Cortical localization of phase and amplitude dynamics predicting access to somatosensory awareness

Hum Brain Mapp. 2016 Jan;37(1):311-26. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23033. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Neural dynamics leading to conscious sensory perception have remained enigmatic in despite of large interest. Human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have revealed that a co-activation of sensory and frontoparietal areas is crucial for conscious sensory perception in the several second time-scale of BOLD signal fluctuations. Electrophysiological recordings with magneto- and electroencephalography (MEG and EEG) and intracranial EEG (iEEG) have shown that event related responses (ERs), phase-locking of neuronal activity, and oscillation amplitude modulations in sub-second timescales are greater for consciously perceived than for unperceived stimuli. The cortical sources of ER and oscillation dynamics predicting the conscious perception have, however, remained unclear because these prior studies have utilized MEG/EEG sensor-level analyses or iEEG with limited neuroanatomical coverage. We used a somatosensory detection task, magnetoencephalography (MEG), and cortically constrained source reconstruction to identify the cortical areas where ERs, local poststimulus amplitudes and phase-locking of neuronal activity are predictive of the conscious access of somatosensory information. We show here that strengthened ERs, phase-locking to stimulus onset (SL), and induced oscillations amplitude modulations all predicted conscious somatosensory perception, but the most robust and widespread of these was SL that was sustained in low-alpha (6-10 Hz) band. The strength of SL and to a lesser extent that of ER predicted conscious perception in the somatosensory, lateral and medial frontal, posterior parietal, and in the cingulate cortex. These data suggest that a rapid phase-reorganization and concurrent oscillation amplitude modulations in these areas play an instrumental role in the emergence of a conscious percept.

Keywords: MEG; conscious; cortex; oscillation; perception; somatosensory; source.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult