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The Scope and Limits of Top-Down Attention in Unconscious Visual Processing

Kanai, Ryota and Tsuchiya, Naotsugu and Verstraten, Frans A. J. (2006) The Scope and Limits of Top-Down Attention in Unconscious Visual Processing. Current Biology, 16 (23). pp. 2332-2336. ISSN 0960-9822. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.10.001.

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Attentional selection plays a critical role in conscious perception. When attention is diverted, even salient stimuli fail to reach visual awareness [1,2]. Attention can be voluntarily directed to a spatial location [3,4,5,6,7,8,9] or a visual feature [9,10,11,12,13,14] for facilitating the processing of information relevant to current goals. In everyday situations, attention and awareness are tightly coupled. This has led some to suggest that attention and awareness might be based on a common neural foundation [15,16], whereas others argue that they are mediated by distinct mechanisms [17,18,19]. A body of evidence shows that visual stimuli can be processed at multiple stages of the visual-processing streams without evoking visual awareness [20,21,22]. To illuminate the relationship between visual attention and conscious perception, we investigated whether top-down attention can target and modulate the neural representations of unconsciously processed visual stimuli. Our experiments show that spatial attention can target only consciously perceived stimuli, whereas feature-based attention can modulate the processing of invisible stimuli. The attentional modulation of unconscious signals implies that attention and awareness can be dissociated, challenging a simplistic view of the boundary between conscious and unconscious visual processing.

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Additional Information:Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. Received: June 28, 2006. Revised: October 2, 2006. Accepted: October 3, 2006. Published: December 4, 2006. This research was partly supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). We would like to thank Tom Carlson, Patrick Cavanagh, Christof Koch, David Leopold, Alex Maier, Farshad Moradi, Chris Paffen, Junghyun Park, Takao Sato, Jan Theeuwes, Keiji Tanaka, Masataka Watanabe, Melanie Wilke, and Daw-An Wu for discussion and comments on the manuscript.
Group:Koch Laboratory (KLAB)
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Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)UNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:23
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130816-103202593
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:40423
Deposited By: KLAB Import
Deposited On:08 Feb 2008 07:47
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:48

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