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Electrophysiological correlates of visual consciousness and selective attention

Koivisto, Mikaa b; Revonsuo, Anttia c d

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3280c143c8
Vision, Central

It is not clear whether attention is necessary or not for consciousness. We studied the relationship between attention and consciousness by tracking their electrophysiological correlates. The participants attended to visual targets, ignored nontargets in the prespecified visual field and ignored all stimuli in the opposite field. Visual consciousness was varied by masking. Our results showed that the earliest electrophysiological correlate of consciousness emerged independent of the manipulations of spatial and nonspatial attention. Conversely, the electrophysiological correlate of attention, selection negativity, was elicited regardless of the presence or absence of consciousness. Only the correlates of later, higher-level conscious processes strongly depended on attention. Thus, the electrophysiological brain responses reflecting visual consciousness and attention are initially independent of each other.

aCentre for Cognitive Neuroscience

bDepartment of Philosophy

cDepartment of Psychology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

dSchool of Humanities and Informatics, University of Skövde, Sweden

Correspondence to Mika Koivisto, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland

Tel: +358 2 333 8554; fax: +358 2 333 8770; e-mail:

Received 18 December 2006; accepted 14 January 2007

Address where the work was carried on: Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.