The Neural Basis of Attentional Blink as a Selective Control Mechanism in Conscious Perception

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Conscious perception of visual stimuli involves large-scale brain networks with multiple activation-deactivation dynamics. Previous works have shown that early detection networks may be switched off about 200ms to 300ms after presentation of a visual stimulus. We hypothesize that these deactivations represent a selective control mechanism of the brain to conserve resources for post-perceptual processing. To this end, we used attentional blink as a behavioral measure for this mechanism. We showed that attentional blink is more likely to occur when a previous visual stimulus was consciously perceived. Using high-resolution eye-tracking, we found prolonged decrease in pupil diameter and transient decrease in blink probability associated with attentional blink. Using scalp EEG data, we further showed that attentional blink is associated with more pronounced event-related potentials related to visual processing and report.

One sentence summary

attentional blink may represent a selective control mechanism of neural processing resources underlying conscious perception.

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