Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Most experiments on the “neural correlates of consciousness” employ stimulus reportability as an operational definition of what is consciously perceived. The interpretation of such experiments therefore depends critically on understanding the neural basis of stimulus reportability. Using a high volume of fMRI data, we investigated the neural correlates of stimulus reportability using a partial report object detection paradigm. Subjects were presented with a random array of circularly arranged disc-stimuli and were cued, after variable delays (following stimulus offset), to report the presence or absence of a disc at the cued location, using variable motor actions. By uncoupling stimulus processing, decision, and motor response, we were able to use signal detection theory to deconstruct the neural basis of stimulus reportability. We show that retinotopically specific responses in the early visual cortex correlate with stimulus processing but not decision or report; a network of parietal/temporal regions correlates with decisions but not stimulus presence, whereas classical motor regions correlate with report. These findings provide a basic framework for understanding the neural basis of stimulus reportability without the theoretical burden of presupposing a relationship between reportability and consciousness.