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Neural correlates of sensory and attentional unawareness for emotional stimuli

Only a fraction of sensory input gives rise to conscious perception. A visual stimulus may go undetected because it is filtered out by attentional selection (attentional unawareness) or because its sensory processing is insufficient to generate a conscious perception even when we are paying attention to it (sensory unawareness). Compelling evidence shows emotional stimuli may be processed without being consciously perceived, thereby inducing congruent behavioral and neurophysiological responses in the unaware observer. In the present talk I will discuss some original studies investigating the psychophysiological responses associated to non-conscious emotion perception, the neurofunctional systems sustaining such processing, and the underlying brain networks and anatomical connections. The commonalities and differences between sensory and attentional unawareness for emotions are described, with a specific focus on neuro-pathological conditions that selectively induce sensory or attentional unawareness, such as cortical blindness and “blindsight” or hemispatial neglect, respectively.

Host: Larry Weiskrantz