The neural basis of event-time introspection

Conscious Cogn. 2011 Dec;20(4):1899-915. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2011.03.008. Epub 2011 Apr 16.


We explored the neural mechanisms allowing humans to report the subjective onset times of conscious events. Magnetoencephalographic recordings of neural oscillations were obtained while human subjects introspected the timing of sensory, intentional, and motor events during a forced choice task. Brain activity was reconstructed with high spatio-temporal resolution. Event-time introspection was associated with specific neural activity at the time of subjective event onset which was spatially distinct from activity induced by the event itself. Different brain regions were selectively recruited for introspection of different event types, e.g., the bilateral angular gyrus for introspection of intention. Our results suggest that event-time introspection engages specific neural networks to assess the contents of consciousness. Subjective event times should therefore be interpreted as the result of complex interactions between introspection and experience networks, rather than as direct reproduction of the individual's conscious state or as a mere post hoc interpretation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Neuroimaging*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / physiology