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By using a paradigm based on metacontrast masking, we created experimental conditions in which the subjective report of consciousness differs but the objectively measured ability to discriminate visual targets does not. This approach allowed us to study the neural correlate of consciousness while having performance levels carefully matched in healthy human subjects. A comparison of the neural activity associated with these conditions as measured by functional MRI showed that conscious perception is associated with spatially specific activity in the mid-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (area 46). Further analysis confirms that this activation is not only free from any performance confound, but is also not driven by differences in the timing of the physical stimuli. Our results suggest that the prefrontal cortex is important for the essentially subjective aspects of conscious perception.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





18763 - 18768


Consciousness, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Perceptual Masking, Prefrontal Cortex, Visual Perception