If attending to a target in a rapid stream of visual stimuli within the next 400 ms or so, a second target in the stream is frequently not detected by an observer. This so-called attentional blink can provide a comparison of neural signals elicited by identical stimuli that, in one condition, reach conscious awareness and, in the other, fail to be selected for awareness. In the present study, using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), differences of neural activation were studied in an attentional blink experiment in order to identify brain regions putatively involved in controlling the access of information to consciousness. Subjects viewed a rapid stream of black letters in which the second target (T2) was either presented within or outside the attentional blink period, or not at all. We observed an increase in activation for detected as compared to missed T2 presented during the attentional blink in frontal and parietal cortices. In contrast, in occipitotemporal regions activation was increased for missed as compared to detected T2. Furthermore, in several frontal and parietal areas, missed targets were associated with increased activity if compared to the condition in which no second target was presented. Finally, a selective decrease in activation for detected T2 presented during the attentional blink was observed in areas associated with emotional and predominantly automatic processing. While activations in occipitotemporal regions might mainly reflect duration of attentive search, the frontoparietal areas seem to be involved in a highly distributed network controlling visual awareness.
Kranczioch, C., Debener, S., Schwarzbach, J. V., Goebel, R. W., & Engel, A. K. (2005). Neural correlates of conscious perception in the attentional blink. Neuroimage, 24(3), 704-714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.09.024