Delayed reentrant processing impairs visual awareness: An object-substitution-masking study
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In object-substitution masking (OSM), a sparse, common-onset mask impairs perception of a target when the mask's offset is later than the target's offset and spatial attention is dispersed. OSM is thought to reflect the interaction of feed-forward and reentrant processes in the brain: Upon stimulus presentation, a low-resolution representation of the target and mask progresses from sensory to anterior brain regions, triggering reentrant processing to confirm stimulus identity. It is hypothesized that dispersing spatial attention prolongs the required reentrant iterations, increasing the likelihood that only the lingering mask stimulus will remain physically present and thus substitute for the target in consciousness. However, empirically, it remains unclear whether substitution stems from delayed feed-forward or reentrant processing. Here, we demonstrate that delayed reentrant processing causes OSM, by showing that a task tapping high-level brain regions involved in reentrant processing leads to a spatially attended target being replaced by the mask. Our results confirm a key role for reentrant processing in conscious perception. © The Author(s) 2010.
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