Po-Jang Hsieh: “Causes, Consequences, and Neural Correlates of Visual Awareness”
CiNet 1F Conference Room
Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program
Duke-NUS Medical School
How conscious experience is realized in neuronal activity is one major unsolved problem in neuroscience. Brain scientists have focused on finding neural correlates of consciousness for over two decades. Here I go beyond this correlational paradigm and use multivariate pattern analysis to investigate the causal relationship between cortical activity and visual awareness. First, I examined the neural consequences of consciousness by asking whether the pattern of neural activity in visual cortex can be altered by a change in the interpretation of the same visual input. Second, I examined the neural causes of consciousness by asking whether the contents of visual awareness during binocular rivalry can be predicted by the neural activation pattern that immediately precedes binocular stimulus presentation. My results show that the pattern of neural activity in visual cortex not only reflects changes of subjects’ conscious interpretation of the stimulus, but also predicts subjects’ subsequent perceptual states during binocular rivalry. These findings go beyond mere correlates of consciousness to reveal candidates areas that are causally involved in realizing conscious experience.