Neural processes underlying conscious perception: experimental findings and a global neuronal workspace framework

J Physiol Paris. 2004 Jul-Nov;98(4-6):374-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2005.09.006. Epub 2005 Nov 15.


One striking property of perception is that it can be achieved in two seemingly different ways: either consciously or non-consciously. What distinguishes these two types of processing at the neural level? So far, empirical findings suggest that conscious perception is associated with an increase in activity at the sensory level, the specific involvement of a fronto-parietal network and an increase in long-distance functional connectivity and synchrony within a broad network of areas. We interpret these data in the framework of the global neuronal workspace model which proposes that the neural basis of conscious access is a sudden self-amplifying process leading to a global brain-scale pattern of activity. In contradiction with several theories which assume that there is a continuum of perception, associated with a gradual change in the intensity of brain activation, the model predicts a sharp non-linear transition between non-conscious and conscious processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Awareness / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*