Wakefulness fluctuations elicit behavioural and neural reconfiguration of awareness

Valdas Noreika, Andres Canales-Johnson, Amy Johnson, Aurina Arnatkeviciute, Justin Koh, Srivas Chennu, Tristan A. Bekinschtein

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Received Date: 6th May 20

Mapping the reports of awareness and its neural underpinnings is instrumental to understand the limits of human perception. The capacity to become aware of objects in the world may be studied by suppressing faint target stimuli with strong masking stimuli, or – alternatively – by manipulating the level of wakefulness from full alertness to mild drowsiness. By combining these two approaches, we studied how perceptual awareness is modulated by decreasing wakefulness. We found dynamic changes in behavioural and neural signatures of conscious access in humans between awake and drowsy states. Behaviourally, we show a decrease in the steepness of the psychophysical function for conscious access in drowsy trials. Neural mapping showed delayed processing of target-mask interaction as the consciousness transition progressed, suggesting that the brain resolution of conscious access shifts from early sensory/perceptual to decision-making stages of processing. Once the goal to report the awareness of a target is set, the system behaviourally adapts to rapid changes in wakefulness, revealing the flexibility of the neural signatures of conscious access, and its suppression, to maintain performance.

Read in full at bioRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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