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PLOS ONE  2013 

Predicting Visual Consciousness Electrophysiologically from Intermittent Binocular Rivalry

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076134

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Purpose We sought brain activity that predicts visual consciousness. Methods We used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity to a 1000-ms display of sine-wave gratings, oriented vertically in one eye and horizontally in the other. This display yields binocular rivalry: irregular alternations in visual consciousness between the images viewed by the eyes. We replaced both gratings with 200 ms of darkness, the gap, before showing a second display of the same rival gratings for another 1000 ms. We followed this by a 1000-ms mask then a 2000-ms inter-trial interval (ITI). Eleven participants pressed keys after the second display in numerous trials to say whether the orientation of the visible grating changed from before to after the gap or not. Each participant also responded to numerous non-rivalry trials in which the gratings had identical orientations for the two eyes and for which the orientation of both either changed physically after the gap or did not. Results We found that greater activity from lateral occipital-parietal-temporal areas about 180 ms after initial onset of rival stimuli predicted a change in visual consciousness more than 1000 ms later, on re-presentation of the rival stimuli. We also found that less activity from parietal, central, and frontal electrodes about 400 ms after initial onset of rival stimuli predicted a change in visual consciousness about 800 ms later, on re-presentation of the rival stimuli. There was no such predictive activity when the change in visual consciousness occurred because the stimuli changed physically. Conclusion We found early EEG activity that predicted later visual consciousness. Predictive activity 180 ms after onset of the first display may reflect adaption of the neurons mediating visual consciousness in our displays. Predictive activity 400 ms after onset of the first display may reflect a less-reliable brain state mediating visual consciousness.

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