Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization -- Department for Nonlinear Dynamics and Network Dynamics Group
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Tuesday, 08.03.2011 17 c.t.

The links between attention and awareness

by Dr. Catherine Tallon-Baudry
from CRICM, Hôpital Pitié-Salpétrière, Paris, France

Contact person: Annette Witt


Seminarraum Haus 2, 4. Stock (Bunsenstr.)


Attention and awareness appear to be tightly linked, and it is often held that the content of awareness is determined by the content of the attentional focus. I will present here a series of experiment that challenges this intuitive view. Using magneto-encephalography in normal subjects and patients, we repeatedly observed neural correlates of awareness that were independent from attention, and, conversely, neural correlates of attention that were independent from awareness. We therefore show the existence of independent neural mechanisms for attention and awareness in visual areas. In particular, our results suggest that neural amplification by attention does not provide a gateway for awareness. Our results can be best understood if awareness is considered as a decisional process, influenced by distinct neural variables. In any case, the existence of independent neural correlates of attention and awareness call for a revision of the respective definitions of these two major cognitive functions.

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