Temporal dynamics of access to consciousness in the attentional blink

Neuroimage. 2007 Sep 1;37(3):947-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.05.044. Epub 2007 Jun 7.


Presentation of two targets in close temporal succession often results in an impairment of conscious perception for the second stimulus. Previous studies have identified several electrophysiological correlates for this so-called 'attentional blink'. Components of the event-related potential (ERP) such as the N2 and the P3, but also oscillatory brain signals have been shown to distinguish between detected and missed stimuli, and thus, conscious perception. Here we investigate oscillatory responses that specifically relate to conscious stimulus processing together with potential ERP predictors. Our results show that successful target detection is associated with enhanced coherence in the low beta frequency range, but a decrease in alpha coherence before and during target presentation. In addition, we find an inverse relation between the P3 amplitudes associated with the first and second target. We conclude that the resources allocated to first and second target processing are directly mirrored by the P3 component and, moreover, that brain states before and during stimulus presentation, as reflected by oscillatory brain activity, strongly determine the access to consciousness. Thus, becoming aware of a stimulus seems to depend on the dynamic interaction between a number of widely distributed neural processes, rather than on the modulation of one single process or component.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Blinking / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*