Event-related brain potential correlates of visual awareness

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 May;34(6):922-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.12.002. Epub 2009 Dec 11.


Electrophysiological recordings during visual tasks can shed light on the temporal dynamics of the subjective experience of seeing, visual awareness. This paper reviews studies on electrophysiological correlates of visual awareness operationalized as the difference between event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to stimuli that enter awareness and stimuli that do not. There are three candidates for such a correlate: enhancement of P1 around 100 ms, enhancement of early posterior negativity around 200 ms (visual awareness negativity, VAN), and enhancement of late positivity (LP) in the P3 time window around 400 ms. Review of studies using different manipulations of awareness suggests that VAN is the correlate of visual awareness that most consistently emerges across different manipulations of visual awareness. VAN emerges also relatively independent of manipulations of nonspatial attention, but seems to be dependent on spatial attention. The results suggest that visual awareness emerges about 200 ms after the onset of visual stimulation as a consequence of the activation of posterior occipito-temporal and parietal networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials*
  • Humans
  • Visual Perception / physiology*