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Maintenance of non-consciously presented information engages the prefrontal cortex
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB), Physiology. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI).
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB), Physiology. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI).
2014 (English)In: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, ISSN 1662-5161, E-ISSN 1662-5161, Vol. 8, 938- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Conscious processing is generally seen as required for flexible and willful actions, as well as for tasks that require durable information maintenance. Here we present research that questions the assumption that only consciously perceived information is durable (>500 ms). Using the attentional blink (AB) phenomenon, we rendered otherwise relatively clearly perceived letters non conscious. In a first experiment we systematically manipulated the delay between stimulus presentation and response, for the purpose of estimating the durability of non-conscious perceptual representations. For items reported not seen, we found that behavioral performance was better than chance across intervals up to 15 s. In a second experiment we used fMRI to investigate the neural correlates underlying the maintenance of non conscious perceptual representations. Critically, the relatively long delay period demonstrated in experiment 1 enabled isolation of the signal change specifically related to the maintenance period, separate from stimulus presentation and response. We found sustained BOLD signal change in the right mid-lateral prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and crus II of the cerebellum during maintenance of non consciously perceived information. These findings are consistent with the controversial claim that working-memory mechanisms are involved in the short-term maintenance of non-conscious perceptual representations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Frontiers Research Foundation , 2014. Vol. 8, 938- p.
Keyword [en]
non-conscious, durability, attention, conscious experience, perception, working memory
National Category
Neurosciences Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-97212DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00938ISI: 000345132200001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-97212DiVA: diva2:773536
Available from: 2014-12-19 Created: 2014-12-12 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The neural substrates of non-conscious working memory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The neural substrates of non-conscious working memory
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Neurala substrat till icke-medvetet arbetsminne
Abstract [en]

Background: Despite our distinct impression to the contrary, we are only conscious of a fraction of all the neural activity underlying our thoughts and behavior. Most neural processes occur non-consciously, and in parallel with our conscious experience. However, it is still unclear what the limits of non-conscious processes are in terms of higher cognitive functions. Many recent studies have shown that increasingly more advanced functions can operate non-consciously, but non-conscious information is still thought to be fleeting and undetectable within 500 milliseconds. Here we used various techniques to render information non-conscious, together with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to investigate if non-consciously presented information can be retained for several seconds, what the neural substrates of such retention are, and if it is consistent with working memory maintenance.

Results: In Study I we used an attentional blink paradigm to render stimuli (single letters) non-conscious, and a variable delay period (5 – 15 s) prior to memory test. It was found that non-conscious memory performance was above chance after all delay durations, and showed no signs of decline over time. Univariate fMRI analysis showed that the durable retention was associated with sustained BOLD signal change in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum during the delay period. In Study II we used continuous flash suppression (CFS) to render stimuli (faces and tools) non-conscious, and a variable delay period (5 or 15 s) prior to memory test. The durable retention of up to 15 s was replicated, and it was found that stimuli identity and spatial position was retained until prospective use. In Study III we used CFS to render tools non-conscious, and a variable delay period (5 – 15 s) prior to memory test. It was found that memory performance was not better than chance. However, by using multi-voxel pattern analysis it was nonetheless possible to detect the presence vs. absence of non-conscious stimuli in the frontal cortex,and their spatial position (left vs. right) in the occipital cortex during the delay.

Conclusions: Overall these findings suggest that non-consciously presented information (identity and/or position) can be retained for several seconds,and is associated with BOLD signal in frontal and posterior regions. These findings are consistent with working memory maintenance of non-consciously presented information, and thereby constrain models of working memory and theories of consciousness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2016. 99 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1835
Keyword
non-conscious, working memory, neural substrates, visual perception, consciousness, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
National Category
Neurosciences Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124808 (URN)978-91-7601-543-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-09-16, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden, Umeå, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-08-26 Created: 2016-08-25 Last updated: 2017-05-04Bibliographically approved

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Bergström, FredrikEriksson, Johan

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