February 25, 2021

Late cortical potentials are not a reliable marker of somatosensory awareness

Two types of scalp-recorded event-related potentials have been proposed as neural correlates of perceptual awareness in humans: an early, modality-specific negativity and a late, modality-independent positivity. However, whether these potentials genuinely reflect perception or result from task demands remains controversial. To address this question, we compared results from a classical somatosensory detection task (direct report task) to a somatosensory-visual matching task, in which overt reports were decorrelated from target detection, equated the behavioural relevance of detected and undetected stimuli, and mitigated the influence of attentional processes. By means of Bayesian model selection, we show that the early N140 component was the first to reflect target detection in both tasks, whereas the late P300 component was task dependent, with strong detection effects in the direct report task that were absent in the matching task. We conclude that the P300 is not a genuine correlate of somatosensory awareness but reflects postperceptual processing.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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