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Auditory awareness negativity is an electrophysiological correlate of awareness in an auditory threshold task
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9924-5486
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Perception and psychophysics.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4531-4313
Number of Authors: 22019 (English)In: Consciousness and Cognition, ISSN 1053-8100, E-ISSN 1090-2376, Vol. 71, p. 70-78Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

One theory of visual awareness proposes that electrophysiological activity related to awareness occurs in primary visual areas approximately 200 ms after stimulus onset (visual awareness negativity: VAN) and in fronto-parietal areas about 300 ms after stimulus onset (late positivity: LP). Although similar processes might be involved in auditory awareness, only sparse evidence exists for this idea. In the present study, we recorded electrophysiological activity while subjects listened to tones that were presented at their own awareness threshold. The difference in electrophysiological activity elicited by tones that subjects reported being aware of versus unaware of showed an early negativity about 200 ms and a late positivity about 300 ms after stimulus onset. These results closely match those found in vision and provide convincing evidence for an early negativity (auditory awareness negativity: AAN), as well as an LP. These findings suggest that theories of visual awareness are also applicable to auditory awareness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 71, p. 70-78
Keywords [en]
awareness, consciousness, auditory, electroencephalography, threshold, auditory awareness negativity, late positivity
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-169269DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2019.03.008ISI: 000466834200006PubMedID: 30928900OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-169269DiVA, id: diva2:1322953
Available from: 2019-06-11 Created: 2019-06-11 Last updated: 2020-01-20Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Electrophysiological correlates of consciousness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Electrophysiological correlates of consciousness
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

How does the brain enable us to experience seeing or hearing a stimulus? If a stimulus is repeatedly presented at the awareness threshold, subjects will report that they are aware of the stimulus on half of the presentations. Electroencephalography (EEG) can be used to non-invasively record neural activity as event-related potentials (ERPs). The contrastive analysis of neural activity to trials rated as aware minus neural activity to trials rated as unaware reveals the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). Research on the NCC in vision has resulted in two ERPs: an early negative difference wave (visual awareness negativity, VAN) and a subsequent late positivity (LP). Visual awareness may be reflected by one or both of these ERPs. However, the contrastive analysis (aware minus unaware) may not isolate the NCC because it arguably compares aware processing with a combination of unaware processing and no processing. In support, previous research that tried to isolate a comparison between aware processing and unaware processing found that LP was the only NCC. However, subsequent replications suggested VAN and LP as NCC. Because of these mixed results, we followed up on these studies in Study I with a preregistered design that manipulated stimulus size. Results showed VAN and LP as NCC. The findings provide evidence for VAN as an early NCC.

Another main goal of this thesis was to investigate auditory awareness. In Study II, an auditory threshold task was used, and the contrastive analysis revealed an early negative difference wave (auditory awareness negativity, AAN) and LP. These ERPs are comparable to VAN and LP in vision. Because post-perceptual processes related to responding may confound the NCC in contrastive analysis, no-response tasks can be used to isolate awareness-related activity. In vision, a previous study in which the manual response requirement was manipulated showed effects on LP but not on VAN. In Study III, we used a similar task with auditory stimuli at the awareness threshold. Results suggested that AAN and LP are unaffected by the response manipulation. However, the present no-response task may not be optimal for removing post-perceptual processing because subjects need to reflect on their experience even if they do not need to respond manually. Additional analyses that attempted source localization of the AAN suggested that it is generated in auditory cortex.

From a theoretical perspective, one view of these results is that VAN and AAN reflect local recurrent processing and that this is the neural signature of awareness, whereas LP reflects global recurrent processing that enables reporting. Other views suggest that VAN and AAN merely reflect preconscious processes, whereas LP and global recurrent processing reflect consciousness. The studies described in this thesis do not support one theory over the other but provide robust evidence for early neural correlates of visual and auditory awareness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2019. p. 70
Keywords
neural correlates of consciousness, electroencephalography, event-related potentials, visual awareness negativity, auditory awareness negativity, recurrent processing, phenomenal consciousness, access consciousness
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-172804 (URN)978-91-7797-795-7 (ISBN)978-91-7797-796-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-10-30, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-10-07 Created: 2019-09-12 Last updated: 2020-01-28Bibliographically approved

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