Contrastive analysis has been widely employed in the search for the electrophysiological neural correlates of consciousness. However, despite its clear logic, it has been argued that it may not succeed in isolating neural processes solely involved in the emergence of perceptual awareness. In fact, data from contrastive analysis would be contaminated by potential confounding factors reflecting distinct, though related, processes either preceding or following the conscious perception. At present, the ERP components representing the proper correlates of perceptual awareness still remain to be identified among those correlating with awareness (i.e., Visual Awareness Negativity, VAN and Late Positivity, LP). In order to dissociate visual awareness from post-perceptual confounds specifically related to decision making, we manipulated the response criterion, which affects how a percept is translated into a decision. In particular, while performing an orientation discrimination task, participants were asked to shift their response criterion across sessions. As a consequence, the resulting modulation should concern the ERP component(s) not exclusively reflecting mechanisms regulating the subjective conscious experience itself but rather the processes accompanying it. Electrophysiological results showed that N1 and P3 were sensitive to the response criterion adopted by participants. Additionally, the more the participants shifted their response criterion, the bigger the ERP modulation was; this was consequently indicative of the critical role of these components in the decision-making processes regardless of awareness level. When considering data independently from the response criterion, the aware vs. unaware contrast showed that both VAN and LP were significant. Crucially, the LP component was also modulated by the interaction of awareness and response criterion, while VAN results to be unaffected. In agreement with previous literature, these findings provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that VAN tracks the emergence of visual awareness by encoding the conscious percept, whereas LP reflects the contribution from post-perceptual processes related to response requirements. This excludes a direct functional role of this later component in giving rise to perceptual awareness.

Late positivity does not meet the criteria to be considered a proper neural correlate of perceptual awareness

Mazzi, Chiara
;
Mazzeo, Gaetano;Savazzi, Silvia
2020-01-01

Abstract

Contrastive analysis has been widely employed in the search for the electrophysiological neural correlates of consciousness. However, despite its clear logic, it has been argued that it may not succeed in isolating neural processes solely involved in the emergence of perceptual awareness. In fact, data from contrastive analysis would be contaminated by potential confounding factors reflecting distinct, though related, processes either preceding or following the conscious perception. At present, the ERP components representing the proper correlates of perceptual awareness still remain to be identified among those correlating with awareness (i.e., Visual Awareness Negativity, VAN and Late Positivity, LP). In order to dissociate visual awareness from post-perceptual confounds specifically related to decision making, we manipulated the response criterion, which affects how a percept is translated into a decision. In particular, while performing an orientation discrimination task, participants were asked to shift their response criterion across sessions. As a consequence, the resulting modulation should concern the ERP component(s) not exclusively reflecting mechanisms regulating the subjective conscious experience itself but rather the processes accompanying it. Electrophysiological results showed that N1 and P3 were sensitive to the response criterion adopted by participants. Additionally, the more the participants shifted their response criterion, the bigger the ERP modulation was; this was consequently indicative of the critical role of these components in the decision-making processes regardless of awareness level. When considering data independently from the response criterion, the aware vs. unaware contrast showed that both VAN and LP were significant. Crucially, the LP component was also modulated by the interaction of awareness and response criterion, while VAN results to be unaffected. In agreement with previous literature, these findings provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that VAN tracks the emergence of visual awareness by encoding the conscious percept, whereas LP reflects the contribution from post-perceptual processes related to response requirements. This excludes a direct functional role of this later component in giving rise to perceptual awareness.
EEG
contrastive analysis
event-related potentials (ERP)
late positivity (LP)
neural correlates of consciousness (NCC)
perceptual awareness
response criterion
visual awareness negativity (VAN)
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/1022475
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