higher cognitive functions. Importantly it seems that consciousness cannot arise without spatial attention/parietal regions.
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