Conscious awareness of flicker in humans involves frontal and parietal cortex

David Carmel, Nilli Lavie, Geraint Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even when confined to the same spatial location, flickering and steady light evoke very different conscious experiences because of their distinct temporal patterns. The neural basis of such differences in subjective experience remains uncertain [1]. Here, we used functional MRI in humans to examine the neural structures involved in awareness of flicker. Participants viewed a single point source of light that flickered at the critical flicker fusion (CFF) threshold, where the same stimulus is sometimes perceived as flickering and sometimes as steady (fused) [1-3]. We were thus able to compare brain activity for conscious percepts that differed qualitatively (flickering or fused) but were evoked by identical physical stimuli. Greater brain activation was observed on flicker (versus fused) trials in regions of frontal and parietal cortex previously associated with visual awareness in tasks that did not require detection of temporal patterns [4-14]. In contrast, greater activation was observed on fused (versus flicker) trials in occipital extrastriate cortex. Our findings indicate that activity of higher-level cortical areas is important for awareness of temporally distinct visual events in the context of a nonspatial task, and they thus suggest that frontal and parietal regions may play a general role in visual awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-911
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2006


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